Your guide to finding and performing a boat license test

In many states, boaters must complete a boat safety course to operate a motorized ship. At the end of the course you will take and pass an exam, receive a certificate (a / k / a “license”) and have proof that you are qualified to operate a boat. Often referred to as a boat license test or boat license exam, it is well worth doing even if you are not required to, as it will keep you informed about boat safety, navigation, etiquette, local laws, and related topics.

The boat license test has nothing to do with registering your boat, which is a separate obligation. However, some states require you to provide proof that you have completed the course in order to register your boat. If approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) and recognized by the U.S. Coast Guard, the course is good for life and entitles you to operate a motorized boat elsewhere, even if you move to another state.

Learn more about a boat license test

  • First of all, find out what it takes to operate a motor boat in the country where you live. In some states, only young operators are required to take the course.
  • Second, see what your state accepts as a valid rate. In general, this is a course approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) and recognized by the U.S. Coast Guard.
  • Third, check to see if the state is offering its own course and / or requiring you to take it.
  • If the option is there, you can search for approved courses that can be taken online (usually for a fee) or managed locally. Your government agency will inform you about acceptable online courses.
  • In many locations, state-approved, face-to-face courses are offered several times a year by local US Coast Guard relief chapters as well as some major outdoor supply retailers. A fee can be charged for this.

Online or in person?

Taking an online boat license test is popular with those with busy schedules and a good, reliable internet connection (as it takes hours to complete the boat safety course before the test). This can be done in your timetable as you wish. This is especially useful when you’re in a hurry and can’t wait to attend a locally set course, some of which require multiple days or evenings to be attended.

However, attending a locally given course has some advantages. The course administrator adapts some of the content to local navigation problems and specifics that you would not learn about in an online course. And there’s a good chance you’ll learn something valuable from other participants. Try to find one that can be completed in one sitting rather than several days.

If you go fishing while boating, make sure you have a fishing license so that you are done with the certificate.


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