Boat Float Blog

Getting Your Boating License

boating license

By meg

August 22, 2022

Specific license requirements vary by state to operate a powerboat, sailboat or personal watercraft (PWC) on the waters in its jurisdiction, and most require some sort of boating safety and education certificate. Typically the boat license course can be completed online, and is followed by a boat license test that can also be completed online.

There are basically 4 easy steps to getting your boating license:

  1. Research the boater education requirements for your state.
  2. Complete an online, or in-person, boating safety and education course.
  3. Successfully pass the boating license test at the end of the course.
  4. Submit payment after course completion.

If you buy a new boat and are a first-time boat owner you may not know where to even begin to find out about licensing. Your marine dealer may be able to give you information on how to get a boating license in your state but a good resource for state-by-state information is the National Association of Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA). It lists basic training requirements for each state on its Website.

The courses teach about boating basics and terminology, navigation rules, state boating regulations, how to handle boating emergencies, and how to enjoy watersports. It should take about 3 hours to complete the test but if you can’t spare all that time at once, the good news is that it doesn’t have to be completed at one time. You can save whatever section you’re in and come back to it another time.

You can also visit resources like Boat-Ed.com and BoaterExam.com, for links to state-by-state approved online boating courses and boating education requirements. Not every state offers an online course so be sure to check the Websites to see where your state stands on online availability. There may also be a course fee of $29 to $50 dollars plus a possible administration fee from the state. Fees are usually paid after you’ve successfully completed the course. The BoatUS Foundation offers free boating license courses for 35 states. Click here to see if your state is listed.

After you complete whatever course you choose, you’ll be ready to take the exam. Once you pass, you can print your boating license and head to the dock, making sure to keep the printout with you whenever you’re on the water. If you’re planning a boating vacation to another state, you should familiarize yourself with the rules of the state or waters you plan to boat in because it’s the boaters responsibility to know the boating rules. 

What if you plan to only rent a boat? Do you still need a license? Once again, each state regulates boating education and licensing requirements. Some states require all boaters to have a license or certificate, while others have age limits for licensing. It is always the boat owner’s responsibility to know the boating license requirements for the state and location where they are operating their boat.

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