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Mortgage Underwriter Career Guide

What is a mortgage underwriter?

Behind every real estate purchase, important financial work takes place to ensure the buyer can pay the seller. In many cases, this is done with a loan that requires a bank to give someone the money to purchase property and assigns a timeline for them to pay it back. A mortgage underwriter is a position that makes sure that payback can happen.

Duties and responsibilities

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. 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. They may also request modifications to the application by submitting a statement explaining their decision.

A typical day for a mortgage underwriter will include authorizing and underwriting loans and analyzing the risks. There are also reports on assessment findings that need to be prepared and documentation and communication of the reasons for approval or rejection. Underwriters must stay up to date with company policies, guidelines, and loan conditions to maintain compliance.

Work environment

Mortgage underwriters spend most of their time in an office at a computer. The work requires a lot of entering and analyzing data. There will be occasional meetings with agents, which can happen in person, over the phone, on video chat, or via email. 

Most of the work will be local, but there may be some opportunities to get out of the office, depending on your location and position. Some mortgage underwriters travel to attend meetings and conferences, assess properties, meet with other financial professionals, or meet with clients. Occasional site visits can pop up as well.

Typical work hours

Mortgage underwriters work a very regular schedule during normal business hours. It’s typically Monday through Friday between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM. Additional overtime or long hours may occasionally be required if an important deadline is approaching. 

How to become a mortgage underwriter

In order to become a mortgage underwriter, you will need a combination of education, training, and experience. In this career guide section, we cover the steps you’ll need to take to achieve your goal:

Step 1: Obtain a bachelor’s degree

While it is possible to get an entry-level job as a mortgage underwriter without a degree, the majority of positions require at least a bachelor’s degree. Get a degree in finance, business, mathematics, or something similar from an accredited college or university. 

Step 2: Consider taking the Mortgage Loan Originator Test

States require that mortgage officers pass the National Mortgage Licensing System and Registry (NMLS) exam. Most bachelor’s degree programs don’t include specific information about mortgages and this process. Mortgage underwriters don’t necessarily need to be licensed, but it can be a big benefit. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and state departments all have their own unique requirements, so being licensed can cover all of them.

Each state has different requirements about how many hours of coursework you do. Usually, 20 hours is the minimum. This coursework will help you prepare for your exam and gain all the tools you need to work with clients once you land your first job. The test itself has just over 100 multiple-choice questions. It covers general mortgage knowledge, federal mortgage-related laws, loan origination activities, ethics, and more. The test has a pass rate of just over 55%. If you don’t pass the first time, don’t give up. Many people retake and pass the second time with additional study time.

Step 3: Receive additional certifications and education

Certification is an important step in the process of becoming a mortgage underwriter. It shows that you’ve completed additional training. Here are the top three certifications available for mortgage underwriters:

  • Credit Analyst and Real Estate Underwriting Training – Start with a course that dives into the basics of the process, like this Udemy course for Real Estate Underwriting Training. You’ll review test cases and work through a complete real estate analysis to understand the process. 
  • Certified Residential Underwriter (CRU) – This has become the standard for excellence in mortgage loan underwriting. The CRU is administered by the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA). There are three different levels of certification available. 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. Once you’ve completed those, you’re eligible for the advanced level of the CRU Specialist Designation. Everything can be completed online, including exams. 
  • 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 an 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. Take the program online at your own pace. Once you’ve completed eight courses, passed the exams, and met experience requirements, you’ll get certified. Renewal is required every two years.

Step 4: Apply for jobs

Once you have the knowledge base to be a successful mortgage underwriter, you can begin applying for jobs. Utilize online resources to find job postings. Reach out to your network on LinkedIn, especially if you have any connections at banks and financial institutions. 

Step 5: Continue training and education

Laws and regulations are constantly evolving and changing. Mortgage underwriters need to stay on top of those movements. Continuing education is a great way to advance your career and make sure you are up-to-date on the most current processes and guidelines. 

Most of the certifications require updates and renewals at least every two years. Make sure to stay on top of those and take the updated courses. Take advantage of any chances to attend conferences and conventions. Those great networking events usually have a packed schedule of speakers and educational opportunities.

How much do mortgage underwriters make?

There are many variables that go into determining how much a mortgage underwriter makes, from company size to experience to education just to name a few.

The top-paying states for mortgage underwriters to work in are (shown in annual mean salary):

  • Hawaii – $90,759
  • Nevada – $89,624
  • Massachusetts – $89,159
  • Connecticut – $88,660
  • Rhode Island – $86,206

Browse mortgage underwriter salary data by market

Types of mortgage underwriters

Loan underwriters assist with many types of loans. Mortgage underwriters specifically look at mortgage loans and can work with commercial and residential transactions. A few specific mortgage underwriter roles deal with certain types of specialty loans. Options include a residential mortgage underwriter, a conventional mortgage underwriter, or a commercial mortgage underwriter.

In addition to mortgage underwriter positions, there are other positions that work in the same area but have roles that are different. The mortgage broker is an independent liaison between the mortgage company and the customer. Loan officers work closely with customers throughout the loan process, help gather documents, and seek out new clients. And a mortgage loan collections officer works with people late on their mortgage payments. 

