Escrow Officer: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become an escrow officer. Learn about education requirements, job duties, and salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Accounting & Finance degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does an Escrow Officer Do?

Escrow officers serve as neutral third parties in real estate transactions. They facilitate interactions between all parties involved in a real estate deal, including buyers, sellers, borrowers, lenders, brokers, making sure that all contractual terms are fulfilled and that capital transfers go smoothly. Before a sale is finalized, escrow officers check that all documents and titles are in order.

The following chart gives you an overview about what you need to know about entering this field.

Education Required High school diploma, college education preferred
Key Responsibilities Title searches, real property sales, exchanges and deed of sale trust
Licensure Licensure and certification often required
Job Growth (2014-2024) Little to no change (for all title examiners, abstractors and searchers)*
Median Salary (2017) $45,770** (for escrow officers)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Salary.com

What Is an Escrow Officer?

Escrow officers are neutral third parties that assist with the real estate closing process. They tend to work for title companies, banks or other offices that offer similar services. They may perform title searches, process documents and otherwise ensure that the process runs smoothly and legally. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that legal assistants may also specialize in escrow law and receive an escrow officer designation.

The California Escrow Association (CEA) states that you might handle real property sales, loan escrows, subdivision escrows, mobile homes or land contracts. Other types of escrows include exchanges and deed of sale trusts). The term 'escrow officer' tends to be common in the western states. The Texas Department of Insurance, however, uses attorneys licensed as escrow officers, direct operation or title insurance agents.

Where Might I Work?

The American Escrow Association (AEA) states escrow regulations, as well as who is qualified to handle closings, vary by state. You may, for example, work for an attorney, a bank, a savings and loan association or an insurance company. Other possibilities include working for real estate brokers or independent escrow companies.

There are different position levels as indicated by the CAE. These include escrow assistant, junior escrow officer, escrow officer and escrow manager or administrator. Typically, you would begin as an escrow assistant, then advance through experience and training. Some escrow officers may open their own agencies.

What Education or Certification Would I Need?

According to a search at CareerBuilder.com, the minimum level of education required for escrow officers is a high school diploma. Requirements vary, however, so it's important to review relevant state guidelines.

If you're interested in becoming a paralegal or legal assistant that focuses on real estate law, the BLS indicates you would likely need an associate's degree, a paralegal studies certificate or a bachelor's degree in a relevant field with a paralegal studies certificate. You may also be able to obtain an entry-level position where you receive on-the-job training.

Some community colleges may offer a real estate program leading to an associate degree, a Certification of Achievement or both. While these programs tend to prepare you for a career in real estate, including preparation for the sales and broker license exam, they also contain escrow coursework. Typical classes include escrow procedures and the financial, legal and general principles of real estate. Your electives might be in accounting, business law, real estate practice, appraisal and fraud.

If you live in California, you may want to explore the CEA's series of certification exams. In order to qualify, you'll first need to be a member. There are six Professional Designation Exams offered by the CEA. While you'll probably want to explore each in detail, you may be particularly interested in the Certified Escrow Technician (CET), Certified Escrow Officer (CEO) and Certified Senior Escrow Officer (CSEO) exams.

In order to take the CET exam, you'd need a minimum of one year's escrow experience prior to taking the exam. Requirements for the CEO exam include 2-4 years of experience within the past seven years. If you've completed escrow coursework with a grade of 'C' or better, have earned, or are in the process of applying for, the CEA's Education Achievement Award, you may not need as many qualifying years of experience.

The CSEO exam requirements vary from 7-9 years of experience in the field within the past 13 years. If you've completed relevant college courses with a 'C' or better, CEA-sponsored escrow coursework, or qualified for CEA's Education Achievement Award, you may be qualified to take the exam with fewer years of experience.

Should I Join an Organization?

There are a variety of reasons you may want to join an escrow association such as the AEA. First of all, you would be able to learn about the legislative and regulatory decision-making process. Secondly, you would have opportunities to further develop your professional skills and contacts. Thirdly, you would be able to attend educational conferences and forums on specific trade issues and the settlement industry at large.

The AEA has three types of membership: regular, associate and affiliate. If you'd like to become a regular member, you'll also need to belong to a chartered state association. To become an associate member, you'd need to be an escrow or related professional whose business is located within the U.S.

If you're interested in an affiliate membership, the AEA states you could be in escrow or a related industry; however, you'd also need to conduct business in a state that doesn't have a Chartered State Association. Currently, there are eight states with Chartered State Associations: Arizona, California, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, Nebraska, Oregon and Washington.

What Salary Could I Expect?

According to a February 2017 search for escrow officers at Salary.com, the median wage was $45,770 per year and $46,907 with bonus. Most of these professionals earned between $29,083 and $64,374 per year.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Individuals interested in real estate can also pursue careers as agents are brokers. These professionals gather data about available properties and work closely with buyers and sellers to drive real estate transactions. Although both agents and brokers are required to be licensed, brokers must also have previous work experience or education; they are qualified to own their own businesses. Alternatively, individuals who are particularly interested in the legal aspects of real estate may find jobs as legal assistants or paralegals for real estate lawyers, or even go to law school to become real estate lawyers themselves.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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