Find this page again at:
https://www.onlineed.com/catalog/California/mortgage/pre-license

How To Get A California Mortgage Loan Originator License

Learn how to become a mortgage loan officer in California, choose mortgage license courses, and get an NMLS license.

screenshots of courses

California Mortgage Loan Originator License Training Courses

Pre-License 20 Hours Online Instructor-Led Bundle

20-hour National SAFE prelicense course for obtaining a mortgage loan originator license. Includes test-taking strategy video.

Get your mortgage pre-license education online! Be confident and prepared with live instructor Q&A, test prep, flashcards, and exam simulator.
$239.00
product image
Learn More

Included Standard:

Online Materials Includes Video Online Audio Optional Q&A Webinar Printable Certificate PDF & EPUB eBook Practice Tests Test Simulator Test-Taking Strategies Online Flashcards

Optional Add-Ons:

Mortgage 101 Bootcamp

California Pre-License 22 Hours Online Instructor-Led Bundle

Complete education to get a mortgage loan originator license with the California DFPI. Includes test-taking strategy video.

Get your California mortgage pre-license education online! Be confident and prepared with live instructor Q&A, test prep, exam simulator, and CA-DFPI elective.
$275.00
product image
Learn More

Included Standard:

Online Materials Includes Video Online Audio Optional Q&A Webinar State Component Printable Certificate PDF & EPUB eBook Practice Tests Test Simulator Test-Taking Strategies Online Flashcards

Optional Add-Ons:

Mortgage 101 Bootcamp
Product Splash

Mandatory California state-specific component for DFPI mortgage licensee applicants

$49.00
California Pre-License 2 Hours 
Product Splash

Prepare yourself for the NMLS MLO licensing exam with this 2-hour live webinar

$99.00
Exam-Prep 
Product Splash

Prepare yourself for the NMLS MLO licensing exam with this self-paced online video course

$80.00
Exam-Prep 

Mortgage Professional Development Courses

Product Splash

New-licensee startup course for first-day success.

$175.00

Steps to Getting a Mortgage License in California

To sell mortgages, you need to be licensed as a mortgage loan originator (MLO). This is also sometimes called a "loan officer" or "mortgage broker." Each state has its own license requirements for becoming a mortgage loan originator. All states use the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System (NMLS) to track MLO licensing. To do business as a mortgage loan originator, you need to:

  1. Apply for an NMLS account and ID number.
  2. Complete your California mortgage Pre-license Education ("PE").
  3. Pass a licensing exam.
  4. Apply for your California mortgage license though the NMLS.
  5. Complete background checks and pay all fees.
  6. Associate your NMLS account with an employer.

1) Create Your NMLS Account

You can get started with this step now. By starting an NMLS account, you will be assigned an NMLS Unique Identifier ("NMLS ID") which will be your license number for the rest of your mortgage career. You will need this number before you take any education or do business. Coordinate your account creation with your future employer.

Create your NMLS account here.

2) Complete Your California Pre-License Education

In California, you can get your mortgage loan originator license through either the California Department of Real Estate (DRE) or the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI), previously known as the Department of Business Oversight (DBO). Which one is right for you? If you plan to work for a CA-DFPI licensed mortgage company, you should get a DFPI license. Otherwise, licensing through the DRE is likely what you need.

Before you can get your MLO license, you need to take required pre-license education. Each state has different education requirements for doing business. If you work for a non-bank institution (a "mortgage company"), you must get licensed in each state that you want to do business in. The SAFE Act requires that you take 20 hours of pre-license education at a minimum. The DFPI requires 2 extra hours of DFPI-specific education. Some states have additional requirements. Visit the NMLS website for a complete list of state requirements.

DRE licensees should take the basic 20-hour pre-license course. DFPI licensees need to take the 20-hour course and a required 2-hour DFPI elective.

DRE License

Getting a license through the DRE gives you the most freedom but requires you to also get and maintain a real estate license.

  • You must also maintain a real estate license.
  • Separate real estate license education required.
  • Allows you to work for any company.
  • More difficult license to obtain.
  • Requires 20 hours of education.
  • More information on the DRE website.

DFPI License

A CA-DFPI license is for persons who are looking to work with a company that is also licensed by the DFPI.

  • You may only work for DFPI-licensed companies.
  • Easier license to obtain.
  • Mortgages must fall under either California Finance Lenders Law (CFLL) or the California Residential Mortgage Lending Act (CRMLA).
  • Requires extra 2-hour DFPI elective.
  • More information on the DFPI website.
Shop Courses

3) Pass a Licensing Exam

After your education is completed and recorded, you need to schedule an appointment to take your licensing examination at a testing facility. This is sometimes called the "SAFE test" or "MLO exam". This exam is administrated by Prometric. Follow the guides below to schedule your exam:

How to schedule your exam

Exam scheduling quick guide

Contact Prometric at 1-877-671-6657 or visit their website.

4) Apply for a License

You will need to complete and submit an application for a mortgage loan origination license via the NMLS website. (NOTE: The mortgage company you plan to work for may fill out your application for you. Please check with them before submitting any paperwork.)

How to apply for a license

5) Background Checks

As part of your application process, most states require you to get a criminal background check, submit fingerprints, and submit to a credit report:

How to request a background check

6) Get Hired

Although you may already be working closely with your new employer, your NMLS record will need to be associated with your employer before you can receive a mortgage loan license and do business.

How to sponsor your NMLS record

Frequently Asked Questions About Mortgage Licensing

Do I need a license to sell mortgages?

It depends. You must be licensed if you work for a non-depository institution (usually an independent mortgage company). If you work for a bank, credit union, or government organization, you do not need to be licensed. However, all persons that originate mortgage loans need to be registered with the NMLS.

