Intro: Loan and Mortgage Careers


The mortgage industry is one that’s experienced in turmoil in recent years, particularly in the wake of the Great Recession of 2008 and the housing bubble crisis. Despite that turmoil, while homebuyers may face more difficult conditions to get a loan, mortgage loan officers of all types remain in relatively high demand.

It’s a broad career field that doesn’t just encompass one title or job role – the mortgage industry as a whole can include the following positions:

  • Mortgage loan originator
  • Mortgage loan underwriter
  • Mortgage processor
  • Mortgage lender
  • Mortgage closer

Each of these is a separate career, but they can also overlap with one another. With that in mind, the purpose of our article is to explore each, highlight characteristics pertinent to specific roles, and also provide a perspective of the career outlook and salary for these positions.

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Image Source: Mortgage Brokers and Loan Officers

We will cover the following, in addition to details and information about specific job functions, training, and licensing:

  • Mortgage loan officer salary
  • Mortgage loan originator salary
  • Mortgage processor salary
  • Mortgage consultant salary
  • Mortgage loan underwriter salary

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Comparing Mortgage Brokers and Loan Officers

Before we move on to answer specific questions, such as the amount of a mortgage loan officer salary or mortgage lender salary, we’ll take a look at a more general area of comparison relevant to understanding these career fields.

This includes a comparison of a mortgage broker and loan officer.

A mortgage broker is someone who does much of the work for a borrower regarding finding a lender and loan. When a borrower ultimately receives a loan, the broker will get a percentage of that value as his/her payment. That’s how a mortgage broker salary works in most circumstances.

On the other hand, a mortgage loan officer salary is typically paid by a financial institution where the professional is made up of employees—for example, a bank or a credit union.

The mortgage broker job role includes the following:

  • One institution doesn’t usually employ a broker. Rather, a broker works independently to cultivate relationships with a variety of financial institutions that he/she can then turn to when searching for loans for clients.
  • The broker isn’t the person lending you money if you’re a borrower. Instead, the broker is like an intermediary between the borrower and the lending institution.
  • Brokers can work with people who have special circumstances, such as poverty or no credit, and they can then help people source lenders and officers who are willing to work with them.
  • The goal of a broker is to find a client not only a lender who is willing to give the person a loan but also to locate the best possible rates and terms.

We’ll talk a bit more about brokers later in this guide, during our exploration of mortgage consultants which is often a similar job role.

On the other hand, a loan officer is someone, as mentioned earlier, employed by a bank or a company that does actual lending.

A mortgage officer is the person a borrower will see at a bank or lending institution that will do things, like checking the borrower’s credit score, to determine whether or not that person’s financials will qualify him/her to receive a mortgage.

Financial companies also offer multiple loan options, and the officer will often advise you on these choices and point you in the direction of the correct one for you, as the borrower.



Understanding the Job of a Loan Officer

Being a loan officer can be a lucrative career, and it holds appeal for many people, but there are some elements of the job to consider before focusing on the mortgage loan officer salary or mortgage originator salary.

A few general considerations to keep in mind with the industry include:

  • In today’s economic climate, when you’re working with mortgages, it can be plagued by hurdles and complexities. It’s important that loan officers understand these, and it may be very challenging for them to lend to many borrowers because of regulations.
  • In many ways, being a loan officer is very much like being a sales person. Depending on the institution you’re employed by, you may be given leads of interested borrowers, but, in some cases, you may have to source your own leads.
  • Many loan officers, particularly originators, may not earn a base salary but may instead be paid a commission. The median mortgage loan officer salary is somewhere around $40,000 a year, which is a modest amount, but there are very significant fluctuations in salary. We’ll explore the specifics, such as a mortgage loan originator salary, which is higher, later in this guide.
  • Ultimately, a mortgage loan officer salary is largely dependent on the amount of time you work and are willing to put into your career, and it is, in a general sense, highly variable. Some of the variables that can influence salary include commission structure, the state of the economy, and the real estate and housing market.  

While that covers some general issues, we’ll now move on and talk about mortgage loan originators and their job roles as well as their average salaries.

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What Is a Mortgage Loan Originator Salary and Job Role?

The job role of a mortgage loan originator is very similar to what we discussed above, in terms of general loan officers. A mortgage loan officer is often referred to as an originator and vice versa.

