4 Boat License Tips: How and Where to Get What You Need

By Ken Schultz

Jun 28, 2018

Completion of a boating course is required in many states to operate motorboats; these boat license tips will help you find and take such a course.

A boating license is different from a boat registration, and but in many states you need to have both. The latter is an annual obligation, like registering a motor vehicle. The former is a one-time requirement.

It's not difficult to understand how to get your boating license. To obtain such a license you must take a boating safety course, also known as a boating safety education course or simply “boating course,” and there are many boating license tips you can find online. After taking the boating course, you’ll receive a document (aka “license”) attesting to having completed the course. This may be required to operate a motorized boat, and/or to register a motorboat, in your home state. In some states, this course is only required for youthful operators (ages 12 to 20).

Even if the course is not required because of your age or state of residence, it’s beneficial to take it to be better educated about boating safety matters, etiquette, navigational rules, local laws, and related topics. Here’s information about the benefits of such a course, which is often free, or has a nominal fee.

Boat license tips to Get Your Boating License

Completion of a boating course is required in many states to operate motorboats; these boat license tips will help you find and take such a course.

  1. Find out what’s required to operate a motorboat in your state.
  2. See what your state accepts as a valid course. Generally, this is a course approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) and recognized by the U. S. Coast Guard.
  3. See if the state offers/requires its own course.
  4. Check if approved courses can be taken online (usually for a fee), or are administered locally. Where I live there’s a lot of boating, and two local U. S. Coast Guard Auxiliaries offer state-approved courses several times a year.

Where to get your boating license

While it doesn’t matter to authorities how to get your boating license, consider taking a locally-given course in person. The administrator will undoubtedly be familiar with local navigational issues, traffic patterns, and peculiarities, which you wouldn’t learn about via an online course. Also, the interaction with fellow local boaters, and the questions or issues they raise, can be enlightening. Boat license tips, as well as local navigation tips, may prove very helpful. Learn where to get your boating license in you state.

Ken Schultz
Ken Schultz
Ken Schultz was a longtime staff writer for Field & Stream magazine and is the former Fishing Editor of ESPNoutdoors.com. He’s written and photographed nineteen books on sportfishing topics, plus an annual fishing tips calendar, and his writing has appeared on various websites for more than two decades. His author website is kenschultz.com