What is a "mortgage loan originator"?

A mortgage loan originator is the legal term for a person that sells mortgages. This person works with customers to choose mortgage products and takes applications for loans. These persons are also referred to as "MLOs", "loan officers", and sometimes colloquially as "loan brokers" or "lenders".

What is the difference between a "mortgage loan originator" and a "loan broker"?

A mortgage broker manages and operates an independent mortgage business and may oversee employees. Becoming a mortgage broker usually requires several years of industry experience and additional licensing. Laws vary by state.

What is the difference between a "mortgage loan originator" and a "loan processor"?

A mortgage loan originator (MLO) is a salesperson that works with customers and must be licensed or registered. A loan processor is someone that reviews customer paperwork and does research to determine the customer's qualifications for the loan. A supervised loan processor generally does not need to be licensed.

Can I work independently as a mortgage loan originator?

A mortgage loan originator must be supervised by a licensed broker and must have their license associated with a particular mortgage company. Although working as an MLO can provide some level of work independence, persons that want to run their own mortgage company need to be licensed as a broker.

Do I need a college degree to become a mortgage loan originator?

No. Instead, you must take pre-license education as prescribed by the SAFE Act (about 20 hours) and pass a licensing exam.

Can I get a mortgage license with bad credit?

Yes. There is no minimum credit score required to get a mortgage license. However, most state agencies will be looking for signs of "fiscal responsibility" from license applicants. Having a low credit score will not disqualify anyone from getting a license. Inability to manage one's own finances may lead to a rejected application.

Can I get a mortgage license if I have a criminal record?

Generally speaking, persons convicted of financial crimes or ID-theft will not qualify for a mortgage license. However, each state has its own laws on this topic. Some are more or less strict about criminal records.

How much does it cost to get a mortgage license?

About $400-500. The total cost to start selling mortgages depends on which state you are being licensed in. The cost includes pre-license education through an NMLS-approved course provider, licensing exam fee, background check, credit report, and application fees.

How do I get a mortgage license in multiple states?

You need a separate mortgage license in every state that you handle business from. Each state provides its own mortgage licenses. If your company works with customers from multiple states, you will need multiple licenses in order to service all customers.

How long does it take to get a mortgage license?

About 6 weeks. Times vary by state agency. Pre-license education can be completed in as little as 4 days, while the license application process take up most of the time.

How difficult is the mortgage licensing exam?

The first-time pass rate for the licensing exam is 55%. The NMLS updates these numbers regularly. Persons that pass the exam take their study seriously and make sure to review all of the topic outlines that the NMLS provides for free. We strongly recommend that you get a test-prep or test-review product along with your pre-license education to reinforce concepts you will be tested over.

How long is the mortgage licensing exam?

The exam is 190 minutes long and contains 120 questions. A score of 75% or greater is required to pass. Results will be shown to you on a computer screen immediately after completing the exam.

What happens if I fail the mortgage licensing exam?

Just take it again! There is a 30-day waiting period between attempts. After the third attempt, there is a 180-day waiting period.

How should I study for the mortgage licensing exam?

Review the MLO Testing Handbook by the NMLS. It contains a comprehensive topic outline that will be tested over. OnlineEd's courses come with test prep study tools and an exam simulator to help you get ready for the exam.

How long is a mortgage pre-license course?

Most states require about 20 credit hours. Courses provided by OnlineEd can be completed in as few as 4 days. The instructor will guide the class for the first 4 days, after which students may access the final exam. All courses must be completed within 14 days.

Can I take mortgage pre-license courses from home?

Yes! All of OnlineEd's courses are taken online. Most of the course can be taken on your own schedule, but we also have regular times to meet with a live instructor.

What does NMLS stand for?

Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System. The NMLS handles various mortgage license and registration functions through its website including licensing, tracking, testing, record keeping, and communication.

How do I get an NMLS license?

The Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System handles mortgage license applications on behalf of individual state agencies. Each state issues its own licenses to do mortgage business inside the state. You can get a mortgage license by taking required pre-license education, passing a licensing exam, and applying for a state mortgage license through the NMLS website.

Frequently asked questions.

OnlineEd's Mortgage Pre-License Education Courses

Take your California mortgage pre-license classes online!

  • We price-match any competitor. Just call us.
  • California DFPI (DBO) and DRE packages available.
  • All courses are online. No physical attendance required.
  • Exam prep and test simulator included with all 20-hour bundles.
  • Get help with live instructor sessions.
  • Free EPUB/PDF course book is yours to keep.
  • Approved NMLS Education Provider since 2009. NMLS #1400327

Browse Courses

100% online courses, no special software required, just an internet connection.

Everything is online

Looking to get your mortgage loan originator license training online? You're in the right place!

Our NMLS-approved MLO licensing program is delivered online so you can take the course from anywhere. The 20-hour online instructor-led course can be completed in as little as 4 days. Your learning material and exams are all delivered through your web browser. Each chapter in the course ends with an opportunity to post questions and get feedback from your instructor. Join an optional weekly review live webinar with your instructor and classmates. This will give you the chance to ask questions, have topics explained in more detail, and get insights from industry professionals.

The OnlineEd system is compatible with all current major browsers and operating systems.

Reviewed and approved by the NMLS for pre-license credit.

Reviewed, Approved, Authorized

Our California mortgage loan officer license program has been rigorously reviewed, approved, and authorized for pre-license credit by the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System (NMLS).

Mortgage education courses at OnlineEd are written by OnlineEd. Because of this, we save on overhead licensing costs and can pass those savings on to you.

Need Help?

Talk to a real person on the phone, by chat, or by email. We don't use annoying automation systems or AI.

Contact OnlineEd