Your State's Boating Education Requirements

By Amanda Suttles Perez

Be sure you know what they are before you leave the dock.

Illustrated US map of state requirements for boater education coursesClick image to enlarge.

When were you born? Do you operate a PWC? Do you have a sailboat greater than 14 feet in length? What horsepower is your engine? These questions sound random, but they play a part in figuring out whether you meet your state's boating requirements, or if you need to take a course. Education requirements vary greatly by state, and the potential for confusion is high. That's a big reason why the BoatUS Foundation is committed to keeping boating safety education free and accessible. With the help of donations from BoatUS members, we have educated nearly 1 million boaters through our free online boating safety course. To help make sense of the different state laws, we've put together a map to display the various education requirements, as well as some of the course options you'll have from state to state.

Our free online boating safety course is currently approved to meet the state education requirements of 33 states and D.C. A handful of states allow us to offer a free course for their boaters, but still require in-person classes or exams. You can also use our online course locator to find a classroom course in your area. The state boating laws can be confusing. If we can help explain the requirements, give us a call at 1-800-245-2628, or visit 

State Age Requirements For Boater Education Courses

StateCourse Required For Boaters
ArkansasBorn on or after 1/86
ColoradoAges 14 and 15
DelawareBorn on or after 1/78
FloridaBorn on or after 1/88
GeorgiaBorn on or after 1/98 (effective 7/14)
HawaiiAll PWCs (All boaters, effective 11/14)
IllinoisAges 12-18 & all PWCs
IndianaUnder age 15
IowaAges 12-17
KansasAges 12-20
KentuckyAges 12-17
LouisianaBorn after 1/84
MaineAges 16-18 & all PWCs
MarylandBorn on or after 7/72
MassachusettsAges 12-15
MichiganBorn on or after 7/96 & PWCs after 1/79
MinnesotaAges 12-17 & PWCs 14-17
MississippiBorn on or after 7/80
MissouriBorn on or after 1/84
MontanaAges 13-14
NebraskaBorn on or after 1/86
NevadaBorn on or after 1/83
New MexicoBorn on or after 1/89
New York*Ages 10-17 & all PWCs
North CarolinaUnder 26
North DakotaAges 12-15
OhioBorn on or after 1/82
OklahomaPower ages 12-16 & Sailboats over 14'
PennsylvaniaBorn on or after 1/82 & all PWCs
Rhode IslandBorn on or after 1/86 & all PWCs
South CarolinaUnder age 16
TennesseeBorn on or after 1/89
TexasBorn on or after 9/93 & Sailboats over 14'
UtahAges 12-17 & all PWCs
VermontBorn on or after 1/74
Virginia**Boaters and PWCs under 41
WashingtonBorn on or after 1/55 (effective 1/14)
West VirginiaBorn on or after 1/87
WisconsinBorn on or after 1/89
Education requirements can also vary by horsepower rating. Below are the states that require education to operate a vessel with engines more than:
8.5 HP - TN
10 HP - FL, IA, KY, LA, MT, NC, ND, OH, OK, and RI
15 HP - NV, SC, TX, and WA
25 HP - MN, NH, and PA
* Course required for all operators in Suffolk County
** By 7/16, all Virginia operators must complete a course.

The BoatUS Foundation, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization devoted to implementing projects that keep boaters safer and our environment protected, is independently funded by donations from BoatUS Members and by grants.

— Published: October/November 2013

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