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NMLS License California: How to Get Your Mortgage Loan Originator License


Please Note that although the California Department of Business Oversight (CA-DBO) has recently been replaced by the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (CA-DFPI), none of the educational requirements to get your Mortgage Loan Originator License have been affected. Thank you for your patience as we work to comply with the rebranding adjustments. If you plan on registering under the new CA-DFPI, please purchase and take the CA-DBO pre-licensing course requirements below.


CA-DFPI Pre-Licensing Courses

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Add CA-DFPI Elective

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CA-DRE Pre-Licensing Courses

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How to Get an NMLS Mortgage License in California

Does a career as a mortgage loan officer sound great to you? Mortgage Educators and Compliance (MEC) is here to help you become a mortgage loan officer (often also called a mortgage loan originator or MLO). We will help you register with the nationwide multistate licensing system (NMLS), complete your pre-license NMLS approved education according to national and CA-DFPI license requirements, and pass your NMLS mortgage licensing exam. By the time you’re done with our six-step process, you’ll be ready for your mortgage career.

1. Apply for your NMLS Account and ID Number

The first step of mortgage licensing for all California mortgage loan originators is to access the nationwide multistate licensing system (NMLS) to set up an NMLS account and get an NMLS ID. To do so, go to the NMLS website.


2. Complete your NMLS Pre-License Education

Once you’ve visited the NMLS website and received your NMLS ID, you will need to complete a required 20-hour SAFE pre-license course which is NMLS approved. You will also need to complete any additional work from the California state licensing agencies: the CA-DBO (which as mentioned above has been renamed) and the California Department of Real Estate (DRE). This must be done before you are able to become licensed. See California’s pre-license education requirements for more info.


3. Pass the NMLS California Mortgage License Exam

With your NMLS approved education courses and all California-specific requirements completed, you will need to schedule an appointment for the National Test Component exam as the NMLS doesn’t hand out mortgage licenses to any aspiring mortgage loan officer without a passing score of 75% or higher. The mortgage licensing exam isn’t an easy one, as roughly 58% of first-timers don’t pass, but MEC is here to help you pass on that first try. Find out more on how to take your NMLS exam here.


4. Apply for your California MLO Mortgage License

After receiving a passing score on your NMLS mortgage licensing exam, you will need to apply for your NMLS License. You can learn more about applying through the DFPI here or through the DRE here.


5. Complete Background Checks and Pay All Fees

To finalize your application and receive your license, you will need to pay several non-refundable fees, go through a criminal background check, and a credit report check. Find out more about how to complete your background check and fingerprints here.


6. Once Completed, Associate your NMLS Account with your Employer

At this point, you will receive your license in California, but it cannot be used until you have employer sponsorship from the mortgage company, bank, or credit union of your choice. This employer sponsorship lets the government know that an employer is supervising your individual mortgage loan originator license. Check out our guide on how to associate your NMLS account with your employer.




There are two separate licensing divisions in California. One is the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (CA-DFPI), which replaced the CA-DBO. The other is the California Department of Real Estate (CA-DRE). These two agencies differ in how much mortgage pre-license education you need to receive before you can get licensed as an MLO.

Mortgage Educators & Compliance provides course bundles that satisfy the mortgage pre-license education requirements in California, regardless of which license you will be applying for. To determine which license you need, please watch our video on the differences between the two divisions. For additional help, we recommend contacting your chosen or sponsoring employer or contacting one of our licensing specialists today, as you must both be licensed under the same agency. If you don’t have a sponsor yet, use the following to determine which agency to select:

Active CA real estate licensees or those who are looking to work in both real estate and residential mortgage loan origination will select the CA-DRE

Those who are not CA real estate licensees or who are not looking to obtain a real estate license (basically anyone planning to operate only under a residential mortgage lending license) should select the CA-DFPI.


20 Hour NMLS MLO License Education Live Classroom


Get Your License Faster With Our Live Classroom Courses

We are excited to offer courses that fulfill your agency-specific NMLS training requirements with live classrooms. These courses are an expedited option for those trying to obtain an NMLS license in California. Our industry-leading experts, who have years of experience with residential mortgage loans and California finance law, will provide best-in-class support to help you pass the NMLS national exam. Click here for our current live classroom location schedule.

Why Obtain Your Loan Officer License in California?

California’s housing market, which continues to grow year after year, is one of the strongest in the nation. Obtaining your California mortgage loan originator license takes determination, a willingness to learn, business sense, and a strong work ethic. After completing the required mortgage training courses, you will need to pass the national exam. To solidify your chances of passing the national exam first try, consider our test prep course. Once you’ve passed the national test, you’ll be well on your way to obtaining your mortgage license!

Cost to Get your Mortgage License in California

When you're ready to get your NMLS mortgage license in California, be prepared to pay the following fees:


$30 - NMLS Initial Processing Fee

$300 - License/Registration Fee

$15 - Credit Report

$36.25 - FBI Criminal Background Check

What is PE Expiration Policy?

PE Expiration is a policy that was created by the NMLS Policy Committee that addresses situations where pre-licensure education expires. It states that if an individual fails to acquire a valid mortgage license within three years from the last date of licensure as a mortgage loan originator, that individual is required to retake 20 hours of pre-licensure education. Because the policy is currently pending enactment, it is currently not enforced but will be rolled out soon.

Are California Broker Licenses and Loan Originator Licenses The Same?

Mortgage loan originators and mortgage brokers are commonly confused terms. As such, many people who are searching for a broker license are actually looking for a California mortgage loan originator or loan officer license.

So what’s the difference? Generally speaking, a mortgage broker is a company that employs a team of loan officers. Loan officers originate mortgage loans for new home buyers. Therefore, the correct license for a loan officer in California would be one of the options listed above, depending on which division your employer works under. Note that if you do want to work in real estate, you must receive a real estate license and apply through the CA-DRE.



Additional Questions?

Mortgage Educators and Compliance is here to answer any additional questions that you may have in regards to your California mortgage license. For additional questions, feel free to call us at (801) 676-2520 or email us at





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