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Financing a college education, buying a new car and purchasing a home for your family are among the dreams loan officers help you achieve. Loan officers are often part of the supporting cast that helps to finance the milestones in our lives. Frank Donnelly, former president of the Mortgage Bankers Association of Metropolitan Washington, recalls one loan settlement he’ll always remember. “The lady [purchasing the home] walked in with her son, who had on a suit and tie. She herself was dressed up in a full-length gown with a headdress,” Donnelly says. “And she said it was because she wanted to show her son how important it was to buy a house. When you do this day in and day out, you can sometimes forget about what a big deal this is to people.”
Loan officers advise, evaluate and authorize loans to people and businesses. They work in a range of settings, including commercial banks, credit unions, mortgage companies and car dealerships. The profession involves a lot of paperwork and managing logistics, and also requires extraordinary interpersonal skills. Borrowing money can be a nerve-wracking experience, and a loan officer should make his or her clients feel at ease during the process, while still educating them on their decision. “I like to meet with customers face to face,” Donnelly says. “It’s my job to make sure that they come to their next purchasing decision with more knowledge and wherewithal for the process.”
The need for loan officers is related to the health of the economy. Economic growth, population growth and low interest rates all create demand for loans and employment opportunities for loan officers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment growth of 7.7 percent between 2012 and 2022, and there is expected to be 22,900 new positions in the coming decade. However, the growing use of loan underwriting software, which automatically underwrites loans online, could temper some of the job growth.
The pay scale for evaluating, originating and approving loans varies broadly. The median salary for a loan officer in 2012 was $59,820, according to the BLS. Top earners made a lucrative $119,710, while those in the bottom tenth percentile earned about $32,600. According to Donnelly, many loan officers receive their pay from commissions, so their earnings could fluctuate from year to year. Mortgage brokers tend to be the best-compensated in the industry, as are those who process auto loans. Jobs in New York City, Visalia, Calif., and Salinas, Calif., pay the top salaries.
Loan officers typically need at least a bachelor’s degree, preferably in a business-related field such as finance, economics or accounting. Mortgage loan officers need a mortgage loan originator license, which requires passing an exam, at least 20 hours of coursework and background and credit checks. Additional training takes place on the job.
Donnelly says the best loan officers are tenacious salesmen and women, particularly since many are paid exclusively on commission. “It’s great to be detail-oriented because loans today have so many data elements,” he notes. “You need to be good at following up, at communicating with your clients. ... And you need discipline.” Loan officers should also learn good customer service skills, which could lead to more business in the future. “Focus on doing a great job so you can get referrals, and treat people fairly,” Donnelly suggests.
|Upward Mobility||fair Average|
|Stress Level||fair Average|
|Flexibility||good Above Average|
Last updated by Emily Brandon.