A notary public serves as an impartial witness when documents are being signed in order to protect all parties involved from fraud. Being a notary is not a full-time job but may be a necessary credential if you work in a bank or as a paralegal. It may also be a way to supplement your income if you work on a freelance basis. A notary public salary, on average, is $14.04 per hour.
A notary public screens the signers of important documents to ensure their true identity, their willingness to sign without being under duress, and their understanding of the documents to which they're putting a signature. Notaries oversee the signing of documents such as real estate transactions, evidentiary documents in court cases and certified copies of original documents such as birth certificates, college diplomas and passports. Unlike notaries in foreign countries, U.S. notaries public are not attorneys, judges or high-ranking officials (although attorneys, judges and officials can become notaries). U.S. notaries do not handle immigration issues.
The requirements for becoming a notary vary from state to state. In general, you need to be at least 18 years old and a legal resident of the state in which you will work. You must not have a criminal record. Some states require that you speak, read and write English.
After completing an application and paying a filing fee, some states require that you get training by an approved vendor and pass a state-administered certification exam. Typically, training courses cost around $100 and may cost slightly more online. Some states require that you submit to fingerprinting and a background check. The cost of becoming a notary can be under $100, or several hundred dollars, depending on the fees and costs of any required training and exams.
Notaries public often work in administrative offices such as those in real estate agencies, banks, lending institutions and law offices. In most cases, notaries are not hired for that position only but perform notary duties as part of their regular job. Some notaries operate a freelance business out of their homes and travel to provide mobile notary services. The advantage to operating your own business is the freedom you have to be your own boss and set your own hours. The downside is that you'll have to spend time and money advertising your services in order to build a client base.
Salary and Job Outlook
The notary pay rate depends on location. Some states set a maximum notaries can charge for their services, usually between $2 and $10 per signature. Where there is no state maximum, the notary pay rate varies since notaries are free to set their own fees. Mobile notaries often charge a mileage fee and some states set a maximum on this as well. You may see ads online that promise a notary public income of thousands of dollars per month. Remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Most notaries are employed as paralegals, administrative assistants and other types of office workers, serving as notaries when needed in the course of the regular jobs. Many banks and car dealerships, for example, have someone on staff, who will notarize documents for customers, free of charge.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which tracks data on civilian occupations, does not have figures for notaries public. It is anticipated, however, that the need for notaries will remain strong, as the population increases and, along with it, the need for document authentication.