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How to Become a Mortgage Loan Officer (MLO) in Washington

Last updated on August 7, 2023

How to Become a Mortgage Loan Officer (MLO) in Washington

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So you’re planning on becoming a mortgage loan officer in Washington State?

Great choice!

But first things first, you need a mortgage loan originator license. 

And that’s what we’re here to help you with. 

In this post, we’ll go over all the steps on how to get one. 

You’ll be happy to know that it’s very easy. 

So are you ready to learn how to become a mortgage loan officer (MLO) in Washington?

Let’s begin!

How to Become a Mortgage Loan Officer in Washington – The 5 Steps to Licensure

To get your MLO license (and thus become a mortgage loan officer), you need to complete 5 steps. These are:

  1. Request an NMLS account
  2. Enroll and complete an MLO pre-licensure education
  3. Register and pass the SAFE MLO test
  4. Submit an MLO application
  5. Get sponsored 

Let’s move on to the details…

Step #1: Request an NMLS Account

The first step is SUPER simple. 

All you need to do is create (or request) an account with NMLS

This is just like creating an account on any other social media platform. 

And when you have an account, you’ll be given a unique identifier number — keep this as it’ll be your ID number throughout your journey. 

But you might be wondering…

What is NMLS?

Well, it stands for Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System.

It is an online platform that, as the name implies, handles the whole country’s mortgage licensing system. 

Here, you apply for your MLO license, associate with an employer, renew your license, check your license status, communicate with the license regulator, and much more. 

So you can see why it’s so important to your MLO career. 

Step #2: Enroll and Complete an MLO Pre-Licensure Education

Next up is education. 

If you’re thinking that you have to spend many years in this step — NOPE!

In Washington, you only need to complete 22 hours of MLO pre-licensure education. 

That’s right!

Now, when looking for a program provider, make sure it is NMLS-approved and offers the required topics:

  • Non-Traditional Mortgage Lending (2 hours)
  • Federal Law (3 hours)
  • Ethics (3 hours)
  • Washington law (4 hours)
  • General electives (at least 10 hours)

Need help finding a program?

You can check out these highly recommended online providers:

You can find a full list of approved providers here. 

While we’re on the topic of education, here’s one way to help you become a better mortgage loan officer and boost your resume — earn a Bachelor’s degree in finance or business. 

So before anything else, it’s a great idea to consider this. 

Although note, this isn’t a requirement.

Step #3: Register and Pass the SAFE MLO Test

How much did you learn from your pre-licensure education?

It’s time to find out…

It’s time to take the SAFE MLO test!

Now, this is issued by Prometric. 

But before you can schedule the test, you first have to register for it in your NMLS account. 

Here’s how to do that:

  • Select the ‘Test & Education’ tab on your NMLS dashboard.
  • Create a ‘New Test Enrollment Window’. You can choose both the National and Washington State components, National and Stand-alone UST components, OR National Test Component with Uniform State Content
  • Add your selected exam to the cart. 
  • Agree with the Candidate Test Security and Confidential Agreement.
  • Pay the exam fee of $110 in the invoice. 
  • Head over to Prometric’s online scheduler page and schedule an online or in-person appointment. 

How do you pass the SAFE MLO test?

You need to answer 120 multiple-choice questions in a little more than 3 hours. 

Take note that only 115 items will be scored.

To pass, you need to get at least 75% of the questions right. 

Step #4: Submit an MLO Application

It’s finally time to apply for your MLO license!

And — Surprise! Surprise! — you complete it in your NMLS account. 

Here is what you need to do:

  • Go to the Individual Form MU4 by selecting ‘Filing’ > ‘Individual’ > Request / New Update’ on your NMLS account. 
  • Fill out the licensing information:
    • State – Washington
    • License type – Mortgage Loan Originator 
  • Provide your personal information:
    • Full name, birthdate, address, etc…
    • Residential history
    • Employment history, school history, or unemployed 
    • Current businesses
    • Other names since turning 18 years old
  • Answer the disclosure questions. For any ‘yes’ response, you need to give an explanation and may have to provide supporting documents in the next section. 
  • Choose “Submit New Prints” or “Use Existing Prints’ for your Criminal Background Check. You also have to complete the demographic. 
NOTE: If you need to submit new prints, you have to schedule a fingerprinting appointment with the NMLS Fieldprint

Once you get your prints, they will automatically be uploaded to the NMLS for review. 
  • Turn on the Completeness Check icon to authorize a Credit Report. You will also have to complete the Identity Verification Process (IDV). 
  • Go to the Document Uploads section and upload the following if necessary:
    • Proof of legal name change or status 
    • Proof of active military member, veteran, or spouse/dependent 
NOTE: If an active military member, spouse/dependent, or veteran, you also have to email a completed Expedited Application form to MortgageLicensing@dfi.wa.gov.

IMPORTANT! This should be emailed AFTER you submit your Individual Form MU4. 
  • Submit your Individual Form MU4. 
  • Pay the fees:
    • NMLS Initial Processing Fee – $30
    • WA License Fee – $125
    • Credit Report – $15
    • Criminal Background Check – $36.25
    • TOTAL FEE – $206.25

Click here for a complete checklist of the Washington MLO application

Step #5: Get Sponsored

Get this. 

Even though your MLO license application is approved, it will still have an ‘inactive’ status. 

To change it to ‘active’, you need to have your employer request sponsorship for you. 

So this can either mean you ask your employer to request sponsorship once your application is approved…

Or, you go out and look for an employer. 

Once sponsorship is requested, the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions (WA DFI) will review the request and either accept or decline. 

If accepted, your license status will change to ‘active’ and you can start practicing as a mortgage loan officer. 

You’ll also need to update your employment history in the Individual Form MU4. 

When looking for employment, it’s great to have some sort of experience in real estate or finance. So even before you think about becoming an MLO, maybe you can work a bit as a real estate agent or work in a financial company. 

This will not only help find good employment — it will also help you be the best mortgage loan officer you can be. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Mortgage Loan Officers in Washington

Do I Need a College Degree to Become a Mortgage Loan Officer in Washington?

No, you don’t! 

The only education requirement is high school the required MLO pre-licensure education. 

That said, we highly recommend getting a Bachelor’s degree in real estate or finance. This will really help you improve your MLO skills, as well as be in high demand by big mortgage companies. 

How Much Do MLOs Make in Washington?

In Washington, MLOs can earn an average of $97,000 a year. This is based on 251 income tax records. 

Of course, the range for that is BIG. 

The starting salary is around $29,000 a year. The highest recorded salary goes all the way up to $433,000 a year. 

What Happens if I Fail the SAFE MLO Test?

For one enrollment test window, you’re given 3 attempts. However, take note that you need to take these 30 days apart. 

If you still fail the 3rd attempt, then you have to create a new enrollment test window after 180 days have passed since you last took it… 

And yes, that means repaying the $110 fee. 


That’s everything you need to know on how to become a mortgage loan officer (MLO) in Washington. 

So now that you know all the steps on getting your MLO license — as well as some helpful tips — it’s time to get started!

The first step is SUPER easy. 

You just need to create an account

From there, you can walk your way through all the steps. 

Best of luck!

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