Loan Officer Jobs

mortgage loan officers

So you need a job and you’re thinking about becoming a mortgage loan officer?

It’s true, loan officer jobs pay more than most any other occupation out there, assuming you haven’t passed the bar or made your way through medical school. Or happen to be a pro athlete.

But it can’t be that easy, could it? To make six figures without a high school diploma you would think you’d have to invent something or start your own business. But the prospect of being a loan officer has changed conventional thought, especially as the housing market shot off in recent years like a bottle rocket.

So now as we lay in the wake of the housing bubble bust, are loan officers still making money? The answer is a resounding YES, but the number of loan officers has probably been cut in half, if not more in the past few years or so.

At the same time, the quality (and quantity) of mortgage loans at the moment isn’t what is once was a few years ago. It seems most of the smart money already refinanced, or made home purchases before values went up. And many of the remaining deals are tricky and/or riddled with hurdles.

But there’s always an opportunity for a loan officer, even if the market is in a down cycle or a lull.

Being a Loan Officer Can Be Really Lucrative

If a mortgage loan officer gets just one of those deals to go through, it often equates to a huge payday, sometimes as much as a year’s salary working a minimum wage job or a lower paying occupation.

So that’s the incentive, big money. But there are a number of questions you need to ask yourself before setting out in the mortgage industry as a loan officer.

First and foremost, it is not an easy job. Sure, a mortgage broker or bank may tell you that it’s simple. And yes, you may not have to work very hard in the traditional sense, or take part in any back-breaking work. But factor in the stress, the near misses, lost deals, the shots to your ego, and the wheel-spinning and it isn’t as effortless as they may make it out to be.

You will lose deals and you will waste a lot of time. You will have mental breakdowns as deals slip through your fingers, and brokers and real estate agents scream at you as deadlines close in.

You will undoubtedly make mistakes, which will require a phone call to the borrower to let them know you can’t do the deal. It will be embarrassing and unpleasant.

But if you can handle all that, being a loan officer can be quite lucrative, and quite easy if you get yourself organized and educated on mortgages.

It’s not for everyone, and there is definitely a lot you need to learn before starting a career in mortgage. But once you get a taste of the money you may have trouble walking away, no matter how high the stress and quality of your life.

Trust me, I know lots of people who can’t leave. They want to leave, but they can’t because they know they won’t earn as much elsewhere. And they’ll probably hate that job too.

All that aside, let’s look at a loan officer’s typical day, not that any day is ever typical…

Loan Officer Job Description

A loan officer may come into work in the late morning around 9 or 10am and work until 6-9pm. The time may be structured to work around when companies are allowed to solicit consumers in their homes. The traditional peak hours for sales calls take place in the early evening, between 6pm and 9pm.

Of course, you could also be a go-getter who arrives at 6am and only works until the early afternoon. There is certainly flexibility when it comes to working hours, though it does depend on the type of company you work for.

If you work for a large company, such as a depository bank, chances are you’ll work the typical 9-5 schedule. If you work for a smaller mortgage company, or a broker, you might be able to set your own hours and do whatever you please.

This has to do with compensation, as the former will likely get a base salary along with commission, while the latter will likely be a commission-only employee.

Money aside, the culture will be a lot of different at a large lending institution versus a small shop. If you can stomach a dress code and an uber-corporate environment, the bank setting might work out nicely.

If you’re the type who would prefer to run your own business, but don’t have the knowledge or the wherewithal, a small shop could be a desirable place to be. At least to start.

What Does a Loan Officer Do on a Daily Basis?

The broker or bank, or whomever employs the loan officer, may provide sales leads to the loan officer, or they may be completely on their own when it comes to acquiring business.

If you work at a large bank or call center, you may be fortunate enough to just take incoming phone calls. That means you’ll sit in a cubicle all day and field phone calls. You could also be required to follow-up with customers who expressed interest.

The good part is that you won’t have to find prospects on your own. That can be the hardest part.

If you work for a broker or a small company, you may still be provided with leads, though the quality could be less than desirable. That means you will have to network, make contacts, and market yourself and your services.

That means trying to get individuals to finance homes or refinance their existing mortgages. That’s it. When that happens, you generally get paid.

