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Notary Career Guide

What is a notary?

A notary, also known as a notary public, is a public officer who plays a crucial role in legalities and documentation. Their core function is to prevent fraud by confirming the authenticity of signatures and identities during the signing of important documents. Essentially, they’re an impartial party trusted to ‘notarize’ documents, ensuring they are legally binding.

Their service is of great value to individuals, companies, organizations, and communities as it adds a layer of verification to various legal procedures. It gives peace of mind to contracting parties, knowing the documents they’re signing are authentically executed. From a broader perspective, by hindering fraudulent activities, they contribute to maintaining trust in the legal systems and processes.

Duties and responsibilities

A notary is responsible for various activities related to validating and certifying documents. Individuals in this role validate the identities of the parties involved, ensuring they are who they declare to be and comprehend the contents and implications of the documents they’re signing. Notaries also verify that parties are signing the documents willingly and not under any duress or coercion.

Another key responsibility involves recording details of the notarial acts carried out, typically in their journal or public register. They also administer oaths and affirmations in confirmation of truth declarations. When dealing with international documents, they might be called upon to authenticate them, making them internationally acceptable through an apostille or other relevant processes.

Work environment

Notaries often work in comfortable indoor environments like city offices, law firms, banks, or insurance agencies. Some maintain their own offices, while others travel to clients’ locations to provide mobile services. The work is mostly conducted during daytime business hours, although sudden needs for their services may demand availability outside of standard hours.

Typical work hours

Typical work hours for a notary largely align with traditional business hours, from Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. However, based on client needs, these hours can be flexible. Mobile notaries, in particular, might work during evenings or weekends to accommodate their client’s schedules. The workload and hours may vary depending on the number of clients and the volume of documents requiring notarization.

How to become a notary

This career guide section outlines the process of becoming a notary. We will walk you through all the critical steps, from acquiring the necessary education to meeting the certification requirements.

Step 1: Understand the job

Before deciding to become a notary, you must first fully understand the role and duties associated with this position. This person serves the public as an impartial third-party witness to the signing of legal documents to prevent fraud.

Step 2: Meet the state requirements

Each U.S. state has specific requirements for becoming a notary. Common requirements include being at least 18 years old, having no criminal record, and being a resident of the state where you plan to practice. Check with your local Secretary of State office for complete details.

Step 3: Complete an education course

Many states require potential notaries to participate in a state-approved notary public education course. This course can often be completed online, covering basic duties, laws, and procedures.

Step 4: Pass the exam

Upon completing the notary education course, you must pass a notary examination, where applicable. This exam tests your knowledge of the duties and responsibilities of a notary.

Step 5: Apply for a notary commission

With your successful exam results, you can now apply for a notary commission in your state. This may involve providing personal information, proof of education, and exam results. Wait for the Notary Commission’s response about your approval, which can take several weeks.

Step 7: Begin your career

With your notary commission and supplies, you can start offering your services. Remember to abide by all state laws and regulations when performing notarial acts to maintain the integrity of the role.

How much do notaries make?

Notary salaries will vary by experience, industry, education, location, and organization size. The level of responsibility, number of signings, types of documents handled, and additional certifications or specializations can greatly impact their earnings.

Highest paying industries

  • Real Estate – $55,290
  • Legal Services – $53,200
  • Finance and Insurance – $50,690
  • Management of Companies – $49,830
  • Government Positions – $45,960

Highest paying states

  • California – $61,450
  • New York – $58,200
  • Massachusetts – $56,790
  • Illinois – $54,120
  • Washington – $52,940

Browse notary salary data by market

Types of notaries

Below, we explore common career types and areas of specialization for notaries. In this section, you will find useful information to help you decide which specific area in this profession best aligns with your career goals and aspirations.

Mobile notary

Those operating as a mobile notary offer the convenience of traveling to the client’s desired location to perform the necessary notarial acts. Such flexibility often brings a broader client base, including those unable to travel or those needing after-hours services. This career path requires a strong commitment to customer service and logistical planning.

