What is a Notary and What Does a Notary Do?
Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More
A licensed notary is a reasonably lucrative, highly employable, and yet somewhat hidden professional position. This is because its duties are often included as part of other jobs. Becoming a notary, also known as a notary public, can help you launch your own business or increase your value as an office employee.
Duties as a notary may vary, but notaries play an essential role in signing legally binding agreements in the United States.
Notary Duties & Responsibilities
Notaries and notary signing agents manage and witness signatures on official documents. These duties include the following:
- Document execution (legally binding signatures)
- Affirming the state of mind of all signees
- Identifying fraud or coercion
- Completing the notarial certificate on all documents
- Verifying the identification of contract participants
- Being present at the time of document execution (this may include traveling)
- Administering oaths
- Handling affidavits, contracts, loan documents, marriage certificates, and other legal documents
- Bearing witness to items within a safe deposit box or the equivalent
- Maintaining a notary journal
- Scheduling related appointments
In addition to these responsibilities, notary signing agents are certified to handle closings for the mortgage industry.
While most notary work is simple, there may be times when the job is quite difficult. As a notary, you are responsible for correcting or disallowing signatures in the event of fraud or coercion. You are also responsible for determining whether or not signers are of sound mind before and during an official document signing.
Becoming a notary can be a rewarding job if you enjoy handling legal documents and guiding signers to complete an official agreement. In some parts of the U.S., finding a qualified notary can be challenging, and many formal contracts are not valid unless they are notarized.
- Median Annual Salary: $34,749 ($14.53/hour)
- Top 10% Annual Salary: $51,000 ($22.93/hour)
- Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $19,000 ($9.98/hour)
Notaries may also be paid on a per signature or per document basis. The amount varies based on the type of document being notarized and state law.
Education, Training, & Certification
Qualifying as a notary can be as simple as passing a background check. However, in some states, you will need to pass an exam to become a notary. Because every state varies in its requirements for notaries, you must check with your state of residence to see what is required. Whether you want to become self-employed or add notarization to your resume, qualifying is typically a fast, straightforward, and low-cost process.
- Education: Every state in the U.S. has different standards by which you can become a notary. However, all states require that you be a legal resident of that state, at least 18 years old, and without a criminal record.
- Certification: There is no official certification for notaries. Most states require you to complete an application (with a fee of about $100) and receive a background check. If a notary wishes to qualify for extended duties as a notary signing agent, there may be additional fees and background checks to obtain certification.
- Training: While not every state requires notary training, it is always a good idea. Most notary courses can be completed online. Visit your local community college’s website or the National Notary Association website for more information.
Notary Skills & Competencies
Many of the skills required of notaries are similar to those of legal secretaries, which is why many perform both jobs. The same can be said of bankers and loan officers. Notaries must be comfortable with procedures, state laws, paperwork, and the red tape associated with bureaucracy and government processes.
- Verification: Notaries must verify everything in front of them before notarizing signatures. This includes checking identification and making sure that both parties understand what they are signing.
- Compliance: Most regulations for notaries are applied at the state level. That means that notary laws vary from state to state. It is important that notaries not “cut corners.” It is the notary’s responsibility both to uphold the integrity of the signature process as well as to inform the parties involved who may be unaware of state laws pertaining to the signing of the document.
- Record-Keeping: Notaries must keep journals. By recording names, times, locations, and more, this ensures that all signing parties will be held accountable to their agreement. Failure to record relevant details may render signatures null and void.
- Familiarity with Legal Documents: Evidentiary documents, loan documents, passports, affidavits, and more fall under a notary’s realm of responsibility. While it is not necessary that you know how to compose or dissect all parts of legal documents, you must be able to identify what people are signing and what notary responsibilities apply to any given situation.
- Flexibility: While not every notary has to travel, many notaries are mobile for the sake of their customers. Often, formal agreements must be signed in a quick time frame and at inconvenient times and places. You need to be prepared to work with a customer’s schedule and location, while bringing all the necessary tools required of a notary.
Depending upon the availability of notaries in your area, demand can be high or low. For high-demand areas, self-employed notaries do quite well. They can work from their home or vehicle (i.e., mobile notaries) as their own boss. However, because many banks and mail-carrying storefronts now supply notary services, demand in some areas is low.
Office employees that are also notaries are valuable to many employers. If you work in an industry that handles legal or loan paperwork, becoming a notary is a smart move because it allows your employer to formalize transactions much faster than its competitors.
For notaries that work primarily in a traditional office role, their work environment is the same as in a conventional office space. However, if you are a self-employed notary (full-time or part-time), then you have more opportunities to be mobile. This means that you will need to be able to provide notary services in your own office (or at home, if you wish) or travel to your customers for a scheduled signing. Mobile notaries are allowed to charge for mileage.
Depending on whether you work as your own boss or for a company at which notarizing is one of your many duties, your schedule could be flexible or it could be a typical 9-to-5 office job. Mobile notaries are often required to work odd hours, including evenings and weekends, in order to accommodate their clients.
How to Get the Job
Get a Notary License If you are applying for a notary license, you will need to look at requirements in your state. Use this online tool from the National Notary Association to learn how to get a license.
Include Notary Skills in Your Resume When applying for a job at a company where notaries are needed, it is important to note your notary qualifications on your resume. If you seek to build a client base as a self-employed notary, you will need to invest some time and money into marketing and branding.
Find Job Listings: If you are applying for a typical job wherein notarization would be part of your duties, simply locate the main job title in a standard job search. On most of the top job sites, you can use advanced search options to filter your search by adding “notary” as an additional keyword.
Comparing Similar Jobs
If you are interested in notarizing but would prefer to do so in a more traditional role, consider these similar vocations and their median salaries:
Payscale. "Average Notary Public Hourly Pay," Accessed Oct. 1, 2019.
Career Trend. "The Average Income of a Notary Public," Accessed Oct. 1, 2019.
National Notary Association. "Notary Fees by State," Accessed Oct. 1, 2019.
National Notary Association. "How Do I Become A Notary Signing Agent?" Accessed Oct. 1, 2019.
United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Tellers," Accessed Oct. 1, 2019.
United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Loan Officers," Accessed Oct. 1, 2019.
United States Bureau of Labor Statistics: "Paralegals and Legal Assistants," Accessed Oct. 1, 2019.