Often, loan officers will implicitly or explicitly partner with a real estate agent or office so they can provide financing to their home buying prospects. If you’ve ever purchased a home, you’ve likely had the preferred lender’s contact info thrown your way.

A loan officer may get these leads and run no-obligation pre-approvals for those clients to win them over. Often, a real estate agent’s recommendation will end up providing financing since borrowers don’t tend to shop around.

In any case, your role is to sell and that’s pretty much it. Sure, you’ll have to put your clients at ease throughout the loan process, and communicate with your staff, but the main objective is sales.

Loan officers at smaller shops and independent companies need to self-manage their time, and strive to call out up to 100 contacts a day. Once a call is successful, and a loan officer is able to retrieve a prospective customer’s information, they need to secure financing for their client.

If you work for a broker, you will also need to work with third-party banks and lenders to secure financing.

If you work directly for a bank or mortgage lender, you will need to familiarize yourself with the company’s entire product suite.

In both situations, your main objective will be to originate loans and assist in processing them, at the same time making sure your borrower is attended to during the entire loan process.

Loan Officer Educational Requirements

Interestingly, you can become a loan officer with no experience. Yep, it’s a potentially high-paying job that also welcomes newbies.

In fact, mortgage loan officers don’t even need a high school diploma to gain employment with certain brokers and lenders. With the larger financial institutions, a college degree will likely be obligatory without notable sales experience.

In terms of licensing, it depends on the state, company, and specific position. These days, many loan officers need to be licensed, though there are still many positions at large commercial banks that don’t require licensing.

However, most MLOs need to be registered, perform a background check, and get fingerprinted. This is to protect the public from unscrupulous individuals.

If you do need to be licensed, it’s not the end of the world. You simply need to take 20 hours of pre-licensure education, pass a test, and complete eight hours of continuing education annually.

The takeaway is that it might be easier to get a job at a commercial bank, but these loan officers may be less knowledgeable as a result.

Of course, they may also be the ones that tend to work in call centers and simply plug in numbers into a loan application, as opposed to coming up with creative loan solutions. So they may not need to know very much.

Loan Officer Salary

Wondering how much a loan officer makes? Well, take note that most loan officers do not receive a base salary, only commission, so they are paid for performance. Sales performance.

The median income for a loan officer in the United States was $63,650 in 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That works out to an hourly wage of $30.60 per hour, which isn’t terrible.

My assumption is that the number won’t change a great deal in 2017.

While the salary may not seem very high, it could well be skewed by the sheer number of loan officers who do very little, or are simply unsuccessful.

The median pay means half of LOs earned more than that amount and half earned less.

Loan officers have the ability to earn up to several hundred thousand dollars a year if they work hard and make the right connections.

Loan Officer Career Advancement

Loan officers generally stay in one place and don’t advance internally within a company.

They may change their status to Senior Loan Officer, but usually it means very little aside from the fact that they’ve been around a little longer than typical loan officers. There could be a bump in compensation levels though.

More likely, loan officers can advance externally if recruited by other companies paying higher commissions, or even a base salary. Or a mega bonus to jump ship.

Those who are able to create and manage a large book of business may wind up with a lot of suitors, and it’s not out of the realm of possibilities to be offered a six-figure bonus to change companies.

Many loan officers also apply for a broker’s license as a means for advancement. And eventually employ their own loan officers, and take a cut off everything they earn.

How to Be a Top Producing Loan Officer

While there might be gimmicks and top 10 lists and classes that teach you “how to sell,” it really comes down to hustling.

If you’re committed to the business, you can be really successful and earn a ton of money. When I worked for a wholesale lender, there were Account Executives who sat around and complained, and others who just put their heads down and dialed the phone.

That latter group made a lot of money, while the complainers made average salaries and eventually quit. Ultimately, it’s about work ethic and drive.

All the other stuff, like education and the art of selling, will come with experience. You can’t teach someone how to sell in a class, nor can you teach them everything about mortgages.

It takes time and real-life experience to master those things. But without motivation and work, it will mean very little.

So if you want to be successful as a loan officer, you need to work hard and network. Don’t be shy, make calls, visit real estate offices, and eventually it will get easier and easier.

Sure, you might have some nervous calls and meetings early on, but once you gain confidence, it’ll become second nature and pay dividends.

