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How To Get A California Mortgage Loan Originator License

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

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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.
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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

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

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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.

Start Your Mortgage Career

Start with OnlineEd's NMLS pre-license course package!

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