How do I get a Notary Public License?

Patrick Roland
Patrick Roland
Requirements for public notaries vary by locale.
Requirements for public notaries vary by locale.

A notary public's job primarily is to be a witness for important document signings and oaths. If you want to become a notary public, you must get a notary public license. This document authorizes you to stamp appropriate documents but does not allow you to do other legal things. In order to get this certification, you must study the job's responsibilities, take a notary public exam and renew your license frequently.

A notary public certifies documents and witnesses signatures.
A notary public certifies documents and witnesses signatures.

A notary public who simply acts as a witness for document signings should not be confused with the term in many other countries. Some nations refer to legal experts, much like an attorney, as a notary public. Those people can draft legal documents and give legal advice, but a witness notary public cannot.

There are no educational requirements if you want to get a notary public license. In fact, you can take the examination for that title without any preparation. Most people put a great deal of effort into studying before taking the test, because the questions are so specific to the details of the job.

Using a study guide or taking a class is a great way to prepare to get your notary public license. These learning opportunities will teach you about the rules and regulations of the job. Most of the study guides describes for whom you can and cannot act as a witness and in what situations your notary skills can be used. There are many loopholes and caveats that, in the United States, are specific to individual states.

The notary public exam is the final step before getting a notary public license. You will need to schedule an exam time and pay a fee in order to take this test. The exam asks a variety of questions focused on the knowledge that every notary public should have. With questions ranging from who needs to be present during a document signing to different reasons that a person's presence can be waved, this exam requires you to know very specific details in order to pass it.

With successful passage of the test, you officially will be a notary public. Along with your notary public license, you also will receive a seal. This seal is a two-sided stamp that embosses that state's notary seal on the paper and often must be signed by the notary in order to be official. Also, don't forget to renew your license when necessary, because many licenses expire after a certain amount of time.

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Discussion Comments


I have used a notary public a number of times in my life. You can almost always find one at any bank. It's a good thing there are so many licensed notary publics in so many different places. Some documents require that a notary public witness signatures - there's no choice.

There's one thing I'm a little confused about. I don't understand why there is such a difference in courses offered. But I guess if you think you are prepared for the test and pass it, you are ready for the certification. On the other hand, I wonder if you don't pass the first or second time, when can you take the test again? Are the questions different?

I just think that the preparation courses should be certified and students should show they passed the courses before they take the certification test.


When I worked in the banking industry there were many employees in the bank who had their notary public license. This is a common thing for many people in this industry to have.

We recently used a notary public at our local bank to witness some signatures. My daughters husband recently moved to the US from England, and lived with us for several months before they were able to get a place of their own.

During part of his process of legal paperwork, we had to have a notary public witness signatures to a document stating that he had been with us since he came to the states.

Even though it never takes long for a signature to be notarized, it is very important for the successful completion of many legal documents.


My son works in commercial real estate and recently got his notary public license. His company offered a class in preparation for the exam, and he didn't have any problems passing the test.

Since then, there have been many situations in his job where he has been able to use his license and seal to complete certain requirements for his work. Having this license and being able to witness documents being signed can come in handy in many different situations.

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    • Requirements for public notaries vary by locale.
      Requirements for public notaries vary by locale.
    • A notary public certifies documents and witnesses signatures.
      A notary public certifies documents and witnesses signatures.