Become a Mortgage Loan Originator: 6 Step Guide

how to become an MLO: 6 step guide

So you want to become a licensed Mortgage Loan Originator (MLO)?  We are here to help navigate you through your mortgage licensing journey.

Whether you’re looking for a new career opportunity, in-between jobs, or seeking a side income opportunity – residential mortgage loan origination can be a rewarding and lucrative profession.

According to Mike Fratantoni, Mortgage Bankers Association chief economist, “The housing market has seen a meaningful rebound since the onset of the pandemic [in 2020]. Record-low mortgage rates have led to a surge in borrower demand for refinances and home purchases.1

This resource serves as an introductory guide for the steps, entities and time required for a new candidate to become a licensed Mortgage Loan Originator.

how to become an MLO: 6 step guide

Step 1

Request your personal NMLS account:2

The NMLS system is used to process MLO licensing requests for all 50 states. Creating an account and obtaining an ID number is a simple process that only takes a few minutes to complete.

1. Visit the NMLS online registration portal to request an NMLS account.
2. Select the Individual option.
3. If prompted, complete the security captcha and click next.
4. Provide the required information and submit to create your NMLS account.

Step 2

Complete Your NMLS Pre-License Education:

NMLS SAFE Mortgage Pre-License Training – Required

All states require 20 hours of mortgage education from an NMLS approved mortgage school.

‣ 3 hours of federal law
‣ 3 hours of ethics
‣ 2 hours of non-traditional mortgage lending training
‣ 12 hours of electives

If you are seeking a new mortgage license, be sure to enroll in the 20 hours SAFE course in addition to your state-specific education requirements. Find out what your state’s specific requirements are for mortgage pre-licensing education.

Step 3

Pass the NMLS Mortgage licensing exam, also known as the SAFE MLO Test:2

Once you’ve completed your pre-license education, you’ll need to schedule an appointment to take the National Test Component with Uniform State Content through your NMLS account.

Effective April 5, 2021, test details are as follows:

‣ 120 questions (115 scored)
‣ 190 minutes
‣ Cost $110

The SAFE MLO National exam covers:

‣ Federal mortgage related laws and ethics
‣ MLO activities
‣ General mortgage knowledge

The Uniform State Content (UST) portion of the exam covers:

‣ Regulatory authority, responsibilities, and limitations
‣ Definitions and documents
‣ License law and regulation
‣ Compliance

Step 4

Apply for your NMLS license:

Once you’ve completed the required pre-licensing education and achieved passing scores on the National and any applicable state required tests, you will be able to apply for your mortgage loan originator state license on the NMLS website.

To apply for your MLO license:

‣  Login in to your NMLS account.
‣  Select the filing tab on the top of the screen.
‣  Select Individual if you are applying as an individual.
‣  Click Request New/Update.

  • If you’re directly responsible for paying the filing fees, click continue.
  • If you’re already employed with a mortgage company, your employer may handle this step for you. These fees are not refundable. Check with your employer before you proceed.

‣  Click Add to apply for your state license.
‣  Select the appropriate License and click Next.
‣  Select your state’s Mortgage Loan Originator License and click Next.
‣  Verify that the information is correct and click Next.
‣  Read the final page carefully before proceeding. If the information is correct click Finish.

You’re now ready to finalize your application!

Step 5

Complete Background Checks, Credit Check and estimated Fees:2

The SAFE Mortgage Licensing Act of 2008 established licensing and registration standards for all Mortgage Loan Originators. In order to receive your MLO license, you’ll need to create a Fieldprint account for finger printing and register for an appointment. In addition, you’ll have to complete the following requirements through your NMLS account and pay the associated fees:

Step 6

Get Hired!

To become a fully licensed MLO in your state, your NMLS ID will need to be sponsored by a state licensed employer. This sponsorship tells the governing agencies that your employer will be supervising your individual license. You can submit your sponsorship through your NMLS ID.

Once your employer sponsorship is associated with your NMLS ID, you’ll be ready to do business as an MLO in your state!

If you need assistance getting hired, explore job board resources such as National Mortgage Staffing.

Get Started with OnCourse Learning

We empower aspiring mortgage loan originators and seasoned mortgage loan officers to take their learning experience to the next level.

With 10,000 clients and partners and over 40+ years of experience, we may know a thing or two when it comes to effective and engaging online education. Just ask the 200,000 individuals we’ve trained with our NMLS-approved licensure and continuing education courses.

OnCourse Learning offers:

  • NMLS-approved mortgage pre-licensing courses
  • Exam prep tools designed to help you pass your NMLS license exam
  • Continuing education and late CE courses
  • Professional development courses to help shape and advance your career


2Additional Requirements:

In addition to registering with NMLS and becoming state-licensed, MLOs are required to:

  • Provide fingerprints to the NMLS for an FBI criminal background check and authorize the NMLS to obtain a copy of your credit report.
  • State-licensed, non-depository mortgage loan originators are subject to additional requirements under the Secure & Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing Act of 2008 and, at a minimum, register with the Nationwide Multistate Licensing (NMLS).
  • In some states, MLOs also must satisfy state-specific testing requirements to obtain a license. In April 2013, the NMLS launched the Uniform State Test, a section of the national exam, which replaces the state-specific test content for those states that have adopted it.

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Additional Reading:

State Licensed Mortgage Loan Originator Requirements and Standards under the S.A.F.E. Act
4 Key Requirements to Becoming a Mortgage Loan Originator (MLO)
Loan Originator Compensation
The Mortgage Profession
Mortgage Career Insights, Tips & Resources

“It’s amazing to me that more people don’t choose to work in this business.”  

MLO SpotLight Story featuring:  David Youngs, Sr. Loan Consultant & Assistant Vice President at Progressive Lending Solutions

Whether you’re starting a new career or an established Mortgage Loan Originator (MLO), it’s helpful to hear stories from those who have been in your shoes! Hear from a mortgage professional as he shares his career journey and provides tips for Loan Officers. Read the MLO Spotlight Story.

By |2024-07-09T16:54:17-06:00June 30th, 2024|Financial Services, Mortgage|Comments Off on Become a Mortgage Loan Originator: 6 Step Guide