Top skills for mortgage underwriters

To become a mortgage underwriter, it’s good to have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Many degrees apply to this field because it combines a few major industries. A degree in finance, business, economics, mathematics, or something related would be best. Getting experience in the mortgage underwriting and lending field is also important.

In addition to education, candidates for this career path must be highly organized, able to prioritize, and very detail-oriented. An analytical mind is also critical for this role since this person calculates risks using the information provided to decide if the loan should be approved.

Having a working knowledge of the mortgage loan process and legal regulations is helpful. The process can be complicated with all the available loans and mortgage types. Knowing the details and guidelines of FHA, USDA, VA, and conventional loans will also be important for this role.

Career path

After obtaining a college degree in a relevant field, graduates can jump into entry-level underwriting jobs. These exist in banks, credit unions, brokers, and other financial institutions. These positions typically include processes, regulations, and industry computer software training.

Mortgage underwriters can advance to higher positions with more responsibilities and more complex loan applications. Certifications can move people up the system and expand overall knowledge. 

Career advancements are possible in management and senior-level executive roles as well. Obtaining a master’s degree or advanced graduate degree may be necessary to reach those levels. 

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 online or through a mobile app. As online banking has become quick and easy, home buyers seek the same experience when applying for a home loan. Electronic applications replace 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 can 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 are also in a good position to refinance.

Employment projections for mortgage underwriters

Job growth for mortgage underwriters will be about average through 2030 at 3% growth. Changes in interest rates and overall economic conditions can impact these numbers along with the housing market and technological updates.

Mortgage underwriter career tips

Soft skills and traits for mortgage underwriters

Understand the impact this role has on people’s lives and the success of a financial institution. Risk assessment is a major part of this role, which involves understanding people’s ability to repay their loans. Study credit reports and credit histories to practice and get comfortable with these documents’ ins and outs. Ask to shadow any senior underwriters to understand their role better. Read up on reviews of different loans and financial institutions. Understanding how customers feel about their loan application experience is good. Strong communication skills to help your customers understand the numbers and results of your analysis. 

Commonly required skills and qualifications

Once you have your bachelor’s degree, take certification courses and continuing education opportunities to add to your resume. Check the National Mortgage Licensing System to learn more about the requirements and licenses needed for desired positions and anything you may pursue in the future. Get passionate about financial data and numbers. The more you know about the industry, the better you will be at your job.

Develop a professional network

Stay informed on current real estate trends and changes in the market so you know what’s happening within the industry. Work with others in the same industry as you using professional networks. Here are a few to explore:

  • National Association of Mortgage Underwriters (NAMU)
  • Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA)
  • National Association of Mortgage Processors (NAMP)
  • National Creditors Connection (NCC)
  • LinkedIn Professional Groups

Where the jobs are


  • Wells Fargo
  • JPMorgan Chase & Co
  • Chubb
  • Liberty Mutual Insurance
  • State Farm


  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • New York
  • New Mexico
  • Michigan

job sites

  • Indeed
  • LinkedIn
  • ZipRecruiter
  • Careerbuilder
  • Monster


What do I need to become a mortgage underwriter?

Most positions for mortgage underwriters require a bachelor’s degree in finance or business-related fields. In addition, it’s important to have the proper license required in your state of employment. Get more certifications to help advance once you’re licensed.

What is the difference between a mortgage lender and an underwriter?

A mortgage lender assumes financial risk when providing a loan, but a mortgage underwriter determines the value of the risk, which is important for the loan to be approved. The two positions work together and are essential to the mortgage industry.

How long does it take to be a mortgage underwriter?

Once you’ve completed your college degree and got certified, it doesn’t take long to become an underwriter. You may need to get a few years of financial institution experience before getting the job you’re interested in. 

What skills do I need to become a mortgage underwriter?

Mortgage underwriters need to be detail-oriented and organized in order to sort through all the financial data efficiently. Understanding credit reports and financial information is also important for anyone interested in this position.

Is it stressful to be a mortgage underwriter?

The hours are pretty consistent for mortgage underwriters. You may have deadlines you’re working to meet, but if you are able to stay organized, there won’t be a lot of unneeded stress in the position.

Are mortgage underwriters in demand?

While some roles for underwriters are declining, mortgage underwriters are in demand. There is room for advancement in this career path as well.

What does a mortgage underwriter do?

The main role of a mortgage underwriter is to approve or deny your loan application. They look at an applicant’s credit history, income, outstanding debts, and other financial data. With that information, they determine the risk and make the decision.

Can you make good money as a mortgage underwriter?

The median income for a mortgage underwriter is $55,721. There is a large range depending on experience, certifications, and location. This is a great career path with pretty standard hours and good income potential.

Does a mortgage underwriter need to be licensed?

A loan officer must be licensed by the state, but not necessarily mortgage underwriters. Each state has its own unique requirements, so obtaining a license from the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System (NMLS) is a strong move.

Are there entry-level jobs for mortgage underwriters?

There are entry-level jobs for underwriters. They will help with applications and work as assistants or trainees to learn the process. On-the-job experience is important on resumes, so working in a role like this for a year or two can help advancement.

What are the most important job duties for a mortgage underwriter?

The mortgage underwriter’s main job duty is reviewing applicants’ financial information and deciding whether to approve or deny the loan applications. It involves combing through debts, assets, and credit history and assessing the risk.