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Become a Notary: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Research the requirements to become a notary public. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career as a notary public. View article »

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  • 0:00 Should I Become a Notary?
  • 1:19 Career Requirements
  • 1:51 Steps to Become a Notary

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Video Transcript

Should I Become a Notary?

A notary public position is an official state office. As impartial agents of the state, notaries are authorized to administer oaths, verify and authenticate documents being signed and keep public records, often in the form of official journals, of the acts they perform as part of their official duties. They verify the identity of persons signing an official document or written instrument and apply their signature, notary certification and official seal to the document or written instrument. The need for notary services may vary depending on location. Most notaries work full-time at a variety of other positions in banks, schools and law offices, for example. The salary varies based on employment. A paralegal with notary certification earned $31,059 to $65,845. An administrative assistant with notary certification earned $27,848 to $54,192. And a financial controller with notary certification earned $47,915 to $98,798, according to Payscale.com in 2016.

Career Requirements

There is no degree required to become a notary, but a certificate or an associate's degree in criminal justice, political science, or paralegal studies might be helpful for professional advancement. You do have to have a commission, or license granted through the state and experience may be required, depending on your employer. In addition, you'll need strong organizational, multitasking, interpersonal, typing and Microsoft Office skills, along with attention to detail and the ability to pass background check with no previous convictions.

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Steps to Become a Notary

Let's see what you'll need to do to become a notary.

Step 1: Submit Application

Applications to become a notary public are generally available from the secretary of state's (SOS) office or website. The application requests information about criminal history, prior notary commissions and basic identifying information. Depending on the state, applicants could be required to include an oath of office, which must be notarized and sworn to under the penalty of perjury. Certain states could also request that a bond be posted with an application. In some states, applicants are required to complete notary training prior to submitting their applications.

Provide an accurate name and signature. States usually require that the name and signature on the application exactly match the name and signature that the applicant will use to notarize documents, with some states requiring applicants to use their full legal names.

Step 2: Attend Training

Notary public applicants are required to complete training covering the legal requirements and duties of this office. This training is necessary because, as a holder of an official state office, the notary is expected to know the laws governing their official duties. Some states offer the classes online, while other states require the applicant attend the training in person. These training programs are intended to prepare the applicant for the notary public exam.

Step 3: Pass a Notary Exam

Some states require applicants to take the notary exam in person. Other states offer computer-based, online testing. After the exam is submitted, the state will advise an applicant if he or she passed within a certain time frame. If an applicant passes the exam, the state will provide him or her with a notary commission certificate and instructions for filing an oath of office.

Step 4: Purchase Notary Public Materials

Upon being notified of passing exam results, an applicant is required to purchase a journal or record book to record the official acts he or she will perform (if journal-keeping is required by the state) and a notary public seal. The state will provide a list of authorized vendors who sell the notary seal, along with an authorization for the notary to make that purchase. Some states allow any office supply store to sell notary seals, but store employees may require the notary to show his or her notary commission certificate.

Verify notary seal accuracy. The official seal provided by a vendor should conform to the state's requirements. However, before paying for the seal, the notary should verify that the information, including his or her name, is correctly spelled and placed according to the legal requirements. Purchase an approved journal. Journals are usually required to have pages that cannot be torn out without leaving some evidence that a page was removed.

Step 5: Take and File an Oath

A notary public is required to take an oath of office. The oath of office may be administered by the county clerk's office, where the notary must appear in person. The notary must also present his or her surety bond, if required, at the time the oath is administered. Once the oath of office is filed by the stare-required method, the notary can begin performing the official functions of the office.

Meet the deadline. There is usually a limited time frame within which the notary must complete this step or the commission becomes invalid. It is important to file the oath of office within the mandated time frame.

Step 6: Notify Employer of Notary Certification

Some employers and/or positions require that employees be a notary public. Once the notary commission is obtained, employers should be notified and the employee can begin performing the functions of that duty. However, if being a notary is not a requirement, adding the certification to an individual's resume or informing his or her current employer of the newly acquired ability may lead to career advancement or additional opportunities.

To become a notary, you'll need to submit an application, complete training, pass a notary exam, buy notary supplies and take an oath.


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