What Is the Best Degree Path for Becoming a Loan Officer?

If you enjoy working with both people and numbers, loan officer – ranked highly on best career lists – is a business and financial career to consider. These professionals work in financial institutions like banks, credit unions and mortgage companies, where they gather and verify loan applicants’ information and decide whether the institution will issue that applicant a loan. Loan officers’ work also includes selling – convincing qualified applicants to apply for the loan – and customer service in regards to educating applicants about the process and the different types of loans available. The first step to success in this career is attaining a college education, followed by on-the-job training and, for some positions, licensure.

Undergraduate Education Options

A bachelor’s degree is the standard requirement to begin a career as a loan officer, although some candidates begin the job with no degree but extensive relevant work experience, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. Business, finance, accounting and economics – fields which happen to be among the top 10 highest paying degrees in business – are all solid degree choices for aspiring loan officers. More important than the exact major listed on their degrees are the skills they develop during their education. To be successful, loan officers must know how to read and understand financial statements. They should be familiar with the underwriting process and be able to differentiate between, and explain, the various types of personal and business loans.

Beyond the Degree

After earning a degree, you will need on-the-job training to learn exactly what you will need to do to succeed at the bank, mortgage company, credit union or other financial institution where you work. Sometimes this on-the-job training is informal, while other times your employer might offer formal training. Often, this training includes specifics on how to use any underwriting software program your financial institution uses, according to the BLS.

Loan officers who issue mortgage loans, specifically, need more than a degree and on-the-job training. They must also attain a Mortgage Loan Originator (MLO) license. Requirements vary by state, but they typically include 20 a passing score on an exam, completion of 20 hours of coursework and clean background and credit checks, the BLS reported.

Loan officers earn a median salary of $59,820 per year, according to the BLS. Some also earn commission or bonuses in addition to their base salary. While the growing use of underwriting computer software and online loan applications may hinder the growth of opportunities for loan officers as a whole, the BLS is still predicting an eight percent increase in job prospects in this occupation over a decade. The combination of the pay rate, the above-average flexibility and other factors – like the opportunity to help qualified applicants get the loans they need to buy a house or expand their business – led U.S. News & World Report to rank the career ninth on its Best Business Jobs list and 44th on its 100 Best Jobs List.

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