What Mortgage Loan Originators Do:

A mortgage loan originator acts much like a sales person on behalf of the company he/she works for. These businesses can include:

  • Commercial banks
  • Savings institutions
  • Mortgage companies
  • Credit unions

Originators work as part of a larger team of mortgage professionals, which can include:

  • Realtors
  • Appraisers
  • Lawyers
  • Mortgage brokers

Along with acting as a salesperson, the job role of an originator can include the following:

  • Reaching out to both individuals and companies to inquire whether or not they need a loan.
  • Gathering personal information from applications.
  • Explaining the available types of loans to applicants to provide them with the necessary background information to make a decision.
  • Not only getting but also verifying and analyzing pertinent financial information from applicants, which can include things like credit rating and income.
  • Loan agreements must comply with a broad range of both federal and state regulations, so it’s up to originators to make sure everything is compliant.
  • Many times, loan officers and originators have the authority to approve an applicants’ loan, but, in some cases, they may be responsible for referring it to a manager so that higher-up employees can make the ultimate decision.
  • The term “loan originator,” in most cases, really combines the functions of a loan broker and an underwriter into one consolidated position. Later, we’ll explore underwriters’ positions independently as well.


Mortgage Originator Salary and Data:

What’s important to realize with this job function is that the mortgage loan originator salary can vary depending on not just how much work you put in but also what your deal-making skills and expertise are as well as how well you do with the public and the kinds of personal relationships you’re able to create.

It's very much a people-centric job role, and it’s not just about crunching numbers and deciding whether to approve or deny a loan, although this is essential as well.

Here are some facts about not just the average mortgage loan originator salary but also general information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • The 2014 median pay for loan originators was $62,620 per year, which comes out to a little over $30 an hour.
  • The typical entry-level education level is a bachelor’s degree, although not all employers require this. Many may hire originators with only a high school diploma.
  • The number of mortgage loan originator jobs in the U.S., in 2014, was just over 303,000.
  • The jobs outlook for 2014–2024 is an 8% job growth, which is on par with averages for other careers.
  • This job tends to be most in-demand during times of economic prosperity as well as when there are low interest rates.

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Licensing:

Many people see the relatively high mortgage originator salary and think it seems like a great career, and while it can be, it’s also important to realize it can be incredibly challenging.

There are issues that come with acting as a salesperson and a dealmaker, but this is also an incredibly regulated industry.

Mortgage originators must ensure they’re completely compliant with state and federal laws. Some regulations include the Truth in Lending Act, designed to protect against discrimination in lending, and many other similar laws and guidelines.

They’re also required to obtain a state license, so while the initial education requirements may not be stringent to become an originator, you are required to undergo a significant amount of training and education once employed.

Some of the minimum standards for licensing include:

  • Never having had a previous originator license revoked
  • No felony convictions involving things like fraud, money laundering or breach of trust
  • Completion of pre-licensing education
  • Passing a written test
  • States are required to include a minimum net worth requirement or surety bond requirement for some applicants

These are just a few standards you may have to meet, which is important to note when exploring a mortgage officer salary and the job functions.

Mortgage Underwriters:

We’re including this brief section about mortgage underwriters in our loan originators category because, as it stands in the current marketplace, many underwriters are also originators, although they can be distinctive roles from one another.

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Image Source: Mortgage Loan Officer

The underwriter is, perhaps, the most important person in the entire lending process because this is who will decide whether an applicant is ultimately approved or denied for a loan.

Since this is often combined with the position of the originator, the mortgage loan underwriter salary is similar.

The average, according to Glassdoor, is around $60,000. At Suntrust Mortgage, the average salary is $69,219 while Citibank underwriters receive an average salary of $61,206.



Exploring a Mortgage Processor Salary and Job Role

Before we delve into the mortgage loan processor salary details, we’ll explore what this job entails and how it’s different from a loan originator.

Whereas a loan originator primarily handles the applicant side of a mortgage, the processor then steps in to ensure loans are properly issued. It’s less sales-centric and more administrative in many ways.

What a Mortgage Loan Processor Does:

The mortgage loan processor may take on the following duties:

  • The processor will ensure an applicant file moves from the pre-approval process through the closing in a timely and accurate way.
  • Processors take loan information and enter it into the financial system.
  • The processor verifies all documents for accuracy and complete compliance.
  • The application is not only verified but prepared for underwriting by a processor.
  • This person will be responsible for making sure all needed items are requested.
  • Loan documents are not only coordinated but also ordered by a processor.

Most importantly, a processor will ensure not only accuracy but also that all deadlines are met.

Once a loan is approved, processors will usually receive a list of conditions to adhere to before the bank will release the associated loan documents.

Their job role may be somewhat flexible as they may be asked by management to step in during various parts of the process.

While a processor may not have to work so much on “selling” a loan, these professionals do interact quite a bit with applicants, and they really take over after the originator has launched the process.

If a mortgage broker starts a loan, there will likely be two processors involved, which include one working with the broker and one working with the bank or lender.

Mortgage Loan Processor Salary:

The average salary of a mortgage processor is lower than the average mortgage loan originator salary.

The following are some important numbers regarding mortgage processor salary and other relevant job data:

  • According to Payscale.com, a mortgage processor salary can range pretty significantly from $29,374 to $50,298, with the average pay coming in at $39,593 per year.
  • How loan processors are paid can vary as well. They may receive a commission, just a base salary or, in some instances, they may earn both, much like a mortgage loan originator salary.
  • The job growth is in-line with that of other loan officers, as this particular career field usually falls under that umbrella, so there’s a projected job growth rate of around 8% for all loan officers through 2020.

Licensing:

While this job role may require some independent processors be certified, if they’re working for an organization or a lender that’s already licensed, they may not have to comply with any further licensing.

  • However, your company, as well as your state, may require you to undergo additional training or credentialing.
  • The National Association of Mortgage Processors (NAMP) handles the certification and licensing of loan processing professionals on a nationwide basis. This organization offers training classes that allow mortgage processors to earn an NAMP-CPP status, which can help excel their careers. While this certification can help your career, it’s not required.
  • You will need to check your state guidelines and determine if any further licensing or credentialing is needed to work as a loan processor where you live because this can vary by state.

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Mortgage Lender Salary Information and Job Roles

The term mortgage lender can often be used to indicate many of the same job roles as a mortgage originator, although there are some distinctions important to highlight here.

There are two primary types of lenders: wholesale and retail.

Wholesale Lenders:

A wholesale lender is an institution that doesn’t work directly with loan applicants. Instead, the loans are offered through other financial institutions, such as a bank.

The wholesale lender makes the loan in this situation while the bank or financial institution that issues the loan is a third-party agent.

Within wholesale lending, there are professional mortgage representatives who act much like loan originators, and they will build relationships with people that will then send mortgage applicants to the representatives’ employer.

Again, much like a loan originator, these professionals often work for a base salary, as well as some level of commission, although that can vary quite a bit.

These people may also be referred to as wholesale mortgage account executives. Since commission is involved, similar to a mortgage loan processor salary, a wholesale mortgage lender salary may range significantly. Estimates put the average at anywhere from $91,000 to $125,000 in 2014.

Retail Lenders:

A retail mortgage lender is like a bank or credit union, which is an organization lending directly to individuals.

This would represent, for example, someone working at Bank of America or Wells Fargo, who determines whether or not an applicant could receive a loan.  

Retail lenders are where loan officers and, more specifically, loan originators work.

As we mentioned earlier in this guide, the median mortgage originator salary, also known as the retail mortgage lender salary, is around $62,620, according to BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

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Mortgage Consultant Salary and Job Role

A mortgage consultant is a term also used to describe a mortgage broker. In many ways, brokers carry on some of the elements of the originator’s job role, but there are a few key differences which we’ll discuss below.

What Mortgage Consultants Do:

Mortgage loan consultants can work as somewhat of a liaison between applicants seeking a loan and financial institutions, which is similar to not only what some officers and originators do, but also brokers.

Mortgage loan consultants can work with both individuals and companies who need a loan as well as assist people who want to refinance their homes or other types of property.

Their job role is to act in the best interest of their client, and, unlike loan originators, brokers or consultants, they work as independent contractors.

