A high school graduate with strong marks in mathematics courses is an ideal applicant for a loan officer training program. Students with prior felony convictions are not eligible to become loan officers. Since loan officers interact a great deal with the public, interpersonal and communication skills are important attributes to have. Employers prefer loan officers with self-confidence, strong computer skills and some sales experience.
To work as a loan officer, a bachelor's degree in finance or a related area is preferred, but some employers will provide on the job training or hire those who have earned certificates. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), mortgage loan officers must be licensed nationwide.
Mortgage Loan Officer Certificate
Many private institutions and some community colleges offer training for loan officers specializing in mortgages. A loan officer who brokers mortgage loans needs training on how to manage the intake process, prepare financial documents and read a rate sheet, among other tasks. Certificate programs walk students through the processes surrounding the initial consultation, the loan application, consumer education of mortgage loans and loan finalization. Federal regulations concerning consumer rights, predatory lending practices, equal opportunity lending and good faith estimates are also discussed.
Bachelor of Science in Finance
Employers often seek commercial loan officers with a bachelor's degree because of the intricacies involved in processing a commercial loan, such as analyzing business statements. A bachelor's degree program in finance provides students entering the lending market with the skills needed to negotiate and present financial deals for the benefit of a business or consumer. Through homework assignments in such courses as statistics, strategic management and banking, students build critical thinking skills. A finance degree program also emphasizes the need for computer proficiency and business writing skills to be competitive in the banking industry.
Licenses, Certifications and Continuing Education
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, all loan officers processing mortgage loans must be licensed. Before becoming eligible for licensure, candidates must finish a designated amount of courses, pass a test and be cleared by a background check. Continuing education requirements differ by state.
The National Association of Mortgage Brokers has a general mortgage associate certification for entry-level loan officers. This voluntary credential requires a written examination consisting of 125 multiple-choice questions and an exam fee.
The responsibilities of a loan officer are typically the same whether they involve consumer, mortgage or business loans. Students who may have worked as a bank teller may find that the transition to a loan officer is easier than for those with no previous work experience. Most employers offer a training period, generally 2-4 weeks, before allowing them to work independently. After the training period, loan officers should be able to counsel clients, analyze a customer's credit worthiness, evaluate loans and guide the process to close.
Tele-seminars are a popular way for prospective loan officers to learn about increasing business, working with real estate agents and utilizing marketing techniques. Most seminars require an entry fee, and some in-person seminars might involve an overnight travel stay. Banking associations, training schools and some real estate companies offer afternoon workshops for entry-level loan officers to network, ask questions and learn about sub-specialties, such as Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans.
Several online loan officer training programs are available for students beginning their career in finance, with many courses accredited for pre-licensing education. These courses are designed by industry professionals and are available through webinar or strictly online communication. Most distance learning programs for loan officers, which may meet twice a week, are complete with reference materials and frequent access to instructors.
To embark on a career as a loan officer, a bachelor's degree is generally preferred for commercial and consumer loan functions, while a certificate of completion is usually sufficient for entry-level mortgage loan officer positions.