Notary signing agent

If you’re inclined toward the real estate industry, becoming a notary signing agent might be an ideal path. These professionals specialize in notarizing mortgage and real estate documents. As an agent, an adept knowledge of real estate transactions and notarial laws is beneficial.

Notary for a financial institution

Working for a financial institution like a bank or credit union is another route notaries can take. In this role, notarizing documents like loans and money management contracts are the primary duties. It’s a solid option for those looking for a more stable work environment.

Electronic notary

With technological advances, this role has evolved to include electronic notarization. They can now authenticate documents digitally. This type of notary work might appeal especially to tech-savvy individuals interested in developing cutting-edge digital services.

Top skills for notaries

This career guide section outlines the skills and abilities that will help you find success as a notary.


Notaries must be highly detailed in their work. Any mistakes could render a document invalid or lead to legal issues further down the line. This means checking and double-checking all details in a document and ensuring everything is in order before signing off.


As impartial witnesses, these individuals must have unquestionable integrity. They should be able to resist any form of corruption and must honestly perform their duties. This also means remaining confidential with any privileged information they might encounter.

Good communicator

Explaining complex legal terms in a way that all parties can understand is part of the job. They also need to discern when signers understand the document they’re signing. As such, being a good communicator, both in written and verbal form, is vital.

Knowledge in law

Having a solid understanding of the legal process and terminology is invaluable. This knowledge can help identify potential issues with the documents they’re witnessing, ensuring that everything is legally sound and protecting all parties involved from possible legal complications.


They often deal with multiple clients and documents at a time. Being organized helps manage this workload effectively. Notaries should have a good system for tracking appointments and keeping documents secure and easily retrievable.


In this role, one might deal with people unfamiliar with the signing process or nervous about signing important documents. Exercising patience and providing reassurance can ensure a smooth signing process for all parties involved.

Notary career path options

As a notary, you’re positioned at the intersection of many industries, providing an essential service to many sectors. Banks, real estate agencies, legal firms, and individuals alike depend on their trustworthiness. This key role, therefore, offers plenty of room for career development and progression.

Begin by establishing yourself in your local community. As you attract more clients and gain experience, you can gradually elevate your status. This could involve setting up a mobile service or establishing your own firm. You may also opt to specialize in specific areas such as trust and estate planning, real estate, or business documentation to add more value to your services.

Once you’ve honed your skills in the field, you can tap into several broader career paths. Becoming a notary public trainer can be one of them. With sufficient experience and insights, you may choose to guide aspiring notaries on their career journeys. Alternatively, you could step into a managerial role at a larger firm. Here, you could overlook the work of multiple notaries and even coordinate regional or national notarization strategies.

For those with an entrepreneurial spirit, setting up a notary service company could be worthwhile. This path allows you to leverage your expertise and resources to lead your team and serve a wider customer base.

In recent years, this profession has evolved rapidly due to advancements in technology and changes in the law. The traditional practices of verifying and authenticating documents in person are giving way to new approaches like remote online notarization. Digital tools have made the job more efficient and accessible, changing the industry’s dynamics significantly.

Another trend is the increased need for these professionals in various sectors such as real estate, legal, and finance. Businesses and individuals are seeking these services to ensure the validity of their transactions. This rising demand signals promising growth for individuals in this field.

Training requirements also differ from state to state, with certain areas introducing updated or expanded regulations on who can qualify. This evolution is driving increased demand for continuous professional development and adherence to strict standards within the notarial field. Ultimately, the profession remains vital, ensuring integrity and assurance are maintained in important transactions.

Notary career tips

Stay updated

A tried-and-true tip for success in this field is to stay updated on all the changes in laws and regulations. Continuous learning and staying informed not only promote your career growth but also equip you with the knowledge needed to offer accurate, timely, and professional service to your clients.