In Conclusion

To sum it up, loan officers have the potential to make more money than the majority of the population, including doctors and lawyers. And even pro athletes if their careers are long enough.

The amount of time and work you put in is paramount, and you must be very driven to excel in the mortgage industry. It can be a very cut-throat field, filled with stress, deadlines, and missed opportunities.

After all, we’re talking about a lot of money and big life moments for the families taking out these loans. So it’s not to be taken lightly.

The job certainly isn’t for everyone, but if you think you’ve got what it takes, it can be very fruitful and lead to other opportunities, such as being a broker, working with a large banking institution, or working in commercial real estate, just to name a few.

Always do plenty of research about the company or broker you decide to work for to ensure you know exactly how and what you will be paid, and what is expected of you. Good luck!


50 Comments

  1. Tim February 14, 2015 at 4:04 pm -

    Below average potential since 2009

  2. Patrick May 21, 2015 at 12:46 pm -

    Potential is not only a small fraction of what it was prior to 2009, but now the time required to get someone approved has increased 100 fold.

    Only people who are good at accounting, memorizing guidelines and adhering to the rules make good LOs.

  3. Rick October 14, 2015 at 9:05 am -

    Any tips on getting OUT of the business?

  4. Colin Robertson October 15, 2015 at 8:41 am -

    Rick,

    Run? Just kidding. It’s a hard business to leave once you’re in because it can be pretty lucrative, as noted above.

  5. Moses R November 16, 2015 at 10:33 pm -

    Hi Colin,

    I’m very interested in becoming a MLO myself, so much that I’ve already taken the courses, passed both exams (National and State for Florida) and already in the process of getting my license. Here’s the problem…I don’t have any MLO experience and everywhere I look experience is required. How in the world can I get any experience if companies are only hiring MLOs with experience? What gives? Where do I start? Any suggestions?

    Thanks
    Moses R

  6. Colin Robertson November 17, 2015 at 1:13 pm -

    Moses,

    Keep reaching out and look for an experienced LO to shadow. You may not get a base salary or paid straight away but it might get your foot in the door and give you a lot of good experience. Good luck!

  7. Jackie November 23, 2015 at 7:48 pm -

    Colin, I’ve been a MB for 29 yrs. I started my own company in 1995. Since 2007 it’s been so hard. Redid my license,, NMLS, etc. Regs are making me nuts. I LOVE what I do (did) but I find people no longer believe or trust. I can truly save them money but going nowhere. It’s time to close the doors and I don’t know what to do.

  8. Colin Robertson December 1, 2015 at 12:06 pm -

    Jackie,

    It’s hard to escape the mortgage industry once you’re a part of it.

  9. William (Bill) Smalley December 7, 2015 at 2:49 pm -

    Colin, good/honest article. I have been an LO at one level or another for 42yrs and it never gets easier, but it seems to keep getting more profitable–IF YOU UNDERSTAND your market place and adjust accordingly. 1st, 2nd’s, Alt-A, FHA, refi, Purchase. Just keep your eyes one and ear to the ground. The market will tell you your next opportunity.

    Thank you

  10. Mousekbob December 27, 2015 at 10:58 pm -

    Jackie,
    What state are you in?
    I would be interested in speaking with you when you have a moment??
    Don’t quit!!
    Mouse

  11. Chris robinson January 17, 2016 at 1:02 am -

    Yes, I’ve worked as an account executive, real estate agent , and vp of title company .. But b/c paper originating was my most enjoyable and most profitable. Just find your niche/talent and do your own thing. I’m just now looking to get back in with both feet and stay in! I love selling dreams and money. What a fun business that always keeps you on your feet and multi tasking and directing others to help you get that approval and closing. Anyone in south Florida who needs a partner let me know . Best wishes

  12. Kylie Jessop February 22, 2016 at 8:05 pm -

    I have been working with a credit repair company and I am interested in becoming a MLO in the state of Utah. Is it better to find a company before I start with my licensing? I would just like to know how you guys got into becoming a LO and if you guys can give me some input!

