So you find the $68,000+ a year that a mortgage underwriter makes very attractive and have decided that that’s the career path you’d like to take. However, you haven’t the foggiest idea of what it takes to be a mortgage underwriter or what it even means to be one. It’s quite alright to be a little lost because this is your very own pocket map of the mortgage underwriter’s journey.
Let’s start with the basics;
Who is a Mortgage Underwriter?
A mortgage underwriter is someone who analyzes financial statements, income capacity, credit use, credit history, and other criteria under stipulated guidelines to determine if you’re eligible for a mortgage loan or not. In essence, you are the guy to impress if anyone wants their mortgage requests approved.
As a mortgage underwriter, you would be reviewing credit card history and expenditures, bank statements, tax records, property appraisals, and such to determine the level of risk that the lender would be taking on by approving a loan.
Now that we’ve established what the destination is, let’s pack your bags. What would you be needing?
How do you become a mortgage underwriter?
First in the backpack;
Let’s start with High School; As earlier mentioned, like a mortgage underwriter, you’d be reviewing a myriad of financial statements and transactions, and guess what the prevalent factor in all these records is? Numbers!! This means that you would need to be well-grounded in math. Therefore, it always helps to take as many Math, Data analysis, and Accounting courses as you can handle.
Next is College; If you plan to take the career path of mortgage underwriting, you also need to chart your routes through related fields. It helps to major in Business administration, Accounting, or Banking, and Finance. For minors, you could take on business law or insurance. These choices make it easier for you to get placements with lenders because they usually prefer people with backgrounds or degrees in these fields.
Also, while in college, it would be very beneficial if you applied for internships. A lot of banks and lenders offer internship opportunities to undergraduate students and even recent graduates. This helps you get a leg in the field and get hands-on knowledge of what it means to be a mortgage underwriter.
Is education in the bag? Then it’s time for the next travel item.
Soon after college is where the actual huddle begins. Starting out in a career as a mortgage underwriter, you might need to start at an entry-level position. These are usually assistant or trainee positions. Many mortgage underwriters work for banks, mortgage brokers, or credit unions, so working as an assistant gives you an entry point into the industry.
You can also apply directly to financial institutions looking to hire for these positions. A lot of trainee jobs, when taken seriously, eventually lead to more responsibilities which in turn morph into a job. So get an assistant/trainee position and put your back into it. Try to get as much hands-on experience and on-the-job training as you possibly can.
You can also look into getting certified. Learning how to educate customers on refinancing and more is a good tip. This isn’t a prerequisite to getting hired as a mortgage underwriter, but it sure does help the bottom line. Getting certified can get you an increase in income of about 5-10%.
So education and experience have been packed, what’s left?
Building a career as a mortgage underwriter isn’t an easy task. You have to be continually improving yourself. It goes without saying that you would need to know everything there is to know about the field to stand out.
You would have to be very familiar with mortgage underwriting guidelines that deal with; debt ratio, income documentation, loan to value, credit, and employment, to mention but a few. You would also have to be great at risk analysis, such as pre-payment risks, interest rate risks, and default risks, amongst others.
It would also help you to Specialize. There are several specialized lending systems, and you can choose to acquire advanced skills in anyone. These skills would require unique knowledge of the lending guidelines, their workings, and the design. This niche might give you the edge you need to stand out.
If you’ve got all these in the bag, then you’re well on your way to becoming a mortgage underwriter.