Your Cookies are Disabled! sets cookies on your computer to help improve performance and provide a more engaging user experience. By using this site, you accept the terms of our cookie policy. Learn more.

What is a Notary Public?

A Notary Public is an official appointed by a state government to serve the public as an impartial witness during notarizations. As ministerial officials, they are expected to follow statutory rules without the exercise of significant personal discretion.

Notaries Public certify the proper execution of many of the life-changing documents of private citizens — whether those transactions convey real estate, grant powers of attorney, establish a prenuptial agreement, or perform the multitude of other activities that enable our civil society to function.

Female Notary holding a stamp at her desk and smiling at a signer

Notary Public Responsibilities

Notaries perform notarizations, or notarial acts, to deter fraud and establish that the signer understands the document they're signing and that they're a willing participant in the transaction.

There are two primary responsibilities of Notaries: 1) Validate the signer’s identity and 2) Confirm the signer’s willingness and awareness to sign the document or complete the transaction.

Identifying the Signer

Generally, a Notary will ask for a current form of identification that has a photo, physical description and signature. Acceptable IDs usually include a driver's license or passport.

Confirming Willingness and Awareness

Notaries will confirm both the signer's willingness to sign the document and their awareness of its implications. On occasion, Notaries encounter individuals who are being forced to sign a document or whose health condition impairs their decision-making abilities. This is why Notaries are essential to preserving the public trust, as they ensure the integrity of documents while protecting the rights of all parties involved.

Some notarizations require the Notary to put the signer under an oath, declaring under penalty of perjury that the information contained in a document is true and correct.

Different Types of Notary Jobs

Every Notary begins with a traditional commission, but they can branch out to provide specialized services. Below are the different types of Notary jobs you may want to consider:

  • Traditional Notary: Notary who qualifies for a commission in their state and has met the state’s application requirements.
  • Mobile Notary: Traditional Notary who travels to the signer’s preferred location, such as the signer’s home or hospital.
  • Remote Online Notary (RON): Notary with a traditional commission who has met their state’s requirements to become authorized to perform remote notarizations.
  • Notary Signing Agent (NSA): Notary with a traditional commission who has also passed a background screening to comply with industry standards and handle loan signings.

While every type of Notary Public shares the same core duties, the format of the documents they notarize and the location where the transaction occurs are the biggest differences between them.

Notary Job Type Document Format Location
Traditional Notaries Paper In-person
Mobile Notaries Paper In-person
Remote Online Notaries Electronic Virtual
Notary Signing Agents Paper, electronic In-person

Traditional Notaries and Mobile Notaries may perform in-person electronic notarizations (IPEN). No special training is needed for Notaries who perform this type of notarization method.

Where Notaries Can Find Work

Notaries have two options when it comes to their place of employment. They may be employed by a bank or local post office, for example, in which their employer requests they get their commission.

The other option is to work for themselves. In the 2023 Notary Survey, the National Notary Association found that 51.1% of Notaries who responded were self-employed mobile Notaries or Notary Signing Agents.

Notary Income

States determine the maximum fees Notaries may charge for notarial acts. However, you may be able to charge for traveling to the signer or providing extra services like printing documents. Becoming specialized in certain services like hospital notarizations or getting certified as a Notary Signing Agent may also help increase your earnings.

Becoming a Notary Public

You can become a Notary in your state if you meet the eligibility requirements and follow the steps your state includes in their commissioning process. The process varies from state to state, but generally, you would fill out an application, pay the state's application fee, take a training course or pass an exam, file your bond and oath of office, and buy your Notary supplies.

Now that you know what a Notary is and what they do, learn the benefits of being a Notary.

Start Your Notary Career Today

Knowledge Center