  13. carrie April 30, 2016 at 3:34 am -

    I just started 4 weeks ago as a mlo. I’m having a hard time getting apps. I’ve consistently (weekly) visited real estate offices, taken treats/chatted, and I feel like I’m spinning my wheels. Any advise?
    Thanks

  14. Colin Robertson April 30, 2016 at 6:46 pm -

    Carrie,

    Keep at it…gotta look at the long game…once you get clients, you get their referrals, repeat business, etc…takes time to get established. Consider the work now the reason you’ll get paid a lot in the future.

  15. Alex June 3, 2016 at 9:08 pm -

    A major bank in CA is willing to hire me as a HMC-JR . I was once before 2007 market crash an appraiser trainee , but had to leave that indusrty as working / shadowing a CG Appraiser was not paying off. I’m now 50 years old and worked in HVAC industry for the past 7 years and climbing ladders with 75 – 95 pounds of parts, tools is not as easy as it used to be. Any suggestions??

  16. will June 6, 2016 at 12:48 pm -

    Moses,

    I can bring you on with my company. I am in Florida too.

    Will
    talk2william@yahoo.com

  17. Colin Robertson June 7, 2016 at 2:42 pm -

    Alex,

    As the article mentions, you can do very well as a loan officer, but many either quit or don’t do all that well. If you’re willing to put in the work and ride the ups and downs there’s always good opportunity as a MLO.

  18. Brandon June 21, 2016 at 8:25 pm -

    I’ve originated since 2007. Some years more lucrative than others but i understand the viewpoints discussed. The lender i’m with now is just simply priced out of the market because of their retail comp structure etc. I’ve had most success doing volume on lower margins and providing referral partners and clients with a competitive deal. i’m Currently licensed in 18+ states and interested in discussing opportunities. It is definitely a lucrative career path with the right structure, processing support and relationships.

  19. Matt June 22, 2016 at 10:14 pm -

    Great article and very truthful. Becoming a loan officer is a tough endeavor and then succeeding as one is even tougher! Most don’t realize that it takes time to build your client/referral base but if done right it pays off for life.

  20. JGlad July 26, 2016 at 2:21 pm -

    When starting new, do you think it is better to work for a bank or a mortgage broker. Do banks provide leads to their mortgage bankers or is it all still self sourced like is often the case when you work for a mortgage broker.

  21. Cary July 26, 2016 at 5:06 pm -

    JGlad, I would like to know this as well.

  22. Colin Robertson July 28, 2016 at 10:02 am -

    JGlad,

    Big banks will probably provide leads for their loan officers because they’re so large and advertise heavily…but the compensation per loan might not be as good. You’ll probably also learn a lot more under a broker because you’ll be working with a variety of different lenders and loan programs. However, you may need to hustle to get leads, so you might not learn a thing unless you’re actually getting loans in the door.

  23. Jodi August 14, 2016 at 6:40 am -

    How does working as a LO in a small town of 3,500 for a bank with four location differ from working in a bigger city for a bigger bank? Is it possible to make a decent living in a smaller setting? Do small banks pay commission only? What is the average commission rate of pay for a LO or MLO?

  24. Mike August 14, 2016 at 2:35 pm -

    I began work as a dialer for a mortgage company a few months ago. I have been extremely successful and brought in a new realtor partner so that we have 2-3 new apps a day! I’m extremely good at marketing and dialing. I took pre-education and passed exams and now have my own license! My boss wants to keep me on full time dialing and is offering 2.5 bps. This seems like an insultingly low percentage. I wanted to counter at 25bps does that seem too high for the industry?

  25. Colin Robertson August 15, 2016 at 11:35 am -

    Mike,

    Hard to say really – are you getting a base salary as well? Are you doing any work on the loans once you get the customer in the door? All those details matter, but it never hurts to try to negotiate better pay if you feel you’re being undervalued.

  26. Colin Robertson August 15, 2016 at 11:37 am -

    Jodi,

    Not sure how the commission/pay might be structured from large national bank to smaller regional bank. I’m assuming the smaller bank would have lower volume so ideally there would be a base salary, but perhaps smaller commission. Could pay more to work for a larger bank in a call center type setting. Would have to compare pros and cons of all options.

