Can You Get Your Boating License Online?

There’s nothing quite like being out on the open water. This is especially true during warm summer months when the water is the perfect temperature for escaping the sweltering summer heat. But before taking the helm of your beloved boat, you’re going to need a boating license. At least, that is, if you live in a state that requires one. And if you don’t have a boating license? You may be wondering whether or not you can get one online. Fortunately, we’ve got the answer for you.

Men in a powerboat on the Intracoastal Waterway at Edisto
Men in a powerboat on the Intracoastal Waterway at Edisto Island in South Carolina, USA. | Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images

What states require a boating license?

As it turns out, not every state requires that you have a boating license when operating a boat. While some states require you to take a boater education course before hitting the open waters, other states, Arizona included, don’t require anything at all. That’s right. According to Boat-Ed, Arizona does not require boating education. But if you want to save on insurance? Taking a boating education course is suggested. 

But what about your specific state? If you don’t live in Arizona, what then? Well, according to Overton’s, that’s where things can get a tad more confusing. That’s why, before buying a boat and exploring the waters, we recommend researching your state’s requirements specifically. Overton’s reports that you should also check whether the waters you’ll be exploring fall under federal rather than state jurisdiction. 

“Each state in the USA has different laws regarding boating licenses and boater safety education. Not only that, there are waters in some states that fall under federal jurisdiction rather than state jurisdiction — which means that the laws governing those waters may differ.”


Are boating licenses good from state to state?

Fortunately, there is some good news to be had. While boating licenses may vary state to state, boat-ed reports that if you’ve completed a boating education course approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA), your boater education card is valid in every state that requires mandatory boater education. 

That means, whether you get your boating license in Connecticut or Kentucky and find yourself traveling across the country, you can count on your boating license being valid. According to boat-ed, you can thank NASBLA for this too. “NASBLA represents the recreational boating authorities of all 50 states and the U.S. territories,” boat-ed explains. “And one of the organization’s jobs is to maintain national boating education standards to make sure you’re learning the most important information to stay safe.”

A boat on the water during sunset
A boat on the water during sunset. | Vladimir SmirnovTASS via Getty Images

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How to get your boating license online

The even better news? It’s possible to get your boating license entirely online. That’s right. No sitting in a dingy classroom for you! Instead, you can kick back from the comfort of your own home to take a boater education course online. According to NASBLA, there are several approved online boater education courses too. 

As for what taking an online boating education course will look like? Discover Boating reports most online courses are broken down into sections, each of which ends with a review-like exam. Most courses can be completed in one sitting, although according to Discover Boating, you can complete a chapter or two at a time, log off, and finish the course later. Discover Boating reports that you can expect most courses to cover boating basics and terminology, navigation rules, state boating regulations, and how to handle boating emergencies too.