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How to Become a Mortgage Underwriter

Mortgage underwriters are financial specialists who assess a lender’s financial risk as a potential borrower and approve or deny mortgage loans based on that risk assessment. They may also request modifications to the application by submitting a statement explaining their decision. Mortgage underwriters investigate a borrower’s credit history, order home appraisals, verify borrower income and employment, review debt-to-income ratio, confirm down payment and savings account information, and ensure all paperwork is submitted correctly based on current underwriting guidelines for loan approval. 

Do you have a practical, analytical, and strategic approach to things? Are you highly organized and have excellent communication skills? A career as a mortgage underwriter might be the right role for you. 

Sample job description

Our commitment to the real estate community that we serve is one of a kind. We are looking for dedicated talented mortgage professionals to join our fast-growing workforce. The underwriter reviews all credit, asset, income, and collateral documentation to produce a sound credit decision based on our policies. The focus of an underwriter is to provide sound risk evaluation of mortgage applications while always putting the client first. Maintaining an attitude of approachability and willingness to assist in troubleshooting with processors and mortgage bankers is essential. As an ideal candidate, you have proven experience in financial risk assessment, working in a fast-paced environment with tight deadlines, meticulous attention to detail, and excellent communication skills.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Authorizing and underwriting loans
  • Analyzing loan risk by researching applicant’s financial history and requesting additional information as necessary
  • Preparing reports on assessment findings
  • Making loan eligibility decisions and approving or rejecting applications
  • Reviewing and specifying loan conditions as necessary
  • Ensuring all information is accurate and complies with regulatory standards
  • Ensuring compliance with company policies and guidelines.
  • Documenting and effectively communicating reasons for the approval/rejection of loans
  • Reviewing all mortgage applications and supporting documents to ensure all necessary information is included for approval

Education and experience

  • Bachelor’s degree in finance, business, economics, mathematics, or a related field
  • 2+ years of mortgage underwriting experience or mortgage lending experience

Required skills and qualifications

  • Highly organized 
  • Ability to prioritize
  • Good verbal and written communication skills
  • Detail-oriented 
  • Familiarity with home loans and residential mortgages such as FHA, USDA, VA, conventional loan guidelines, and loan products
  • Analytical
  • Strong working knowledge of mortgage loan processing and relevant legal regulations
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office and automated underwriting systems

Preferred qualifications

  • Experience working in customer service
  • Experience training new hires
  • Excellent math skills

Typical work environment

Mortgage underwriters typically work in offices where they sit for extended periods of time while working at a computer. They might spend time entering or analyzing data throughout their day. They may also occasionally interact with agents, whether in person, over the phone, or via email. Some mortgage underwriters travel to attend meetings, conferences, assess properties, meet with other financial professionals, or meet with clients.  

Typical hours

Mortgage underwriters usually work regular business hours from Monday through Friday between the hours of 9 AM and 5 PM. Occasional overtime may be required to meet critical deadlines.

Available certifications

Many institutions offer certifications for mortgage underwriters. Here are three of the top certifications available for mortgage underwriters:

  • Certified Residential Underwriter (CRU). The CRU is administered by the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) and has become the standard for excellence in mortgage loan underwriting. There are three levels of certification. The basic level proves your entry-level skills and earns you the Residential Underwriter Achievement Certificate. The intermediate level earns you the Residential Underwriter Professional Certificate. Upon completion of the first two levels, you are eligible for the advanced level course, which earns you the CRU Specialist Designation. All courses and exams can be taken online.  Maintain your certification by completing the required continuing education every two years.
  • Certified Mortgage Underwriter (CMU). The CMU program is designed for entry-level residential mortgage underwriters looking to advance their careers. Sponsored by the National Association of Mortgage Underwriters (NAMU), this program demonstrates your knowledge of underwriting essentials, FHA/VA underwriting, and manual underwriting. The course provides real-world lessons to help you gain the practical skills you need. The certification must be renewed yearly by taking a new exam.
  • Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU). Offered by the American College of Financial Services, this certification is designed for underwriting professionals interested in insurance underwriting. Candidates gain a solid foundation in the fundamentals of insurance and estate planning, life insurance law, income taxation, and investments. The program can be taken online or through self-paced study. Certification requires completing eight courses, passing the exams, and meeting certain experience and ethical requirements. You must recertify every two years through the required recertification program.

Career path

The path toward becoming a mortgage underwriter starts with earning a bachelor’s degree in business, economics, finance, or business. Graduates can find entry-level underwriting jobs with banks, credit unions, brokers, and other financial institutions. These positions typically include training on company processes, regulations, as well as computer software used in the industry. 

As loan regulations are always changing and can vary by location, mortgage underwriters maintain the most current knowledge of state and federal guidelines by attending seminars, conferences, or using other means to stay up to date on industry changes. 

Mortgage underwriters typically work their way up to higher positions with more responsibility and work with more complex loan applications. Certification is not required, but it can help advance your career as a mortgage underwriter. 

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 13-2072

2020 Employment322,100
Projected Employment in 2030326,400
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 1% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift4,300 increase

The last several years have seen a change in the home buying experience. With the rise in remote work, the trend toward relocation out of centralized urban areas, an increase in online options, and the deployment of artificial intelligence applications, mortgage underwriters are finding new ways to fulfill the home buying experience. Streamlined, simpler, applications are in demand by consumers, whether that be online or through a mobile app. As online banking has become quick and easy, home buyers are looking for the same experience when applying for a home loan. Electronic applications are replacing face-to-face meetings with realtors, appraisers, title searchers, notaries, home inspectors, and lenders.

Virtual loan officers, digital mortgages, voice assistants, and crowdfunded mortgages are here to stay as the wants and needs of the customer are evolving. The mortgage companies that are able to change with consumers and meet their demands will be the most successful.

As home prices continue to rise, many potential buyers are being priced out of the market. Those who have homes are finding quite a bit of equity in them. This means those homeowners looking to renovate or put in a new pool have that option. Those who qualify for the best interest rates may also be in a good position to refinance.