Underwriter Salary and Degree Requirements

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If you’ve ever applied for a loan for a home, car, or other significant purchase, chances are good that you worked with an underwriter.

Underwriting refers to the process of working with loan applicants, verifying that they qualify for the loan and will be able to repay according to the loan agreement. Underwriters work in an array of different industries, including in the mortgage, insurance, and banking sector.

With a degree like the Online Master of Science in Finance, students can prepare for a range of attractive career opportunities, including positions in underwriting. Let’s take a closer look at this potential career path, the compensation underwriters receive and what it takes to obtain professional employment.

Underwriter Job Description

As PayScale pointed out, underwriters handle the process of analyzing, verifying, and administrating loans to applicants. A main part of underwriters’ responsibilities is to analyze the possible risks involved for the organization when providing a loan to its customers, including confirming that applicants have adequate income to repay it. Underwriters also ensure that loan agreements are accurate and follow all industry, state, and federal guidelines for loan application and administration.

Once underwriters have worked with clients to determine their needs as well as analyze and verify their business, income, and other liability information, they can underwrite the actual loan. This document outlines the amount owed, any premiums involved, repayment schedule, and other requirements. Underwriters then present the document to decision-makers for approval. Underwriters then monitor open loan agreements for accuracy and compliance, and may also analyze other potential clients for loan offers.

Underwriters may work in insurance agencies and specialize in underwriting insurance coverage policies. These professionals may also work for mortgage brokers specifically, or in the banking and finance industry, dispersing mortgage and other personal loans.

Professional Requirements

To become an underwriter, professionals must have at least a bachelor’s degree, but many employers prefer applicants who have a master’s in finance or a related field.

Certain licensure may be required as well, depending on the specific industry. Underwriters who want to work on mortgage loans, for example, must have a Mortgage Loan Originator license, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) pointed out.

In addition, while a license isn’t required for underwriting in the insurance sector, many underwriters go on to earn licensure from the Insurance Institute of America, Bizfluent noted. This license enables them to not only underwrite policies, but sell insurance products as well.

Underwriter Salary

Overall, the salary that underwriters earn varies according to their industry, geographical location, experience, and whether or not they’ve earned licensure. While not typically a requirement for employment, underwriters who earn their insurance license can generate additional income from selling insurance products.

PayScale research shows that the average underwriter salary in the United States is $58,697 annually. However, the salary range for this profession can vary―the lowest 10% of earners typically take home closer to $42,000 annually, whereas the highest 10% earn as much as $87,000 each year.

Glassdoor research reflects a similar average and salary range, reporting an average base pay of $57,152 annually for underwriters in 2020. Glassdoor’s salary range includes yearly compensation of $40,000 for the lowest earners and $82,000 on the highest end of the spectrum.

Salary By Industry

Pay can vary depending on the professional working environment and industry. For example, the BLS reported that loan officers, including those working in the credit intermediation, enterprise management, and auto loan industries, earned a median annual wage of $63,040 as of May 2018.

Those working in the auto loan sector typically saw higher median compensation of $80,410 annually. Underwriters in credit intermediation and similar occupations earned a median annual wage of $61,790 in 2018.

Underwriters in the insurance industry―including those working for health insurance or direct insurance brokerages―saw somewhat different compensation. As of May 2018, insurance underwriters earned a median annual wage of $69,380, with the lowest 10% of professionals taking home $42,260 and the highest earners seeing compensation of $122,840 or more.

Years of Experience

As with almost any professional occupation, those who have more experience and advanced degrees can expect higher pay than entry-level candidates. PayScale found that the typical compensation rate for those with one year or less of experience was around $49,000 annually. Professionals with five to nine years of experience were paid $63,000, and those with 20 or more years of experience earned $73,000 annually on average.


Where employers are located also has an impact on their compensation. When compared against the national average, underwriters in New York City and Chicago earned salaries 15-22% higher than average. On the other hand, those in Phoenix were paid 7% less than the national average.

Becoming an Underwriter

The BLS expects an 8% employment outlook for underwriters from 2018 to 2028. This means that more than 340,000 positions for loan officers will emerge, creating new opportunities for educated and trained professionals.

Those interested in this career path should consider a higher education program that can adequately prepare them for the complicated and often quickly changing financial landscape. The Online Master of Science in Finance from Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business can help professionals expand their experience in all areas of finance, including those critical for underwriters.

To find out more, check out our program page and connect with one of our expert enrollment advisors today.


Recommended Readings

How to Pass The CFA Certification

Internal Auditors: What They Do and What They Earn

Northeastern Online Master of Science in Finance



PayScale – Underwriter Salary

Glassdoor – Salary: Underwriter

BLS – Loan Officers

BLS – Insurance Underwriters

Bizfluent – How to Get an Insurance Underwriter’s License