If you’re interested in starting a career as a mortgage originator, you probably already know that you need to be licensed. But, did you know that there is more than one way to get the education and experience you need to get licensed and have a better chance of finding employment when you’re done? If you’re a little overwhelmed and not sure where to begin the process, here are five easy steps you can take to get your career underway.
1. Decide whether or not you want to pursue a bachelor’s degree
A bachelor’s degree is not required to be a mortgage originator. Technically, all you need to have is a high school diploma. You can also get started pursuing your mortgage license right out of high school which gives you a bit of a head start on your career. That said, there are a few reasons why you might want to consider obtaining a relevant degree before starting your career.
Obtaining a degree in finance, business, sales/marketing, or even communications can help you down the line with your career. You’ll have an opportunity to gain relevant experience before ever stepping foot in an office. If you pursue a finance, business, or sales/marketing degree, you’ll gain experience with financial document, analysis, and you will learn how to interact with potential clients. You’ll also likely get leadership training that can prove to be invaluable down the line. If you pursue something like communications, you’ll spend a lot of time learning how to properly express yourself both verbally and in writing. That will help you in the future when dealing with clients, superiors, and other financial institutions.
2. Gain some relevant experience
More and more employers are looking to hire people who have relevant experience in the field. You might be wondering how you’re supposed to get experience without having a job. Well, there are a few ways to do it.
Remember when we mentioned that it might be beneficial to get a college degree? This is one of the most important reasons why. College coursework, exams, lectures, and even any internships you might be able to apply for is exactly the kind of thing employers will be looking for.
Decided against a degree? Don’t worry; there are ways to gain relevant experience without one. A job in a bank will help, especially if you can work your way up to a position where you can assist loan officers or managers with more administrative and technical work. Sales is a great way to gain experience, too, whether you made cold calls or were successful at getting bank patrons to open new accounts or apply for different kinds of loans. Getting accounting, auditing, or bookkeeping experience will help as well.
Also, don’t take self-teaching for granted. Do your research, study on your own. Read everything you can. Learn about the rules and regulations of the business, especially if you don’t have a degree because it will demonstrate your commitment to learning. When you get to the interview process, being able to demonstrate that you’ve taken the initiative to start learning is impressive and will make a good first impression on the person interviewing you.
3. Meet the national requirements
National requirements have to be met regardless no matter what state you’re planning to practice in.
Some of the basic national requirements are: provide fingerprints for the completion of an FBI criminal background check and consent for access to your credit report. In addition to these checks, you must meet several standards. Some of these include not having any felonies in the last seven years and never having a felony that involved money laundering, fraud, or breach of trust. You have to prove that you’re in good financial health and that you’ve never had a previous loan originator license revoked.
Also required is at least 20 hours of pre-licensure education. This is broken down and must also include 3 hours of federal law and regulations, 3 hours of ethics that include fraud, consumer protection, and fair lending practices, and 2 hours of non-traditional mortgage lending.
4. Figure out the requirements for your state
Licensure requirements vary by state so make sure you know exactly what your state requires. Another thing to keep in mind is that you have to get licensed in every state you’re planning to practice in. Generally, they will be very similar to the national requirements only with a focus on specific state laws and regulations.
States often require their own background checks, credit reports, tax certifications, and even additional coursework related to the mortgage industry.
5. Pass the exam
Finally, there’s the exam itself. It’s a pretty standard test that consists of 125 questions that are computer generated. Those questions are broken down as follows: 25% mortgage-loan-origination activities, 25% general knowledge about mortgages, 15% ethics, and 35% federal laws and regulations. Only 115 of the 125 questions count toward your final score. To pass, you must answer 75% of those 115 questions correctly. The exam lasts 3 hours in all.
If you fail the exam, you have to wait 30 days to take the test again. After your fourth attempt, you must wait six months to try a fifth time.
If you pass the exam and have met all the other checks and requirements, you are officially a licensed mortgage loan originator! All you have to do to maintain your license is complete 8 hours (some states require more) of continuing education annually. This education must include 3 hours of federal law and regulations, 3 hours of ethics, and 2 hours of non-traditional mortgage lending. If you’re employed as a mortgage originator, there’s a good chance that the company you work for will provide or have access to this courses that will meet the requirements for this additional education or you can always find NMLS continuing education courses through us.
We know it’s a little overwhelming but, by concentrating on one thing at a time, you’ll be well on your way to a new and exciting career.