Adopt new technology

Many tasks can now be accomplished digitally, making it easier for you, as well as the client. Adopt new technological tools and software in your work procedures. This could be anything from an electronic seal to a digital journal. Embracing digital tools streamlines your work and helps attract clients who prefer the convenience of digital transactions.

Maintain strong ethical standards

Success in this industry is greatly related to trustworthiness and maintaining strong ethical standards. Your role involves sensitive matters such as verifying identities and authenticating documents. Your ethics are displayed during these interactions, which can impact your reputation and, therefore, your success. Always practice complete honesty, integrity, and confidentiality.

Build a professional network

Creating and maintaining strong relations with other professionals can open a world of opportunities. It allows you to learn from their experiences, get advice, and even refer to each other during high-demand periods or for unique specialization tasks. Join professional associations relevant to the notary industry where you can easily connect and interact with colleagues.

  • National Notary Association (NNA)
  • American Society of Notaries (ASN)
  • United States Notary Association (USNA)

Pursue certifications and specializations

Pursuing additional certifications and specializations makes you stand out. It showcases your dedication to your profession and makes you a desirable choice for clients. Some areas of specialization include being a signing agent or obtaining certification in remote online notarization.

  • NNA Certified Notary Signing Agent Course
  • Remote Online Notary Certification

Where the notary jobs are

Top employers

  • Notarize
  • Signature Closers
  • Snapdocs
  • State of Florida
  • Lenders Title Solutions

Top states

  • California
  • Florida
  • New York
  • Texas
  • Pennsylvania

Top job sites

  • zengig
  • Simply Hired
  • Indeed
  • ZipRecruiter
  • Notary Rotary


What qualifications are needed to become a notary?

Most states require applicants to be at least 18 years old and a legal resident of the state. Some also require a high school diploma or equivalent. A clean criminal background is also commonly required. Training courses, a passing examination score, and a surety bond are often part of becoming a notary.

Does a notary need a specific degree?

No, a specific degree is not typically required. However, some states do require notary education or training, which are different from a college degree and are typically provided by the state or reputable notary organizations.

What are the responsibilities of a notary?

They authenticate signatures on legal documents. They verify the identities of each signer, witness the document signing, and apply their own notary seal. These steps help reduce fraud and ensure that the document is properly executed.

Are notaries in demand?

Yes, they are commonly in need. As long as people continue to conduct business and legal affairs requiring authenticated documentation, they will be needed. Their demand is fairly steady and may increase depending on changes in law and business practices.

What skills does a notary need?

They should have good organizational skills and attention to detail, as they deal with legal documents and must complete paperwork accurately. Effective communication skills are also beneficial, as they interact with various people. Lastly, integrity and neutrality are essential for carrying out notarial duties impartially and lawfully.

Where do notaries typically work?

They can be found in a variety of settings. Banks, law firms, real estate offices, insurance companies, and governmental organizations often employ them. Others work independently, offering their mobile services to individuals and businesses in their local area.

Can a notary refuse to notarize a document?

Yes, they can refuse to notarize a document if they have reason to believe the identity of the signer can’t be verified, if there appears to be deception involved, if the signer appears to be coerced or not capable of understanding the document, or if they are not qualified to notarize the specific document or transaction.

How long does it take to become a notary?

The process varies by state, but generally, it can take four to six weeks. This includes time for certain states’ mandatory training, passing the exam, and waiting for the notary commission certificate. In other states where training or exams are not required, it can take less time.

Do you need to renew your notary status?

Yes, they do need to renew their status regularly. The timeframe varies from state to state. Some states require them to renew every four years, while others could require renewal every ten years. Each renewal may require an updated background check, a new bond, and other state-specific requirements, such as continuing education or retesting.

Can a notary notarize for family members?

In general, they should avoid notarizing documents for close family members to prevent potential conflict of interest or the perception of bias. Some states even have laws prohibiting them from performing notarial acts for family members. Regardless of state law, good professional practice is to refrain from notarizing documents for family members.