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Desktop Underwriter Certification and Certificate Program Information

Desktop underwriting involves the federal government's Fannie Mae system and is used by most loan originators. Loan interviewers or processors earn desktop underwriter or mortgage banking certificates at community colleges and technical schools.

Essential Information

Students in desktop underwriter or mortgage banking certificate programs can explore high-balance and fixed-rate loans, as well as financial markets, mortgage lending and refinance options. Both certificate programs are often available online and either requires no prerequisites or simply previous coursework.

By choosing these educational paths, students might also go on to become compliance officers or underwriters. Professional development opportunities might be pursued through membership in a national association.


Desktop Underwriter Certificate

Entry-level employees and seasoned professionals can obtain the Certified Residential Underwriter (CRU) designation. In a training program for this title, students learn to use software developed by the government to approve federally insured, single-family homes. They identify acceptable properties, appraisal considerations and credit concerns. After completion of this online program, they can determine if a rural property can be securitized or is acceptable for purchase by Fannie Mae. Training also includes analyzing market conditions, appraisals and mortgage insurance options. Lessons cover differences between condominiums, co-ops and manufactured home loans, as well as what constitutes mortgage fraud.

The curriculum covers three levels; achievement and professional certificates are the foundations for CRU completion. All courses are Web-based, and students have up to 12 months to complete them. Through courses, presentations and practice cases, they learn solid skills that reduce errors, increase productivity and improve the quality of loans they process. Class topics include:

  • Data entry
  • Conventional fixed-rate loans
  • Refinance options
  • Home equity line of credit (HELOC)
  • Community mortgage loans, veteran Administration loans
  • Federal Housing Authority loans and high-balance loans

Mortgage Banking Certificates

Generalized courses of study--not specific to the Desktop Underwriter software and Fannie Mae guidelines--are available through 2-year colleges. Students develop the knowledge and skills to advance in the field of mortgage banking, pursuing their own areas of interest. Certificate-holders are qualified to sit for the SAFE Mortgage Loan Originator examination that is administered by the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System & Registry (NMLS).

College coursework includes the SAFE exam essentials as well as state-specific mortgage laws and regulations. In addition to a federal component, there are also introductions to loan processing and underwriting. Banking, marketing, business and real estate courses discuss:

  • Personal finance management
  • Financial markets and advisors
  • Bank support services
  • Accounting and selling
  • Mortgage lending and financial solvency
  • Quality control and loan origination

Popular Career Options

Mortgage underwriters may work as appraisers and closers for banks, escrow companies and mortgage brokers; entry-level positions can lead to managerial leadership. Job titles include:

  • Associate underwriter
  • Compliance officer
  • Administrative assistant
  • Data entry associate
  • Mortgage operations director

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), projected growth of the loan officer position, which includes loan underwriters, of 8% from 2014-2024, and upward trending of the population is expected to spur demand for home loans. Online applications are becoming more prevalent, which may temper some growth. Overall, economic activity significantly affects employment in this sector. The best opportunities are won by those with industry experience and a college degree. The BLS reflects the median annual salary for loan officers was $63,430, as of May 2015.

Continuing Education

Entry-level loan interviewers are trained on the job to familiarize them with company protocols, pricing and the electronic underwriting software specific to the institution. An option for further professional development is gaining membership in the National Association of Mortgage Underwriters (NAMU), which gives professionals educational, networking and training options. NAMU offers chat forums, industry events, webinars and industry news updates.

Becoming a desktop underwriter through a certificate program allows graduates to become well versed in finance management and other skills like accounting and selling. Graduates may become loan officers, among other career options.

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