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Mortgage Underwriter: Job Description & Career Info

Research the requirements to become a mortgage underwriter. Learn about the job description and duties and read the step-by-step process to start a career as a mortgage underwriter.

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Do I Want to Be a Mortgage Underwriter?

A type of loan officer, these professionals gather information, evaluate financial situations and make recommendations concerning applications for mortgage loan requests. Travel to meet with clients in their homes is often required.

Job Requirements

Most loan officers have a high school diploma. However, due to the 2008 Secure and Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing Act (SAFE Act), all mortgage underwriters must complete at least 20 hours of education and be licensed. The requirements and basic skills necessary to work as a mortgage underwriter are contained in the chart below:

Common Requirements
Degree Level High school diploma*
Certification or Licensure All mortgage underwriters must be licensed in the state in which they work*
Experience None required*
Key Skills Decision-making skills;* knowledge of economics, law, accounting and government;** math and critical thinking skill**
Computer Skills Able to use accounting, financial analysis, document management and content workflow software programs; **

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*Net Online.

Step 1: Graduate from High School

According to the BLS, most loan officers have high school diplomas. Therefore, graduating from high school or passing an equivalency exam is the first step to working as a mortgage underwriter.

Success Tip:

  • Complete courses related to the career of mortgage underwriting. Mortgage underwriters read and analyze financial documents to determine whether an applicant qualifies for a loan, how large of a loan they qualify for and whether making the loan is worth the risk of not receiving payment. To prepare to work as a mortgage underwriter, high school students might consider taking courses in research, computer skills, economics, government and math.

Step 2: Attend a Mandatory Pre-Licensure Education Program

The 2008 SAFE Act requires that all mortgage underwriters be licensed. The National Mortgage Licensure System (NMLS) keeps records of non-financial-related licenses issued in many states in the U.S. and is the sole licensure agency for mortgage loan officers in 58 territorial and state agencies. Therefore, aspiring mortgage underwriters can look to this agency for guidance on how to become licensed.

The NMLS stated that, to become licensed, individuals must complete a pre-licensure education program and pass an exam. Pre-licensure education programs are available nationwide and consist of 20 hours of education. Four main topics are covered in these programs: mortgage origination, federal laws and regulations, ethics and lending standards for non-traditional mortgages. After becoming licensed, loan officers must complete eight hours of continuing education every year.

Success Tip:

  • Prepare for the required licensure exam. The NMLS offers test content outlines and a testing handbook to help prepare individuals for the licensure exam. Reviewing these handbooks, which are available online, and taking any practice questions they contain, may make it more likely that an individual passes the exam on their first try.

Step 3: Take the SAFE Mortgage Loan Originator Test

After completing a program, an individual must pass the SAFE Mortgage Loan Originator Test. This test consists of two parts: national and state. The test can be taken on an on-demand basis throughout the nation. Every examinee must pass the national portion of the test. Examinees must pass the state portion of the test for every state in which they intend to work.

Step 4: Begin Working as a Mortgage Underwriter

After becoming licensed, an individual can work as a mortgage underwriter. To perform their job, a mortgage underwriter might review an applicant's credit and financial reports, meet with applicants to obtain more information about their loans, explain the application process or the different types of mortgages that are available and approve (or deny) applications.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics