Best Mortgage Schools for a MLO NMLS License for 2023

One of the most satisfying careers you can have is when you get to help people realize their lifelong dream of owning a home. As a licensed Mortgage Loan Officer (MLO), you do that by helping people secure a mortgage loan so that they can afford to buy their dream house. This is arguably the most critical step of the home-buying process, since you are dealing with other people’s money.

Education Requirements

As you can imagine, the government wants to make sure that anyone new coming into the mortgage industry has a basic level of training and education. Although each state governs their own loan officers, there is a national minimum standard set forth by the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System (NMLS) that everyone has to follow. They require that you complete a minimum of 20 hours of approved Pre-Licensure Education (PE) and pass the National Exam with Uniform State Test (UST)

Many states have additional course requirements on top of this. However, depending on your state, you may be able to use these hours to count towards the minimum 20 hour national requirement. You can check to see if your state has additional PE requirements below. If they are not listed, then your state does not have additional state PE and you just need to complete the 20 hour national minimum. 

Source: NMLS Resource Center as of 11/5/2021

Finding a School

Now that we’ve established what courses you need to take, the next question is where to take them. At the time of this writing, there are currently 92 education providers that are approved by the NMLS to provide courses, and each school has their own strengths and weaknesses. In fact, there are many schools that don’t even provide any Pre-Licensing Education courses at all and only offer Continuing Education (CE) courses, which are courses you will take in the future to renew your license after you become a loan officer. 

It can be a daunting task to go down the entire list of schools and know exactly what to look for. We can simplify our search for the best mortgage school by breaking it down and looking at the similarities and differences.

Things Every School Does

If you’ve ever taken an online course before, you generally know how they work. However, the NMLS tightly regulates how these courses must be conducted by every school. Therefore, if there is something you don’t like about a school, it may not be the school that wants to do it, it may just be a NMLS requirement. 

For example, the NMLS requires a Credit Banking fee of $1.50 per hour for each student, which adds up to an extra cost of $30 for a 20 hour Pre-Licensing course. Credit Banking is a process where an NMLS Approved Course Provider records a candidate’s or licensee’s SAFE-required education hours into the NMLS. You can think of it as an administrative or processing fee. Every school is going to charge you this, but some schools may hide it in the cost of tuition while others may try to sneakily tack it on at the end. 

Some other things that the NMLS requires of an approved school is that they track your online activity to make sure you are engaged and paying attention. The NMLS does not want people to take a year to finish this course and schools are required to have an instructor “lead” a limited number of students. This doesn’t necessarily mean the instructor is actually teaching the class, but at a minimum, asks for student participation via online chat or a discussion forum.

Things That Schools Do Differently

So, with all the annoying conditions that every mortgage school has to abide by, what actually separates one school from another?

One of the biggest differences deals with your own personal preference on how you like to study. There are three possible course formats to take the Pre-Licensing Education course. You can read the book online, watch videos online, or sit in an in person classroom. Most schools only offer one type of format. However, there are a few bigger schools that offer all three.

Another major difference is the quality of the course. Each school creates and develops their own content written by their own staff of instructors. If you think back to all the teachers you’ve ever had in your life, you know each teacher had their own style of teaching. There are ones who are charismatic and fun, and there are teachers who are strict and speak in a monotone voice. It’s the same with mortgage schools. Each school has their own personality and approach to learning. 

The last thing you will want to review is the price. It’s more important to get the best education possible because the difference in cost between schools is minimal when compared to the bigger picture. For example, the National Exam pass rate is only 56% for people taking it for the first time, and you have to pay the testing center $110 just to take the exam. It’s a good idea to do things right the first time around and get a high quality education, so that you can increase your probability of passing on the first try.

Best Mortgage Schools

A big part of your success and whether you will have a smooth start to your new career will depend on what school you choose to go with. We have gone through the entire list of NMLS-approved mortgage schools and handpicked the ones we think offer the best programs in the industry. 

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.

Best School for Knowledge Seekers

The CE Shop, based in Colorado, has been offering real estate courses for a long time along with a successful track record to back it up. They recently launched a full suite of mortgage courses across the nation using their tried-and-true methodology. 
The CE Shop developed 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. 
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 using a variety of different quiz formats. This is a great program for people who are more interested in learning as mush as possible rather than getting licensed as quickly as possible. 

Best School for Structured Learning

OnCourse Learning is one of the longstanding schools in the mortgage industry. They have been around for over 40 years and have helped hundreds of thousands of people get licensed in every state. They are also a subsidiary of the Colibri Group, which is the largest online real estate school in the country. 

The NMLS pre-licensing education is offered in two formats: live webinar or pre-recorded video. What makes OnCourse Learning different is that they already have the lesson plan setup for you. After you choose between taking the course over 7 days or 14 days, there is a fixed, day-to-day schedule that will guide you through the course. If you choose the live webinar option, this is scheduled down to the hour. If you like the flexibility of studying online but want a more structured learning environment for you to follow along, this program will work great for you.

When you are ready to take the National Exam, OnCourse Learning has their proprietary prep course called Prep xL. This comprehensive package contains over 1,200 questions, 8 simulated practice exams, and over 800 interactive flashcards. You can create custom plans tailored to your progress, where you are given more questions on weak areas and fewer questions on topics you’ve already mastered. It is compatible on desktop, mobile and tablets. 

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