Boat Licenses for Kids: Nationwide standards make boating safer for all

by Richard Issa, staff reporter

     As kids grow up parents can expect certain questions from them such as the infamous, “Can I get my license?” question. In addition to that very common question parents with boats also get to hear, “Can I take out the boat alone?” But, before anyone starts throwing their son or daughter the keys to the boat, parents should review boating laws about age and course requirements

     There are thirty states in the US that require boaters of a certain age to take a boating safety course before they are allowed to operate vessels or personal watercrafts (PWC’s). Although there are states that don’t require people to take the safety courses, people should check their own states laws to be sure that they comply with age limits and hours of activity.  

     Many states require a NASBLA-approved boater’s safety course. The NASBLA, National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, is a highly respected boating organization, “dedicated to reducing boating accidents, saving lives and helping to make safe and enjoyable boating a reality on our nation's waterways.” That is why most states will approve an NASBLA exam if they do not have their own boating safety and competence exam.

     As an example, Florida law requires that persons under the age of 21 must have completed a NASBLA boater education course or competency exam prior to operating a vessel powered by a motor of 10 horsepower or more. The law also requires that the boater have in their possession a boater safety identification card issued by the Department of Environmental Protection and photo identification while operating a vessel. There are some exemptions to the law for:

·         Persons licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard as a master of a vessel.

·         Persons operating on a private lake or pond.

·         Persons accompanied in a vessel by a person exempt.

·         Persons who are nonresident and have proof of completion of a NASBLA approved course from another state and are visiting the state for 60 days or less in an out-of-state boat.

     For individual state regulations, click here: 

     The Coast Guard Auxiliary and the US Power Squadrons provide the boating course necessary to meet this requirement at no cost to the public. Classes are offered all over Florida by the Coast Guard Auxiliary or other organizations that provide the NASBLA boater education course. But for those who think they have enough boating experience to pass the final exam for certification without taking the course, there is an alternative online. There are several web sites such as  and  that give an online final exam that can be used for the certification. A person can take the test online and then send their tests usually to the online sites where they were taken. Within two to three weeks a Boating Safety Education ID is sent. The I.D. can also be used to lower boat insurance rates with certain companies.

     There are points to consider when choosing between taking an online course or a classroom course. A quick fix online may not truly substitute the classroom experience a person can get with an instructor. Also, an online class cannot teach boaters about the local marine community and give trouble shooting tips and information about boats, equipment and the water that only people with experience would know. Therefore, the online course can be seen as a substituting time for quality.

     Anyone needing to take any safety course as a requirement for a criminal violation, noncriminal infraction resulting in a boating accident or two noncriminal infractions should know that no online or correspondence safety course is accepted. A classroom course is the only way to fill the requirement by law. Also after the course offenders must file proof of completion of the course to the FWC within 90 days of completion. Until this requirement is met, the violator's privilege to operate a vessel in Florida is suspended.

With their kids safely abiding state laws, parents can feel confident that they won’t get into some unnecessary trouble while out on the water. Their kids come out of boating safety courses better prepared for the water knowing about navigation, boat and equipment repair and maintenance, along with safety tips and laws. While parents feel safe, kids get the experience of getting their drivers license, only this time for the family boat.

Free Course and Test 

Individual State Regulations on Boating 

     Every person convicted of a criminal violation, noncriminal infraction resulting in a boating accident or two noncriminal infractions within a 12-month period are required to attend, and successfully complete a boating safety course that meets the minimum standards established by the commission. They must file with the commission within 90days proof of successful completion of the course. Until these requirements are met, they must refrain from operating a vessel. Any person who operates a vessel in violation of these provisions is guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree. Please contact any of the classroom course provider's below/ to locate a course near you.

Florida law (327.731, F.S.) requires that anyone convicted of:

·         a criminal boating violation or ...

  • a non-criminal boating infraction which resulted in a boating accident or ...

·         two non-criminal boating infractions within a twelve month period

must enroll in, attend, and successfully complete a classroom boating safety course, and file proof of completion of the course to the FWC within 90 days of completion. Until this requirement is met, the violator's privilege to operate a vessel in Florida is suspended. A violation of this is a second degree misdemeanor. This law requires attendance of a classroom course. Correspondence or online course completion is not acceptable for meeting the course requirement for violators.





 Contact Information

  Boat-Ed Online


  Boat US


  Nautical Know How



  Classroom Courses



 Contact Information

 Boater 101

South of St. Lucie County on the Atlantic coastline; excluding the Keys






Chapman School of Seamanship

Martin and Palm Beach

(561) 283-8130

International Jet Boat Safety Association


(561) 655-5152

FL. Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission


Please contact your local FWC office for class date. (Click here) to see a list of the office.

Marine Resources Center


(904) 398-0140.

  Marine Resource Institute

Miami-Dade County

(305) 947-0010

  Safe Boating Institute




(United States Coast Guard Auxiliary)


1-800-336-2628 or


(United States Power Squadron)





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