Written By: Joel Palmer, Op-Ed Writer
Professionals entering the field of mortgage underwriting can expect a starting salary of around $50,000 a year while those with a decade or more of experience can sometimes command six figures, according to multiple survey reports found on online job and career websites.
The national average base annual salary for all mortgage loan underwriters employed throughout the country ranges from $59,000 by those surveyed by Indeed.com, to $60,000 according to Glassdoor.com. Payscale.com lists the average salary for the profession at $62,000. Careerbliss.com found that “senior” mortgage underwriters earn $65,000 annually on average.
Like with any job, the amount a person earns will also depend on the location, the company employing the underwriter, the amount of experience possessed by the professional, and the value of benefits and bonuses provided.
The website Salary.com measured the median salary of mortgage underwriters on four levels. A median salary indicates a middle point where 50 percent of subjects earn less than the median and the other 50 percent earn more.
For its descriptions of mortgage underwriters I, II, III, and IV, the only differentiator was the amount of experience. In its survey, a mortgage underwriter I is an entry level position; a mortgage underwriter II has two to four years experience, a mortgage underwriter III has at least four years experience; and a mortgage underwriter IV had six to eight-plus years of experience.
According to Salary.com, the median salary of a mortgage underwriter I, as of November 30, 2016, was $50,176, with a typical range between $43,538 and $58,943. About 25 percent of all level I underwriters earned at least $59,000 while 10 percent made at least $67,000 in base salary.
The median salary of a mortgage underwriter II was $60,487, with most professionals falling in the range between $52,609 and $69,321. About 25 percent of level II professionals earned more than $69,321, while the top 10 percent made at least $77,365.
A level III mortgage loan underwriter commanded a median base salary of $73,195, as of November 30, 2016, with a range usually between $64,883-$83,851. The top 25 percent at this level were paid a minimum of $83,851 while the highest-earning 10 percent made at least $93,552.
Once an underwriter reaches a level IV, he or she earned a median of $88,709 with most in the range of $80,864 to $104,264. The top 25 percent made at least $104,264 while 10 percent earned a minimum of $118,427.
Certain parts of the country will pay more than the national average or median, while others will pay less.
Payscale noted that mortgage underwriters typically earn more in markets like Charlotte, North Carolina (median of $75,937), Dallas ($71,977), Chicago ($71,525), Phoenix ($70,469), and Portland, Oregon ($67,911).
Salary.com’s data revealed that in New York City, the median salary for a mortgage underwriter ranged from $58,086 for a level I to $102,694 for a level IV. The range was $55,466 to $98,061 in Los Angeles, and $49,594 to $87,681 in Miami, Florida.
While the most significant portion of a professional’s income, base salary in most cases accounts for only 70 percent of a mortgage underwriter’s total compensation. Most in the profession are eligible for medical, dental and even vision benefits.
The total value of company-paid benefits to mortgage underwriters includes Social Security contributions, 401(k) or 403(b) contributions, disability insurance premiums, health insurance premiums, pension funds and paid time off. The totality of these benefits, according to Salary.com, results in median total compensation of:
- $74,528 for Level I
- $87,800 for Level II
- $107,531 for Level III
- $134,628 for Level IV
There is also a wide range of bonuses paid to underwriters. The Payscale survey indicated that annual bonus amounts range from just under $1,500 all the way to more than $15,000. Salary.com data showed median bonuses ranging from $1,780 for level I professionals to $9,200 for level IV underwriters.
About the Author
As an NAMU® Opinion Editorial Contributor, Joel Palmer is a freelance writer who spent 10 years as a business and financial reporter and another 10 years in marketing for the insurance and financial services industries. He regularly writes about the mortgage industry, as well as residential and commercial real estate, investments, and retirement income planning. He has also ghostwritten books on starting a business, marketing, and retirement income planning.