How to Get Your Boating License

Three Parts:Finding a CoursePreparing for the ExamPassing the Exam

If you want to operate a boat or jet ski under the age of 18, you will need to obtain a boating license. Operating a boat or jet ski without a license under the age of 18 is illegal. In order to get a boating license you will need to find a course, take a class, and pass a test. If you make it through each stage, you will be able to obtain your license and enjoy boating legally and safely.

Part 1
Finding a Course

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    Look on a state level. Boat licensing is done on a state level and you will need to research your state's requirements. Every state will have some variance in the requirements that will need to be met. Try doing some research into your state's requirements to learn more about what you need to do to obtain your license.[1]
    • You can try looking at the DMV's website
    • Some states have exceptions for vessels without motors. You may not need to have a license or register something like a canoe or kayak.[2]
    • Other states may not require any licenses at all.[3]
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    Choose on-line or in person classes. Many states will offer both on-line and in person classes. Both types of classes will allow you to obtain your boating license in the same way. Picking the right learning environment for your needs can help you successfully get your boating license.
    • Online courses provide lectures and tests in the same way in-class lectures do.[4]
    • You can check for online classes at
    • Your state will have their own website for in-person classes.[5]
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    Be ready to pay the fees. In order to enroll in a boating license course, you will need to pay the course fee. The exact fee will vary between states. You will need to do some research into what the fee is for your own state or on-line course to learn more.
    • For example, New York state generally charges around $10.00 per course.[6]
    • Some online courses are $29.95 [7]
    • Some online courses only charge you when you pass the exam.[8]

Part 2
Preparing for the Exam

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    Learn boat safety. Parts of the boating exam will test how much you know about boating safety. These topics will allow you to demonstrate that you can keep your boat in working order, make sure you are prepared for emergencies, and ensure that you can operate your boat correctly. Expect some of these questions to appear on the test:[9]
    • Where should you place a fire extinguisher on your boat?
    • What should you do in case of a fire?
    • Which boats are most likely to capsize?
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    Learn the best boating practices. There are many rules and practices that you and other boaters should be aware of. These rules will help make sure everyone is kept safe while boating, preventing any needless accidents from occurring. You can expect to find questions like these on the exam:[10][11]
    • What should a power boat approaching a sail boat in darkness do?
    • Which direction does bad weather usually approach from?
    • What side of your boat should you pass red markers on?
    • What area is indicated by red and green buoys?
    • Which side of the boat is the port side?
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    Learn personal safety. Although boating is a lot of fun, it can also present some dangers. It's important that you know how to keep you and your friends safe while out on the water. You will likely see some questions that are similar to these on the test:[12]
    • What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?
    • What are the symptoms of hypothermia?
    • How can you help someone recover from hypothermia?
    • What is the H.E.L.P. position?

Part 3
Passing the Exam

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    Practice the test. Before you take your boating license test, it can be a good idea to get in some practice. There are a few options on-line that you can use to get a better understanding of what's on the test. Take some time to look over the practice exams to increase your chances of passing the exam.[13]
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    Study all material. When you sign up to take a boating license exam, you will likely be given material to study. This material is designed to educate you on the safe operation of boating vessels. Make sure you fully review all information delivered to you as part of your course to allow you to successfully pass the exam.
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    Take the exam. At the end of the course you will be given the final boating license examination. This test will gauge how well you have retained all information presented throughout the course. Passing the test will demonstrate that you are capable of safely operating a boating vessel and will grant you your boating license.[14]
    • The exam will ask you questions that assess how much you know about boats and boating.
    • For example, you may be asked which side is the port side of a boat.
    • You may also be asked questions regarding the proper treatment of hypothermia.
    • You should know what to do while boating in stormy weather.
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    Obtain your license. After you successfully pass your boating license exam and have paid any applicable fees, you will be allowed to obtain your license. This license will ensure that you are obeying the law, staying safe, and observing proper boating practices.
    • Your license will likely be a small card, similar to a driver's license.[15]
    • You need to carry your license or boating education card with you while boating.[16]


  • Check with your local state or government to learn more about the requirements.
  • Be ready to pay a fee to take the course and get your license.
  • Many states offer on-line boating courses, in addition to in-class courses.
  • There are practice exams available on-line.
  • Study all available material before taking your exam.
  • Not all states require you to have a boating license.
  • Some states won't require a license if you are using a non-motor driven boat.

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Categories: Driving Techniques