About Boating Safely

Learn from the best—the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary

Boater's License, Age, and Education Requirements for Boat and PWC Operators

Every state has its own boating rules, laws and regulations, and requirements for obtaining either a boaters license or safety certification card. You can read about your state's boating license or boater education card requirements by following the links below.

How do I get my boating license?

You may have heard that you need a Boat License to operate your boat, but what you really need is a Boater Education Certificate. You can get a Boater Education Certificate by taking a Boat License Safety course at boat-ed.com. Click on your state below to find out if you need the card.


Select your state below:


Regardless of your state's boat license or education requirements, boating safety courses are a great investment of time and money.

Equipment and Operating Requirements—Federal and State Boating Regulations and Laws

The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) is responsible for federal laws, equipment requirements, and safety recommendations for recreational boats. In addition to federal laws and requirements, the owner and/or operator of a recreational boat may be required to comply with additional regulations specific to the state in which the boat is registered or operated. State laws vary. A boat in compliance with the laws of the state of registration may not meet the requirements of another state where operated.

The Federal Requirements and Safety Tips for Recreational Boats pamphlet may be obtained from the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or your state boating law agency. Also obtain a copy of your state’s boating laws handbook to stay up to date with your state’s boating laws and to learn about local regulations. Many state boat safety handbooks are available online.

It is the boat operator’s responsibility, even when renting a boat, to see that his or her boat carries at least a minimum of safety equipment and complies with federal and state regulations for such things as numbering and operation. The Vessel Safety Check Program offers free safety checks to boaters who wish to be sure that their boats meet all federal and state requirements.The Vessel Examiners who perform these checks are specially trained United States Coast Guard Auxiliarists who are kept informed on the latest legal requirements for boaters, including boating licenses and operating age and education requirements.

Read more about the boat safety courses adopted by the U.S. Coat Guard Auxiliary!