The Skills Mortgage Brokers and Loan Officers Can Transfer Into a Career as a CPA in 2015
On the surface, the similarities between mortgage brokers, loan officers, and CPA’s may be more obvious than the differences. All three groups are comprised of financial experts who record, facilitate, or evaluate complex monetary transactions. All three are detail-oriented, deliberative, and mathematically proficient. They’re all members of the business financial industry, and they may even collaborate on the same transactions. The true distinctions among these three financial professionals aren’t outwardly apparent, however; appropriately enough, they’re numerical.
For instance the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts 41,000 new employment opportunities nationwide for loan officers from 2010 to 2020. For accountants and auditors as a whole, the BLS predicts more than three times that number (190,700, to be precise). BLS does not project employment prospects for mortgage brokers, specifically, but it does project for an indicative population, real estate sales agents and brokers. Their prospects are relatively dim: both groups can expect a rate of growth below the national average of 14% across all occupations. Likewise, according to a recent print article of Crain’s New York Business, CPA’s enjoy more job security. Their unemployment rate in 2011 was 3.5%, while the national average was 9.1%.
The most compelling numbers, of course, are preceded by dollar signs. Loan officers and mortgage brokers, many of whom are compensated at least partially by commission, depend on healthy local and national economies, as well as their own interpersonal savvy and professional initiative. They are therefore usually more vulnerable to income fluctuations than CPA’s. In fact, according to salary data collected by PayScale.com and reported by Education Portal, mortgage brokers earned, roughly, between $32,000 and $218,000 in 2010. The median annual wage nationwide for loan officers at the time was about $56,500, according to BLS, while accountants and auditors as a whole earned a nationwide median wage of $61,690.
CPA’s generally enjoy a notably higher median annual wage. The 2012 National Association of Colleges and Employers survey puts that wage at $73,800, with top salaries hovering around $124,000. That’s because CPA’s are more valuable than ever to our recovering economy, and employers know it. The exponential growth of Internet and other communications technology and the resultant globalization of business and finance have created a “skills gap” that certified public accounting professionals are best qualified to fill.
Mortgage brokers and loan officers already have some of those skills. Mortgage brokers, whose primary duty is to investigate and advise upon homeownership financing, are expert in one of the most prominent business and financial subsectors. Loan officers, whose collective professional services span a wider range than those of mortgage brokers but can be broadly described as mediation between borrowers and lenders, are equally, if not more fluent in numerous business and financial operations.
Successful mortgage brokers and loan officers also share a less obvious area of expertise: interpersonal relations. After all, financial experts don’t work exclusively with money. They work with other people’s money, and they often work on commission. Good communication skills can be a deciding factor for borrowers making complex and emotionally freighted decisions about money.
CPA’s, who work with all the financial documentation that companies are legally compelled to disclose, conduct a more expansive range of professional duties than either loan officers or mortgage brokers, and their education and training is commensurate. Most states (46, as of December 2012) and the District of Columbia require 150 hours of college education for CPA candidacy, 30 more hours than for bachelor’s candidacy. Many states also require related professional experience though requirements do differ from state to state.
While a master’s degree isn’t required to become a CPA, the 30 additional credit hours, for all practical purposes, are tantamount to an advanced degree in accounting. Mortgage brokers and loan officers who don’t currently hold bachelor’s degrees in accounting but are interested in becoming CPA’s should explore degree programs as a first step. Local employment, market, and salary info should also be considered, as national data are not necessarily representative of local conditions. Boards of Accountancy requirements for CPA licensure and renewal may differ from state to state and merit research as well.
Once CPA candidates have completed the requisite education and professional experience, they must pass the national Uniform CPA Exam before earning licensure. Candidates must apply with their state boards in order to sit for the exam, and exam eligibility is an achievement in and of itself. The majority of states require CPA’s to complete continuing professional education (CPE) credits regularly in order to retain licensure.
The four-part CPA Exam, developed and scored by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), is far from easy, and CPA exam review of 500+ hours is strongly recommended. Given the exam’s notorious difficulty, numerous CPA review courses and programs are available for candidates, who should be sure to explore their review options carefully and choose the course that best fits their unique needs.
Readers of this article also read: How to become a CPA & What Is the Process of Applying for the CPA Exam and for Licensure.