Top 3 Online MLO NMLS Courses in California in 2023

If you want to work in the real estate industry, helping people obtain financing for a house is one of the best ways to do it. You can make as much money as a real estate agent without having to step outside of the office.

You will need to obtain a Mortgage Loan Originator (MLO) license (or what they call an endorsement if you have a real estate license) by completing the 20-hour course required by California and passing the National Exam.

If you are like me, you did a quick Google search to find an NMLS-approved course provider and can’t decide on which school to choose. There are so many of them!

This Is What I Discovered

There are certain things that every school will do the same. There are mandatory requirements set by the NMLS, so there is no way around it. Here are just a few examples:

  • When you login to your account, you have to go through an annoying biometric password system called BioSig-ID.
  • If you take an online course, you will have to spend a minimum number of hours logged in online. If you are idle for too long, it will automatically log you out. There are no shortcuts.
  • Every course has to be “instructor-led” that starts and ends on a specific date. This doesn’t necessarily mean that a live person has to teach the class. It just means that you will be put in a group (or what they call a cohort) and has an instructor assigned to you. The instructor will check in with you and try to interact with you on assignments. This is usually done via messaging or discussion forum.

What Makes A School Different From The Rest?

Although every approved NMLS course provider has to abide by certain regulations, what sets a school apart from the others is their price, quality, and course availability.

  • Price: My only advice here is don’t go with a school just because it’s cheaper. If a school is cheaper, there is usually a reason for it (low quality). This will come and bite you later on. For example, the average pass rate for the National Exam is 58%. If you don’t pass it on your first try, you have to pay the $110 exam fee again and wait another 30 days to re-attempt it.
  • Quality: Every school develops their own courses and content. They have their own staff of instructors that teach in a certain way and with a certain style. Eg. Do you want an instructor who talks in a monotone voice or someone who is full of energy and gets you excited?
  • Course availability: Every school has their own start dates and course schedule. This will vary widely. Some programs are only 2 days long while others can last for 2 weeks. Some schools require you to show up at certain times while others do not. Regardless, they will cover the same 20 hours of content.

Now that you know the basic similarities and differences between each school, let’s take a look at the best NMLS course providers in California to launch your career as a Mortgage Loan Originator.

NOTE: If you have a California real estate license, you will need to select the DRE version. If you don’t have one, then you will go with the DFPI version. 

Best School for Learning Interactively is arguably the biggest online mortgage school in the nation. They are one of the few schools with courses in all 50 states. Since a lot of loan originators prefer to be licensed in multiple states, this comes in handy because you can get all your courses done at one place.

They have just launched a new pre-license program that is interactive and engaging. Their 20-hour pre-license course is in full video now, and there are live instructors to help you along the way. The best part is that you have the flexibility to start any time and finish any time (up to 14 days). This means if you are in a rush to get licensed, you can start right now and complete the course in 3 days. Or, if you already have a full-time job or busy schedule, you can work on it on nights and weekends as needed. also just came out with brand new exam prep to help you study for the National Exam. While other schools only offer multiple-choice practice tests to help you prepare, now offers an optional video course designed specifically for the National Exam. This video course is pre-recorded, so you can watch it any time. It covers what to expect on the exam, how you should be studying for the exam, and smart test taking tips.

Approved Course Provider NMLS #: 1400051

Best School for Text-based Courses

Allied Schools is one of the most recognizable real estate brands in California. They have been the industry leaders for almost 30 years. They recently merged with one of the biggest mortgage schools in the Midwest called Learn Mortgage and have since consolidated their programs under the Learn Mortgage platform.

The format and structure of the course is virtually identical. The course is formatted as an online book, where you go through the chapters, complete assignments, and take a multiple-choice test at the end. Although you can work on it at any time of the day, these courses do follow a daily schedule so you have to keep pace and complete sections by a certain day. If you love reading books, then this is the right program for you. 

You can choose between a 7-day or 14-day track to complete the course, but new classes start on specific days of the week, so you won’t be able to start at any time. For the DRE version, new 7-day classes begin every Tuesdays and Thursdays and the 14-day classes start every Wednesdays and Fridays. For the DFPI version, the 7-day classes only start on Mondays while new classes for the 14-day track start every Wednesdays and Thursdays.

One major upgrade that Allied Schools got with the merger with Learn Mortgage is the exam prep for the National Exam, which is called CompuCram. CompuCram integrates vocabulary tools, practice testing, and comprehensive simulated exams into an “all-in-one” solution. You get unlimited access for 180 days, and there is a “Readiness” indicator that will let you know when you are fully prepared to take the exam. 

Approved Course Provider NMLS #: 1400214

Best School for Knowledge Seekers

The CE Shop, based in Colorado, has had a long established presence in the real estate industry. They have recently expanded their offerings to include mortgage courses using their tried-and-true formula for developing world class courses. They cover all the pre-licensing, exam prep, and continuing education courses for all 50 states.
Their program is built on their own propriety learning platform called LEAP 2.0. This is a 100% online course where you read through an eTextbook online and answer multiple choice questions at the end of each section. They incorporate a balanced mix of textual information, videos, and other visual graphics that help reinforce the concepts discussed in the course. You can enroll at any time and work on it as fast or slow as you want (up to 13 days). However, no matter how early you finish the course, certificates don’t get released until the 13th day after your start date.
What makes The CE Shop program different from other schools is how challenging they make their courses. Their goal is to make sure you know the material inside and out. They do this by constantly testing your knowledge on the information you just studied.  This means you will probably take longer to finish their courses compared to other schools, but you will be able to retain the material better. If you want to learn as much as possible, then this is the rigorous course that will push you to do your best.
Approved Course Provider NMLS #: 1405076