How to Get a Boating License

By Andy Whitcomb

Jul 03, 2018

Depending on your state, you may need a boating license, registration, or such.

What constitutes a boating license, how it relates to boat registration, and how to get a boating license depends on your state.  My son just got his driver’s license permit, so my current state is “anxiety.” Seriously folks, the best way to try to fathom the necessary boat paperwork is to go to your state’s website that handles boat registration

Ignorance of your state’s boating laws won’t make a good defense if there are any issues along those lines. Before you load the boat on the trailer and head to the lake, study the information and make sure you know exactly how to get a boaters license and that you are jumping through all of the proper hoops. Some states issue a boater safety education certificate, while others offer a boater education card instead of a boaters’ license.

A boater safety course is a good idea for beginning boaters and contains good reminders for everyone else because boating laws can change. Study guides and practice exams may be available online from state agencies. When investigating how to get a boating license you may find that a boating license test is available online but again, requirements vary by state. For example, TMF contributor, Tom Keer, shared that “as of January 1, 2018, California boating laws require people over the age of 16 to have a boater safety card.  And if you're between the ages of 12-15 years of age you'll be required to have adult supervision by someone 18 years or older.”  He also shared that 70% of boat accidents in 2017 were operator error.  By explaining rules of navigation, how to safely tow a trailer and launch, etc. a safety course helps you, and everyone else, stay safer on the water.

Whatever the training and testing, some sort of official proof showing that you know how to get your boating license needs to be aboard the vessel.  All of the required information will be available once you start the process of registering or renewing your boat registration.  Without going overboard, just a little stern planning and boating research should help take the stress out of what ultimately is one of the best stress-reducing activities.

Andy Whitcomb
Andy Whitcomb
Andy is an outdoor writer ( and stressed-out Dad has contributed over 380 blogs to since 2011. Born in Florida, but raised on banks of Oklahoma farm ponds, he now chases pike, smallmouth bass, and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After earning a B.S. in Zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, Iowa State, and Michigan State.