How Long Are the 20-Hour Pre-Licensing Course and the NMLS National Licensing Exam Good For?

As you’re most likely aware, two of the most important prerequisites that must be completed prior to applying for and being issued a state mortgage loan originator (MLO) license are completing an NMLS-approved, 20-hour pre-licensing course conducted by an NMLS-approved education provider and successfully passing the NMLS national MLO licensing exam.  State-specific pre-licensing education may also be required depending on the state(s) in which the licensing candidate ultimately desires licensure, but state-specific pre-licensing education requirements will not be a focus of this article.

How Long Are the 20-Hour Pre-Licensing Course and the NMLS National Licensing Exam Good For?

The 20-hour pre-licensing course may be completed through a live classroom, online instructor led (webinar), or online self-paced format.  If the licensing candidate opts for the online self-paced format, he or she must complete the course within fourteen calendar days from the date that his or her course begins.

NMLS Mortgage Licensing Training 20-Hour Pre-Licensing Course


The NMLS will only approve extensions in the event of documented true emergencies and, in the absence of such, any licensing candidate who fails to successfully complete his or her 20-hour pre-licensing course within that allotted time frame will be required to repeat the entire course.  Unfortunately, there are no exceptions to this rule.

Once one successfully completes his or her 20-hour pre-licensing course, NMLS rules mandate that the aspiring mortgage loan originator must secure at least one state-issued MLO license within three years from the date of the course’s completion in order to avoid having to retake the 20-hour course.

It should be noted, however, that some states (ie. Indiana and North Carolina just to name two) require the licensing applicant to have successfully completed the 20-hour course no later than two to three years prior to the application for their state’s license.  This is the exception rather than the norm but licensing candidates must be aware of this nonetheless.

I’ll illustrate this with an example.  Let’s say that an MLO secures her New Hampshire state MLO license in 2017.  In 2023, after having acted in the capacity of an NMLS-licensed MLO for six years, she now decides to apply for a North Carolina MLO license.

Even though she has been licensed and active for six years, because her 20-hour course was completed longer than three years prior, the North Carolina Commissioner of Banks will require her to retake the 20-hour course in order to secure her N.C. MLO license.

If you are seeking an exceptional 20-hour pre-licensing course, I highly recommend OnlineEd’s curriculum, for which you can register (along with any and all required state-specific pre-licensing education) through

The NMLS national MLO licensing examination is the other prerequisite to licensing that an MLO licensing candidate must satisfy in order to apply for his or her state MLO license.  The NMLS exam is offered through both live-testing-center and online modalities.

The exam contains 120 multiple choice questions which, in order to pass, the test taker must achieve a score of no less than 75%.  The test taker has slightly over three hours to complete this exam.  He or she will learn the results immediately after completing it.

Once passed, the MLO licensing candidate has five years to secure at least one state-issued MLO license in order to avoid having to retake and, once again, pass this exam.  It should be noted, however, that the guidelines of certain states may be more stringent.

Indiana, for example, requires applicants for the Indiana state MLO license to have passed the NMLS exam no longer than twenty-four months prior to applying for this license.

Although all MLO licensing candidates should be aware of the time frames discussed in this article, it would behoove them to refer to the state-specific requirements of every state in which they feel inclined to pursue their MLO license.  State specific requirements may be accessed through the NMLS’ website via

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