How to Become a Loan Officer Without a Degree or Experience

Here's an actionable guide that shows you how to become a loan officer without having a degree or any prior experience.

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The bottom line
  • In the United States, more than 73% of open loan officer positions do not require a degree.
  • As a loan officer without a degree, your best bet will be to focus on certifications and getting practical experience as soon as possible.
  • Working as a loan officer requires a diverse combination of soft and technical skills.
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Becoming a loan officer without having a college diploma may seem like a daunting task, but it is entirely possible. There are many organizations that offer certification programs for loan officers, and many banks are willing to hire employees without a degree if they have the right set of skills.

With that being said, the job of a loan officer is not for everyone and you need a unique set of skills to become a loan officer. A good loan officer has a natural knack for numbers, understands complex financial products, and also enjoys working with people.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that employment for loan officers will grow at a steady rate of 1% from 2020 to 2030. Also consider that about 25,000 loan officer jobs are predicted to open up each year in the United States alone due to employees changing jobs, retiring, or leaving the workforce.

The median salary for loan officers is $63,960, with the top 25% of earners making more than $93,490. The median hourly rate, on the other hand, comes out to $30.75. This places the pay of a loan officer in the same range as other in-demand professions such as police officers, game developers, and systems administrators. Many loan officers also gain commissions and other benefits depending on how many loans they successfully close. This makes becoming a loan officer an attractive proposition for many people.

Another unexpected benefit of this job is that will also help you become financially literate. Seeing how people use loans to finance their lives will give you a better understanding of how to manage your own finances and not fall into debt.

So, if you’re considering a career as a loan officer but don’t have a degree, read on to learn how you can turn this idea into a reality.

In this guide, you’ll learn:

What does a loan officer do?

In simple terms, a loan officer is like a bridge between a client (a loan applicant) and the financial instrument (a loan). Loan officers help people finance their homes, small businesses, and other large purchases. They also assist their clients in finding the best loan for their needs and advise them on repayment options.

To be more specific, here are the main job responsibilities of a loan officer:

  • Act as a point of direct contact for loan applicants.
  • Review and assess loan applications.
  • Advise applicants on repayment options, terms, and conditions.
  • Negotiate loan terms with applicants.
  • Provide guidance on the best type of loan for the applicant’s needs.
  • Collect, analyze, and verify financial information from applicants.
  • Prepare and present loan proposals to the applicant.
  • Keep updated on changes in the lending industry and products.
  • Maintain accurate records of loan applications.
  • Comply with all state and federal regulations.

As is evident, the job of a loan officer is multifaceted, includes a wide range of responsibilities, and requires a deep understanding of the lending industry. But, the ultimate question remains: can you become a loan officer without a degree?

Let’s have a closer look at the numbers.

Do you need a degree to become a loan officer?

No, you do not need a degree to become a loan officer. Having a degree is not required for taking any of the most valuable loan officer exams, and the data we compiled shows that more than 73% of open loan officer jobs do not require a degree.

To be specific, here’s what our analysis of open LinkedIn job offers for loan officers showed:

  • Worldwide, there are 5,086 no-degree loan officer jobs available out of a total of 6,877. Thus, 73.96% of loan officer jobs worldwide do not require a degree.
  • In the United States, there are 4,990 no-degree loan officer jobs available out of a total of 6,763. Thus, 73.78% of loan officer jobs in the United States do not require a degree.

Normally, I also repeat this analysis for other countries such as Australia, India, and the United Kingdom. However, the number of open loan officer positions for these countries was too small to make any meaningful conclusions. Thus, I decided to omit them from this analysis.

It’s also worth noting that your chances of building a career in finance without any certification, a proven track record, and no certifications are slim. You will be hard-pressed to find an employer who will trust you with their client’s finances if you have no tangible proof of your expertise in this industry.

Thus, if you’re not planning on obtaining a college degree, you’ll have to focus on building up your experience in the financial industry and becoming certified. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to do this without a degree. In the next section, we’ll look at some of the most valuable certifications for loan officers.

What certifications are the most valuable for loan officers?

So, what are the certificates that you should be aware of if you are thinking about a career as a loan officer?

In the following, let’s take a quick look at some of the main certifications for loan officers. To keep this article as relevant as possible, we will only focus on certifications that can be pursued without a degree.

These are the most valuable certifications for loan officers without a degree:

Mortgage Loan Originator License (MLO)

The MLO license is mandatory for loan officers who work with residential mortgages. You need to be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for this certification. You will also need to pass a state-specific exam, as well as a national background check.

Getting MLO certified should be your top priority if you want to become a loan officer who works with mortgage loans and you don’t have a degree. It’s a must-have for anyone in this field.

Mortgage Loan Processor Certification (MLPC)

The MPLC certification is aimed at loan processors, but it can also be very valuable for loan officers. The MLPC requires you to have at least one year of experience in the mortgage industry and you will need to pass a written exam.

