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How to Become a Loan Officer

Most loan officers need a high school diploma and receive on-the-job training. Commercial loan officers, however, generally need a bachelor’s degree in finance, business, economics, or a related field. Mortgage loan officers must be licensed.


Loan officers need at least a high school diploma. Some positions, particularly commercial loan officers, require a bachelor’s degree in finance, business, economics, or a related field. Because commercial loan officers analyze the finances of businesses applying for credit, they need to understand general business accounting, including how to read financial statements.   


Loan officers usually learn their work through on-the-job training. This may be a combination of formal, company-sponsored training, and informal training during the few first months on the job. Those who use underwriting software often take classes to learn the company’s software programs. 


Mortgage loan officers must have a Mortgage Loan Originator (MLO) license. To become licensed, mortgage loan officers must complete at least 20 hours of coursework, pass an exam, and submit to background and credit checks. Licenses must be renewed annually, and individual states may have additional requirements.


Several banking associations and schools offer courses or certifications for loan officers. The American Bankers Association and the Mortgage Bankers Association both offer certification and training programs for loan officers. Although not required, certification shows dedication and expertise and thus may enhance a candidate’s employment opportunities. 

Work Experience

Many employers prefer candidates who have work experience in lending, banking, sales, or customer service. For those without a bachelor’s degree, work experience in a related field can be particularly useful. 

Important Qualities

Decision-making skills. Decision-making skills are important for loan officers, who must assess an applicant’s financial information and decide whether to award a loan. 

Initiative. Loan officers need to have initiative when seeking out clients. They often act as salespeople, promoting their lending institution and contacting firms to determine their loan needs.

Interpersonal skills. Because loan officers work with people, they must be able to guide customers through the application process and answer their questions.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition