Mortgage Loan Originator: Job Description and Education Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a mortgage loan originator. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and licensing to find out if this is the right career for you.

Mortgage loan originators help those seeking loans choose the correct product as well as completing and processing the loan application. This position requires a bachelor's degree as well as licensing. The job growth outlook for mortgage loan originators is about as fast as all occupations.

Essential Information

Mortgage loan originators, also known as mortgage loan officers, work for mortgage companies and banks. Their main job duty is to solicit potential borrowers for new mortgage loans. This job generally requires a bachelor's degree, typically in business or finance fields, as well as federal licensing. Mortgage loan originators are additionally required to complete annual continuing education courses to maintain their license.

Required Education Bachelor's degree often needed
Additional Requirements Federal licensing (including background check and credit authorization); annual continuing education courses
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 8% for all loan officers
Median Salary (2015)* $63,430 annually for all loan officers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Mortgage Loan Originator Job Description

A mortgage loan originator (MLO) assists consumers who are seeking mortgage loans. There are two types of mortgage originators, residential and commercial. Residential mortgage originators assist consumers who are purchasing or refinancing a home, or obtaining a second mortgage or home equity line of credit. Commercial mortgage loan originators assist in purchases or refinancing of commercial real estate.

Mortgage originators are employed by financial institutions such as banks, mortgage companies and credit unions, and may work at their employer's location or as outside originators who spend most of their time away from the office marketing and connecting with other real estate professionals. Many mortgage originators use marketing and advertising techniques like telemarketing, referrals, seminars and flyers to locate potential borrowers.


An originator assists the borrower in determining the proper loan program, completing the loan application and gathering the necessary paperwork, including pay stubs, tax returns and bank statements, to begin the loan process. A credit report is obtained and analyzed by the originator. During the mortgage loan process, the mortgage originator communicates with the appraiser, title officer, escrow officer, loan processor and underwriter.

Education Requirements

Though there is no specific degree required to become a mortgage originator, this career field generally requires a bachelor's degree for entry-level positions. Most mortgage loan officers choose to major in business or finance-related fields. Additionally, the federal Secure and Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing Act (SAFE Act) requires all mortgage loan originators to take at least 20 hours of prelicense educational courses. Some of the courses may include:

  • Mortgage principles
  • Mortgage loan origination
  • Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA)
  • Homeowner's Protection Act (HPA)
  • Truth in Lending Act (TILA)
  • Privacy laws
  • Fair lending laws
  • Loan process and underwriting

Federal law also includes passing the SAFE MLO test, a written examination that satisfies any state and federal test requirements. A mortgage originator may complete the written examination prior to taking the educational courses. Most employers require the educational courses and tests to be completed prior to employment. In addition to the prelicense education, continuing education is also required annually.

Salary Info and Career Outlook

In May 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that loan officers, including mortgage loan originators, earned a median yearly salary of $63,430. Overall employment of loan officers was predicted by the BLS to increase 8% from 2014-2024, as fast as average for all occupations.

Mortgage loan originators require a bachelor's degree in a business or finance field. Licensing is required and includes completing required coursework, passing an exam, and meeting other requirements like passing a background check. Those in this profession can expect a median annual salary of around $63,000.

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