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How To Get A Mortgage Loan Originator License

Learn how to get a mortgage license, choose online NMLS courses right for your state, and become a mortgage loan officer!

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How To Become a Mortgage Loan Officer

Basic Mortgage Loan Originator Licensing Requirements

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. (You can do this right now)
  2. Complete your mortgage Pre-license Education ("PE").
  3. Pass a licensing exam.
  4. Apply for a license with the NMLS.
  5. Complete background checks and pay all fees.
  6. Associate your NMLS account with an employer.

Complete Your NMLS Pre-License Education

Each state has different requirements for getting a loan originator license. It is your responsibility to make sure that you meet the education requirements for the states that you want to do business in. This usually means that you must complete 20 hours of pre-license education at a minimum. Some states have additional requirements. You may need to complete state-specific courses for each of the states that you wish to work in.

Visit the NMLS website for a complete list of state requirements.

Pass a Licensing Exam

After your education is completed along with all state-specific electives, you need to schedule an appointment to take your licensing examination at a testing facility. This exam is administrated by Prometric. Follow the guides below to schedule your exam:



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

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.)


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:


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.


Frequently Asked Questions About Mortgage Licensing

Frequently asked questions.

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.

What is the difference between being "licensed" and being "registered" with the NMLS?

The difference is in the mortgage license status of the loan originator. The NMLS is a national organization that tracks all mortgage activity in the US, regardless of licensing status. Persons that work for independent mortgage companies must be licensed by the state in which they work. Persons that work for banks, credit unions, and government organizations are generally supervised by other organizations and are not required to be licensed. However, they still need to be registered with the NMLS. All MLOs require an NMLS ID, regardless of license status.

State-Specific Mortgage Pre-License Education Requirements

Starting your pre-license education is the first step towards a career as a licensed mortgage loan originator. Each state issues its own mortgage licenses and may choose its own hour requirements for licensure. Below are the pre-license hour requirements for each state and links to courses that fulfill the education requirements.

For additional details, see the NMLS state-specific education document.

State Total
State Licensing Authority
Alabama 20 0 Alabama Banking Department
Alaska 20 0 Alaska Division of Banking & Securities
Arizona 20 4 Arizona Department of Financial Institutions
Arkansas 20 0 Arkansas Security Department
California (DRE) 20 0 California Department of Real Estate
California (DFPI) 20 2 California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation
Colorado 20 2 Colorado Division of Real Estate
Connecticut 21 1 Connecticut Department of Banking
Delaware 20 0 Delaware Office of the State Bank Commissioner
District of Columbia 20 3 District of Columbia Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking
Florida 20 2 Florida Office of Financial Regulation
Georgia 20 0 Georgia Department of Banking and Finance
Guam 20 0 Guam Department of Revenue and Taxation
Hawaii 20 3 Hawaii Division of Financial Institutions
Idaho 20 2 Idaho Department of Finance
Illinois 20 0 Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation
Indiana (SOS) 20 2 Indiana Secretary of State
Indiana (DFI) 20 0 Indiana Department of Financial Institutions
Iowa 20 0 Iowa Division of Banking
Kansas 20 0 Kansas Office of the State Bank Commissioner
Kentucky 20 0 Kentucky Department of Financial Institutions
Louisiana 20 0 Louisiana Office of Financial Institutions
Maine 20 0 Maine Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection
Maryland 20 5 Maryland Commissioner of Financial Regulation
Massachusetts 20 3 Massachusetts Division of Banks
Michigan 20 2 Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services
Minnesota 20 0 Minnesota Department of Commerce
Mississippi 20 4 Mississippi Department of Banking and Consumer Finance
Missouri 20 0 Missouri Division of Finance
Montana 20 2 Montana Division of Banking & Financial Institutions
Nebraska 22 2 Nebraska Department of Banking and Finance
Nevada 30 4 Nevada Division of Mortgage Lending
New Hampshire 20 2 New Hampshire Banking Department
New Jersey 20 4 New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance
New Mexico 20 3 New Mexico Financial Institutions Division
New York 20 3 New York Department of Financial Services
North Carolina 24 4 North Carolina Commissioner of Banks Office
North Dakota 20 0 North Dakota Department of Financial Institutions
Ohio 24 4 Ohio Division of Financial Institutions
Oklahoma 20 1 Oklahoma Department of Consumer Credit
Oregon 20 4 Oregon Division of Financial Regulation
Pennsylvania 20 3 Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities
Puerto Rico 20 0 Puerto Rico Bureau of Financial Institutions
Rhode Island 20 3 State of Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation
South Carolina (BFI) 20 3 South Carolina Board of Financial Institutions
South Carolina (DCA) 20 3 South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs
South Dakota 20 0 South Dakota Division of Banking
Tennessee 20 2 Tennessee Department of Financial Institutions
Texas (SML) 23 3 Texas Department of Savings and Mortgage Lending
Texas (OCCC) 20 0 Texas Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner
Utah (DRE) 35 15 Utah Division of Real Estate
Utah (DFI) 20 0 Utah Department of Financial Institutions
Vermont 20 2 Vermont Department of Financial Regulation
Virginia 20 0 Virginia Bureau of Financial Institutions
US Virgin Islands 20 0 Virgin Islands Division of Banking and Insurance
Washington 22 4 Washington Department of Financial Institutions
West Virginia 24 4 West Virginia Division of Financial Institutions
Wisconsin 20 0 Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions
Wyoming 20 0 Wyoming Division of Banking

OnlineEd's Mortgage Pre-License Education Course

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

  • We price-match any competitor.
  • All courses are online. No classroom attendance required.
  • Free EPUB/PDF course book is yours to keep.
  • Get help with live instructor sessions.
  • Fulfills 20 hours of pre-license education.

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Everything is Online

Our NMLS-approved MLO licensing program is delivered online so you can take the course from anywhere. The online instructor-led course is delivered over a one or two week schedule (your choice). Your learning material and exams are all delivered through your web browser. At several points in the schedule, you will have the opportunity to connect with your instructor and other students taking the course via a live internet conference. This will give you the chance to ask questions, have topics explained in more detail, and get insights from industry professionals.

Mortgage originator license courses are delivered over a week on regular calendar dates. See the schedule on the information page to pick the dates that are right for you.

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

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

Reviewed, Approved, Authorized

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

Our 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.

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

Free Info Packet

Request a free info packet that includes:

  • Step by step directions to get a mortgage license.
  • Per-state education requirements.
  • Mortgage course curriculum outline.

Request Your Free Information Packet

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