  27. Ron August 27, 2016 at 9:46 am -

    Great article! I live in central California. I am interested in getting my home mortgage lending originator license. I am 33, I’ve been in sales all my life. My main concern before getting my license is regarding taking a paycut. I’m the only income for me & my family and I’m making about $40k a year. If I change careers it needs to be a smooth transition because I’m the only income. Any tips on how I can transition from my current job to becoming a home mortgage loan originator without taking a paycut? Where do I start? I have to at least match my income. Everything requires experience. I don’t mind shadowing someone or being a assistant to get my foot in the door. I don’t mind the work I just can’t take a paycut. All help is appreciated. Thank you

  28. Colin Robertson August 28, 2016 at 8:26 am -

    Ron,

    It might be a side gig for you initially if you have time between your current job and free time…that’s one of the benefits of an LO job…it’s possible to do it on your own time.

  29. Mike P August 31, 2016 at 6:32 am -

    Great read Colin. I’m stuck between a decision of leaving my current salary based position to potentially become a LO. I have jumped from job to job coming out of college for four years now and have a secured position with a salary to count on and full health benefits. I am hesitant to leave a secured job, for a field to me that is filled with so many unknowns. Any advice?

  30. Tien Nguyen September 1, 2016 at 9:34 am -

    Colin,
    Thanks for the informative article regarding LO.

    I am a field engineer and currently working for a telecom company as a contractor. I have a BSEE since 1986. I quit telecom field and obtained a real estate broker license since 1996. I also was a mortgage broker for several years until 2008. I returned to work in the telecom field in 2011. I am close to 60 years old now and want to get back into mortgage business. I don’t like to drive folks around showing houses. My brother in law is a certified appraiser and he’s doing quite well. Should I get into Mortgage business or Appraisal business.

    Please advise. Thanks again for your wonderful article.

  31. Tien Nguyen September 1, 2016 at 9:45 am -

    @Chris robinson

    Hi Chris,

    What part of Florida you lived in?
    Give me a call at (817) 881-1777 when you have a chance.
    Leave me a message when I can’t get to the phone.

    Thanks

  32. Colin Robertson September 8, 2016 at 8:03 am -

    Mike,

    That’s a question only you can answer…as I’ve noted in the post, there are pros to working on your own such as unlimited income but that doesn’t come without risk and hard work. Good luck in your decision!

  33. Colin Robertson September 8, 2016 at 8:16 am -

    Tien,

    It’s really your decision – which job do your prefer? It sounds like you’ve already done mortgages, appraisals might require new training and starting from the bottom.

  34. Jeff September 19, 2016 at 3:53 pm -

    I currently live Houston area and about to take my Mortgage Loan Originator course. Home sales are always pretty good around this area there are always prospects. My concern is I work as a firefighter with a schedule of 48/96 meaning I work two days straight and and 4 straight days off. While I am at work I can always take call of do any paperwork I may need to do. Would this be possible or even worth doing. My personal opinion is yes but figured I would as those that are in the industry. I also have 3 coworkers who are RE agents so not only does it make me think I can do it but now I have leads for new loans. Thank you for your time and information.

  35. Colin Robertson September 19, 2016 at 5:28 pm -

    Jeff,

    You could face some challenges if you have loan closings on specific days when you’re stuck working your day job…such as the end of the month rush. But I suppose it’s possible. May need an assistant though (or a solid office to work at) if you’re definitely going to be stuck somewhere else each month.

  36. Ted October 18, 2016 at 6:33 pm -

    Hey Colin,

    I was in the mortgage in IL and I was pretty good. I got out in 2008 and now I am trying to get back in. Do mortgage companies cover any fees involved with licensing?

  37. Edward November 3, 2016 at 3:24 am -

    Great article. I am a new Loan Originator. I can pull clients in but feel I have very little support when it comes to filling in any gaps on closing and my processors have been VERY slow. Very frustrating. I am a small business owner and I only make money when I complete jobs or close loans, the personnel above me that process get paid a salary and do not have that sense of urgency because they get paid no matter what happens.

  38. Vitaliy November 6, 2016 at 4:08 pm -

    Hey Colin,
    Great article! I got my MLO license a year ago. I use to work as a Real Estate Sales Associate, worked in the industry for approximately 5 years. Still have my license active. Decided to switch Mortgage Industry and try myself in more consistent profession. Had a few clients since than. While working on the loans I faced difficulties to get them proper loan programs, inputting their information into the point software, getting conditions approved from the lender, and getting them close on time.
    I came to a conclusion, that the best experience is to work for the broker as a loan processor for some time and you will learn all pros & cons. In my opinion the foundation of being a good MLO is having experience as a Loan Processor.
    Please correct me if I am wrong.

