Even though the U.S. economy is well on its way to recovery, there are still many people out on the job market looking to further their skills and pursue a new, more lucrative career. Countless people are coming to realize that technical skills and a specialized field are much more reliable pathways to success.

One such pathway is becoming a loan originator. This specialized field helps people realize their dreams of owning a home or new car while creating networking potential within the financial services industry. Many loan originators go on to successful careers as private mortgage brokers, banking officers or simply climb to the top of their field as an exemplary loan originator in their territory. Since people are always seeking to buy a home, the market for loan originators is relatively stable, and the possibility of commissions means that loan originators can effectively write their own paycheck.

Like any specialized, technical field, becoming a loan originator involves a strict, federally-regulated process. Here are the steps it takes to go from just a regular person to a full-fledged loan originator:

Step 1: Review the Process

First, gather resources on how you will actually become a loan originator. Review the requirements of the state you intend to operate in. The Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System (NMLS) provides checklists for requirements in each state, such as this one for Georgia.

Step 2: Get a Job with a Bank or Mortgage Company

As backwards as it sounds, you are going to need employment in your peripheral field before you can seek out official licensure as a loan originator. Your employer acts as your sponsor and vouches for you during the process. Applicants who do not have an employer sponsor “will be administratively withdrawn as incomplete,” according to the NMLS.

Your best bet is to apply as a lower-ranking position such as loan officer, teller or office assistant and gain at least a few months experience with that employer. Express your intention to become a licensed loan originator, and they can help you along with the process.

Step 3: Fill Out Your Registration Forms

With your employer sponsor, fill out the required paperwork to register within the NMLS system. You will need to fill out either Form MU4R or Form MU4 based on whether your financial institution has FDIC backing.

Step 4: Hit the Books

Georgia and many other states requires loan originators to have at least 20 hours of NMLS-approved education courses before taking the SAFE test. After you pass your test, you are well on your way to your new career.

Step 5: Apply for Your Official License

Submit for official licensure from the NMLS. As a component of this application, you will need to supplement it with:

  • A criminal background check
  • An official fingerprint submission to the FBI database (some states)
  • A credit check
  • Disclosure report
  • Verification of Lawful Presence within the United States
  • Any jurisdiction-specific forms such as an oath of conduct

Step 6: Get Started!

Depending on your employer’s preferences, you are likely to be a freelance loan originator now who can locate their own leads and file their own requests to underwriters. Otherwise, you have an office to report to and more specific guidelines to follow.

Regardless, you have a range of independence compared to many other professions. Get out there, help some people and make money while doing it by becoming a loan originator!