The MLPC certification is not as widely required as the MLO license, but it can still give you a significant advantage when applying for loan officer jobs. It’s also a great way to show your commitment to your career.

Accredited Business Accountant (ABA)

The ABA is a certification that is relevant for loan officers who deal with commercial accounts. This certification will make you more knowledgeable in accounting, auditing, and tax laws.

To become ABA certified, you need to have at least two years of experience working in the field of accounting or finance (entry-level jobs count!). To get this certificate, you need to pass an exam that covers topics such as business law, ethics, and risk management among others.

General Mortgage Associate (GMA)

The GMA certification is relevant for loan officers who deal with mortgages, but it’s not as widely required as the MLO license. The GMA is issued by the National Association of Mortgage Brokers (NAMB) and it’s designed to be an entry-level exam that covers the basics of the mortgage industry.

If you want to become a loan officer who works with mortgage programs, then the GMA certification is a good way to start.

Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS)

While the MOS certificate from Microsoft is by no means a requirement, it can still be very helpful for loan officers. The MOS certification is proof that you have advanced skills in using Microsoft Office products such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

I would especially like to emphasize the importance of Excel – as a loan officer, you will be dealing with numbers on a daily basis. Thus, being able to master various Excel functions will put you ahead of the competition.

What skills does a loan officer need?

To truly build a profitable long-term career as a loan officer, you need to develop the following skills:

  • Customer service skills. Finances are always a difficult subject. A great loan officer has to be able to explain things in a way that all of their clients will understand. They also need to be patient and have excellent problem-solving skills. After all, not every loan application is going to be straightforward. In a nutshell – effective customer service skills are a must for a loan officer.
  • In-depth knowledge of various financial products. A loan officer needs to be able to understand the different types of loans that are available and advise their clients on which one would be the best for them. To do this, they need to have an in-depth knowledge of various financial products. They also need to keep up with any changes or new developments in the lending industry.
  • Financial analysis skills. A loan officer needs to be able to gather and analyze financial information from their clients. They need to be able to understand this information and use it to assess the risk of a loan. This is a critical skill as it helps loan officers make sound decisions when approving or denying loan applications.
  • Sales skills. Loan officers need to have excellent sales skills. They need to be able to build rapport with their clients and sell them on the idea of taking out a loan. That said, a loan officer must always remain ethical – they should only sell products that are in the best interest of their clients.
  • Knowledge of accounting principles. A loan officer needs to have a basic understanding of accounting principles. This is important as the decisions on whether to approve or deny a loan application are often based on financial information. A loan officer needs to be able to fully interpret this information to make the best decisions accordingly.
  • Time management skills. Loan officers are often working with multiple clients at the same time. As such, they need to be able to manage their time effectively and prioritize their workload. This is a critical skill as it helps loan officers stay organized and avoid missing deadlines.
  • Knowledge of office software. A loan officer needs to be familiar with various office software applications such as Microsoft Office. This is important because loan officers often have to create reports and presentations for their clients.
  • Writing skills. As a loan officer, you do not necessarily need to be the second coming of Hemingway. That said, you will often communicate with your clients via email. This is why it is important that you are able to write clearly, concisely, and correctly. Remember that nothing ruins a first impression like bad grammar and poorly formatted text.

Places of employment for loan officers without a degree

Broadly speaking, these are the 3 most common places of employment for loan officers without a degree:

  • Commercial banks. Commercial banks are the largest employers of loan officers. They offer a wide range of products and services to their customers, including loans. As such, they need loan officers to help them assess loan applications and make decisions accordingly.
  • Credit unions. Credit unions are another common employer of loan officers. They are similar to commercial banks in that they offer a wide range of financial products and services to their members. However, credit unions are typically smaller than commercial banks and have a more personal approach.
  • Mortgage companies. Mortgage companies are another common employer of loan officers. They specialize in providing loans related to real estate. As we already mentioned, you will also need a Mortgage Loan Originator License if you want to work in this field.

Steps to becoming a loan officer without a degree

Now that we’ve looked at the various skills, qualifications, and career paths related to this career, let’s look at some concrete steps you can take to become a loan officer without a degree.

Follow these steps to become a loan officer without a degree:

  1. Decide on your career path as a loan officer.
  2. Start acquiring skills related to working as a loan officer.
  3. Follow industry leaders through blogs and social media.
  4. Get state certified as a loan officer.
  5. Join networking groups for loan officers.
  6. Search job portals for no degree loan officer jobs.
  7. Keep learning and advancing in your career.

1. Decide on your career path as a loan officer.

Do you want to work in a major commercial bank or a smaller credit union? Do you want to specialize in mortgage loans or personal loans? Take some time to ask yourself these and similar questions.

