Credit officers work on the front lines of the financial industry, helping customers secure loans for homes, commercial real estate and cars. A credit officer career requires formal education and licensing, as well as impeccable social skills. If you aspire to become a credit officer, prepare yourself for a demanding career, with potentially lucrative rewards.
The Credit Officer Job
Credit officers, also called loan officers or lending officers, take loan applications from businesses and individuals and oversee their evaluation during the approval process. Throughout the loan process, which can take weeks or months to complete, the credit officer serves as the primary point of contact for the customer. Loan officers evaluate a customer’s loan needs and make recommendations about the types of loans that can accomplish their goals. They collect detailed financial information from the customer to determine credit worthiness and ability to repay the loan.
Credit officers work with customers in various environments, depending upon the company’s structure. For instance, a loan officer at a local bank might work with customers in her office, while a credit officer for an online mortgage brokerage will communicate with his customers through email and by phone.
Companies that hire credit officers vary in size, from local credit unions and bank branches to large corporations to automobile dealerships. Depending on the workload, credit officers can work from 40 to 60 or more hours per week.
Types of Loan Officers
Typically, a credit officer specializes in a particular type of loan. Commercial loan officers work with businesses to secure loans for operating expenses and company expansions. Mortgage loan officers specialize in loans for either residential or commercial properties. Credit officers working in local banks and credit unions often work with various loan products, from home equity loans to student loans.
Credit Officer Education and Training
Most companies require credit officers to have at least a bachelor’s degree in a discipline such as accounting, finance or business. Coursework or professional experience in banking and sales can also help you land a credit officer position. Once hired, your employer likely will offer formal or informal training that encompasses specific loan products and company practices.
If you plan to work as a mortgage loan officer, you must also obtain a Mortgage Loan Originator license to comply with the Secure and Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing Act of 2008.
A credit officer must enjoy helping people and have a pleasant personality. You must also have the discipline to find new customers during downturns and juggle multiple customer loans during boom times. A loan officer must have impeccable decision-making skills when assessing a customer’s needs and determining the creditworthiness of a loan application. You must pay close attention to detail and retain large amounts of complex information. For instance, if you work as a loan officer for a nationwide mortgage broker, you'll need to understand numerous loan products, offered by multiple lenders, as well as federal lending laws and regulations in various states.
Salaries and Job Prospects
In 2017, the median auto loan officer salary reached nearly $85,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median income for all credit officers ranked around $65,000. Lower-paid loan officers made nearly $33,000 per year, while high earners brought home more than $135,000. Some credit officers earn a flat salary, while others work for commissions. Some employers offer compensation packages that include a base salary and commission.
The BLS estimates that the need for credit officers will increase by up to 11 percent through 2026. Typically, senior positions require several years of experience. For example, City National Bank in Walnut Creek, CA, requires senior credit officers to have at least seven years of experience. If you have the proper education to become a loan officer, but lack experience, you may get your foot in the door by applying for a customer service or loan assistant position.
A credit officer’s job security can depend on the economic climate. When interest rates are low, individuals buy new homes, refinance their existing mortgages and trade in their cars for newer models. But when interest rates increase, loan volumes decrease, which can lead employers to lay off loan officers.