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How to Become a Notary Public
Becoming a Notary Public: Commissioning and Opportunities
A good chance exists that you, or someone you know, has used the services of a notary public. Notaries help ensure the integrity of various transactions, including the signing of contracts, wills and other important documents. In many cases, a notary public is employed as a paralegal, an office administrator or a bank employee who notarizes documents when needed. However, some notaries work independently. The potential for flexible employment can make this career appealing to many parents.
A notary public is a state-commissioned public official who witnesses the signing of documents. Notaries are responsible for verifying a signer’s identity, ensuring that the signer understands the document and is legally capable of signing it and stamping the document with a notary seal after witnessing the signature. A notary must also keep a record of all notarizations that he or she has completed. In some states, notaries are credentialed as marriage officiants.
The education requirements to become a notary vary by state. Some states, such as California or Oregon, require notaries to complete an approved training course. Other states, such as North Dakota or New York, don’t require any type of pre-commissioning education. Your state may also require you to pass an exam, but, again, not all states have this requirement. State law may obligate you to purchase a surety bond to protect the public against possible misconduct.
The amount of money a notary makes may be restricted by state laws or regulations. Caps on notary fees may be set quite low, making it difficult for you to earn a full-time living as a notary. Not all states place caps on earnings, however, and notaries who travel to meet with clients can sometimes charge additional fees for this service.
Many notaries work in other professions, providing notary services on an as-needed basis. For example, the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t track notaries as a separate profession, but groups them under the category of “Office and Administrative Support Workers, All Other.” The median annual salary for office support workers as of May 2020 was $35,330. “Median” in this case means that 50 percent of all office support workers made more than this amount, and 50 percent of support workers made less.
In three states, Florida, South Carolina, Maine and Nevada, a notary public can officiate at wedding ceremonies. Over time, you could develop a wedding service that may provide you and your family with additional income.
Many notaries work in office environments, including law offices and real estate brokerages. Banks and cash-checking services also employ notaries, as do mortgage lenders.
It is also possible to operate as a “mobile notary,” which means that you travel to meet with clients in-person. Depending on your state’s laws regarding compensation, you may be able to charge significant fees for this service.
A few states now allow notaries to operate remotely, notarizing documents after witnessing clients’ signatures via webcam. Both mobile and online notaries can operate out of a home office, though mobile notary publics will obviously spend a fair amount of time on the road.
Years of Experience
Because notaries often perform their services in the context of another job role, it is difficult to determine the impact that years of experience can have on compensation. PayScale.com reports that experience can have a “moderate” effect on a notary’s salary, however.
Job Growth Trend
The notary profession is currently undergoing some significant changes: Internet listings and mobile phones are making it easier for a mobile notary to develop his or her business. In addition, more states may soon permit notaries to sign documents remotely. These changes may result in new opportunities for those who receive a notary commission.
The BLS notes that employment for office and administrative support personnel is not expected to change between 2020 and 2030, as more office tasks become automated. This may work to the advantage of notaries, however, as computers cannot legally witness a signature.
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Lainie Petersen writes about business, real estate and personal finance, drawing on 25 years experience in publishing and education. Petersen's work appears in Money Crashers, Selling to the Masses, and in Walmart News Now, a blog for Walmart suppliers. She holds a master's degree in library science from Dominican University.