You want to get the answers right because your first job in finance should be taken with an end goal of internally moving up the ranks and becoming a loan officer in that respective category.

Many of the later steps described here depend on what choice you make here, so treat this first step with the respect it deserves. If you are unsure about what you want to do, take some time to research the various types of loan officers and their responsibilities.

Now that you have decided what path to pursue, it’s time to start acquiring the skills you will need to succeed in this career. Without having a degree, your skills have to speak for themselves, and that’s why it is so important to start acquiring them as early as possible.

I covered the specific skills needed to work as a loan officer earlier on in this article. But, keep in mind that the specific skill set you need depends on the type of loan officer you’re trying to become.

If you’re aiming for a career in mortgages, you’ll need to be proficient in real estate law and have a good understanding of the mortgage industry.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to become a personal loan officer, you’ll need to be well-versed in credit scores and have a strong understanding of the lending process.

It all depends on which area you want to specialize in, so I’ll have to stress the first step once more: decide on a career path as soon as possible.

3. Follow industry leaders through blogs and social media.

A great way to keep up with the latest industry trends is by reading finance blogs and following thought leaders on platforms such as Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn.

As long as you follow professionals working in the finance industry rather than fake gurus, you can trust that the information is accurate and there’s a lot to learn from it. There’s tons of free content online for loan officers and you would be wise to take advantage of it.

When it comes to blogs about the mortgage industry, check out this list of blogs compiled by MGIC: one of the largest mortgage insurance companies in the world.

As for thought leaders to follow, I recommend checking out:

4. Get state certified as a loan officer.

By this point, you have a couple of options available to you.

You can directly pursue the certificate of your choice and get state certified as a loan officer.

Or, you can first attempt to get hired by a financial institution and then take the company’s internal training program to become a loan officer.

The second option is usually the preferred one since financial institutions will often reimburse you for the cost of taking the certification exam and also pay you for your time while you learn the ropes. Not all companies require you to be certified before you start receiving paychecks from them, and diving head-first into the daily work of a loan officer is often the fastest way to become proficient in the role.

But, if you’re not able to get hired by a company, go with the first option and take the certification exam of your choice. While a certificate is not an official necessity for becoming a loan officer, it will give you a significant advantage in the job market.

There are many different types of certificates you can get, and we already covered the most important ones in a previous part of this article. Basically, the more certificates you have, the better your resume will look.

Just know that the process of getting certified as a loan officer varies from state to state, so you’ll have to do some research on your own to figure out what the best course of action is.

5. Join networking groups for loan officers.

Besides the aforementioned platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn, consider joining one of the many different professional organizations relevant to loan officers, such as the American Bankers Association or the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Becoming a member of these organizations will give you access to their resources, events, and job boards. Members of these associations also get a chance to apply for a variety of certificates. Further, you will also be able to communicate with other finance professionals, which may come in handy later on in your career.

Whichever no-degree career path you choose, networking is always going to be a helpful way to move up the ladder. In fact, it’s one of the most important things you can do for your career, regardless of which industry you’re in.

6. Search job portals for no degree loan officer jobs.

Without a degree, the single most valuable thing you can have as a budding loan officer is practical experience. Employers value first-hand experience above all else, and there’s really no substitute for it.

The best way to get started is by applying for an entry-level job or internship at a financial institution. Once you’re in, you can start working your way up the ladder and learning the ropes of the job.

While working at this entry-level job, learn as much as you can. Pay attention to the loan officers and how they interact with clients. Also, try to get ahold of any training possibilities.

Proactivity is important because most companies prefer to promote from within. If you are able to impress your superiors, you may be able to land a job as a loan officer without even having to leave the company.

Landing that first job is always the most difficult, and to save time I recommend using Boolean searching capabilities on LinkedIn to quickly find no degree loan officer jobs in the state of your choice.

To help you out, here are no-degree loan officer jobs in:

To find no-degree loan officer jobs in another state, simply click on any of the links above and change the location so that it’s relevant to you.

7. Keep learning and advancing in your career.

Even after you become a loan officer, you will need to keep learning and advancing in your career. The finance industry is constantly changing, so you need to make sure that you are always up-to-date with the latest industry trends.

If you are diligent and passionate about your career, you might end up in the position of a senior loan officer, or even a bank manager, in the future. One thing is for certain – the sky is the limit for ambitious finance professionals.

Never stop learning, and you’ll be sure to find success in your chosen career path.

I hope this article helped you understand how to become a loan officer without a degree. Also, make sure to check out our other degreeless career guides to find more path options that fit your needs. Thanks for reading!

Sander Tamm

Sander Tamm

Founder @ Degreeless. I write about online education, self-teaching, and the job market. Last year, my articles were read by over 1 million people and my writing has been featured by Neil Patel, AOL, HackerNoon, The Baltimore Sun, Independent Australia among others.