Some other job duties and responsibilities common for consultants include:

  • The collection of personal and financial information from potential borrowers to get a full view of that person's finances, borrowing abilities, and what type of loans he/she will likely qualify for. Brokers will look at everything from credit history to pay stubs to determine the financial status of their clients. It’s this level of research that allows them to find the best opportunities for clients and help clients overcome potential lending challenges.
  • Brokers will often have relationships not only with their clients but also with individual lending institutions, and it’s these relationships that help them find good opportunities and loan options. These brokers can also act as salespeople on behalf of financial relationships.
  • A mortgage consultant or broker can be an excellent resource to guide clients through the in’s and out’s of borrowing, and that includes ensuring they adhere to all standards and regulations. Brokers can also help their clients understand the repayment process and the ramifications if they were to default on a loan.
  • All of the work done regarding information and financial data about a client is then compiled by a broker to give to a lender when a loan is selected.

Mortgage Consultant Salary:

According to statistics from The College of William and Mary, mortgage consultants’ average salary range is between $60,000 and $90,000 per year.

Factors that can impact a mortgage consultant salary include:

  • Education and licensing
  • Experience in the industry
  • Since a mortgage consultant salary is also based, at least partially, on commission, things like the economy and current real estate market can also have an impact.
  • The borrower typically pays the commission aspect of a mortgage consultant salary, and it most often comes from closing costs. There are regulations in place that ensure mortgage brokers can’t receive a commission from a borrower and lender through the same deal.

If you’re curious to learn more about a mortgage consultant salary, many online mortgage salary calculator tools will show you how your salary can be broken down based on varying commission and base pay structures.

Education and Licensing:

Mortgage brokers and consultants tend to have the highest levels of training, education, and licensing in the industry.

These professionals are required to have at least a high school diploma, although many have higher levels of education.

They also must complete 20 hours of basic education to become licensed, and some states may have more stringent requirements.



Mortgage Loan Closer

As we conclude our guide showing you the average mortgage loan officer salary and breakdown of some of the key differences between roles in the mortgage industry, we’ll conclude with the title of the mortgage loan closer.

A mortgage loan closer is a job title that’s related to that of a mortgage loan processor, although the closer’s role also includes scheduling and managing the final closing of the loan.

A closer and a processor will often work together to make sure there is PMI, or private mortgage insurance, and a closer may also verify information for processors during the final steps of closing a loan.

What a Mortgage Loan Closer Does:

A mortgage loan closer can be responsible for a variety of duties, some of which include:

  • Closers not only gather all of the documents needed to process loans, but they also work to make sure the loans are correctly processed.
  • The closer is the final step to ensure all regulations are met in the paperwork and everything moves through the correct channels.
  • This personnel is responsible for setting up the final closing for processed loans, including notifying involved parties and ensuring they’re present.
  • Loan closers can also be responsible for various administrative tasks, like answering questions pertaining specifically to closing and serving as a communication resource for borrowers, brokers, and lenders.
  • Some of the final documentation that may be handled by a loan closer includes the gathering of not just the initial financial information required for processing a loan but also obtaining title insurance, appraisals, and anything else needed at the end of the process.

What Is the Mortgage Loan Closer Salary?

Now that we’ve looked at the general responsibilities, we’ll explore a mortgage loan closer salary as well as the job outlook.

  • According to Glassdoor, a mortgage closer salary is $40,159, although this varies depending on the financial institution the closer works for.
  • For example, a Wells Fargo Mortgage closer has an average salary of $43,555 while at Bank of America, the average is only $40,159.
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there may be a decline in employment for closers and other loan clerks through 2020. While many other areas of the mortgage industry may see at least average job growth, clerking and closing roles can often be automated, and computers are replacing these professionals.  

Licensing and Credentials:

Most mortgage closers have at least a high school diploma, and additional training or education may be required depending on the financial institution employing an individual.

There are two certificates offered by the National Association of Mortgage Processors. This includes the Certified Purple Process, or CPP, which is for entry-level closers.

The Certified Master Loan Process, CMLP, is a certification for veteran closers with at least five years’ industry experience.

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Conclusion – Mortgage Loan Officer Salary

That wraps up our guide to the salary of mortgage loan officers and personnel involved in the mortgage industry.

From mortgage loan originators to underwriters and closers, we hope we’ve given you at least a strong initial idea of how much these professionals make in an industry that’s pivotal to our economy.

It’s also our hope we were able to provide you with a snapshot of what these professionals are responsible for in their job roles, and, while many of these functions may overlap with one another, we also worked to highlight some key distinctions relevant to the industry.



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