Getting Your Boating License

Categories: Information

Each state determines the requirements for operating a boat or personal watercraft in its jurisdiction, but most will require a boating license. Many times, the boat license course can be accessed and completed online, followed by a boat license test that can also be completed online. There is not usually an on-water driver’s education required as there is with automobile driver’s licenses.

Get Your Boating License

In order to get your boating license, start by researching the boater education requirements for your state. You will need to complete an online or in-person boating safety and education course, passing the boating license test at the end of the course. You must then submit payment after completing the course. Keep your boat license or completion certificate with you whenever you are on the water.

Laws by State

The National Association of Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) has a reference guide for information on the boating education requirements for each state. In North Carolina, PWC operators between 14 and 16 years of age are required to complete a boating education course if they want to operate on their own. Any person born on or after January 1, 1988 must successfully complete a NASBLA approved boating education course before operating any vessel propelled by a motor of 10 HP or greater. You can find links to the approved online boating courses for each state at website such as and

Boating License Course

Most boating license courses are administered by a third party and may have a course fee of $29 to $50 dollars. The state may charge an administrative fee as well. The BoatUS Foundation offers free boating license courses for 35 states, including North Carolina. The course covers boating basics and terminology, state boating regulations, navigation rules, how to enjoy watersports, and how to handle boating emergencies. 

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