  39. Colin Robertson November 7, 2016 at 8:52 am -

    Vitaliy,

    I agree, loan processors are the unsung heroes of the mortgage world and often know the guidelines, necessary conditions, and potential red flags for most loan files inside and out. It’s probably a great way to learn a lot quickly.

  40. Zoraida November 7, 2016 at 4:45 pm -

    Hello! I was recently offered a position as a Loan Officer with a mortgage broker. I will have the course paid for and leads provided (this is what was told). Question, I will be getting only commission, 37bps initially, after 4 closed loans, it increases to 50bps. Is this a good initial commission structure? Is there a standard amount? Also, I was told my current real estate license cannot be active because it will be a conflict of interest. Is this true? Thanks in advance! I am trying to make an informed decision as I am a recent mom and like the flexibility I can have working from home most of the time.

  41. Colin Robertson November 8, 2016 at 1:36 pm -

    Zoraida,

    Do the math to determine if it’s a good deal for you. Multiply the bps by your expected monthly volume to see if the commission is acceptable for you, or shop around to see what other companies offer. As far as giving up real estate license, it might be a state requirement or the lender’s way of avoiding any scrutiny for, as you mentioned, a possible conflict of interest.

  42. Kimberley December 12, 2016 at 6:39 pm -

    How many basis points should an inside loan officer be paid? And how does a draw work?

  43. Colin Robertson December 13, 2016 at 10:40 am -

    Kimberley,

    It really depends on the company. I suppose you can always counter whatever a company offers, and/or do the math to see if the bps they offer per loan will be enough income for you using some future production estimates. A draw is sometimes offered to LOs to tide you over until you’re actually producing. It’s basically an income advance that is paid back via future commissions.

  44. Candy Williams January 30, 2017 at 5:03 pm -

    Is an MLO a good job for someone with social anxiety? I’m a transexual (pre-op) and have many social issues. My friend told me I should become an MLO so as to be able to work at home.

    What do you think?

  45. Colin Robertson January 31, 2017 at 10:30 am -

    Candy,

    It depends if you feel comfortable working with people one-on-one, which is generally what loan officers do. You probably won’t have to speak in front of large groups (e.g. do presentations), but lots of one-on-one either in person or over the phone or both. Some companies may allow you to do more email communication if that’s more comfortable for you. Good luck.

  46. Greg Holly March 29, 2017 at 5:33 am -

    I really appreciate the insight here in this post and confident it’s going to be helpful to me and many others. Thanks for sharing all the information.

  47. Kurt Kopf April 4, 2017 at 9:10 am -

    I’ve been looking for a way to make more money and have considerable real estate experience in appraisal and inspection. But not mortgage. I’m in Socal and honesty can’t afford to live here any more… Generally Realtors/agents, don’t like me. I was a boy scout and have ethics and morals; I find it repulsive when a realtor will lie to a customer (withhold information) and they usually don’t call me back because I point out the house is infested or leaking… when they were trying to hide it. Is lying a pre-requisite for success? Is there a personality test online that one could take to see if this is a good investment in time before making the $1000 investment in getting licensed? Thanks

  48. Ted August 29, 2017 at 7:40 pm -

    Colin,

    Great article! I’ve been looking to becoming an MLO. I have a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in finance. I worked a few years for mutual fund companies as a client service representative before making a career change to teaching. Now, I want to get back into the business world and would love to sell mortgages but I’m no one wants someone who has no experience. I am very teachable/coachable, I’m a quick study, I am personable, and I am comfortable with terms and definitions in finance, but no one seems to want to give me a chance. How do I get over that hurdle?

  49. Colin Robertson August 30, 2017 at 8:02 am -

    Ted,

    It sounds like you’re well-suited for the position. Is it one type of company, like a big commercial bank, where you’ve been denied, or have you tried a variety of different types/sizes of banks? My guess is that someone will hire you, despite the lack of experience. You’ve got to be tenacious and keep trying, just like you would be as an MLO. Good luck!

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