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How to Apply For a Boating License in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania requires a Boater Safety Education Certificate for boaters, and not a boating license. The regulatory authority for the certificate is the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. The card is mandatory for all boat operators born after January 1, 1982 and operating a boat with 25 hp or more. Those operating a personal Watercraft must have a Boating Safety Education Certificate regardless of age.

There is a restriction on the age of boat operators. If you are 11 years of age or younger, you are not allowed to operate a boat.

The boating laws of the state require that the person operating a boat should not be under the influence of intoxicants. The legal limit of the blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08% and if arrested for a higher BAC, harsh penalties may be imposed on the operator, based on the severity of the offense as well as the previous number of such convictions.


The following persons are exempt from the above requirements:

  • Certain residents of other states, persons operating unpowered boats and others that the commission may exempt.
  • People operating vessels on private waters.
  • People operating powerboats less than 25 hp.


To obtain the Boating Safety Education Certificate, you must complete a boater education course approved by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission or pass an approved equivalency test.
In an approved course, students learn how to operate and maintain their boats, the legal requirements for boating, and what to do in emergencies. This ensures that boating remains a safe and fun experience.
There are various approved ways you can complete the course and obtain the card:

  1. Classroom options offered by the U.S Power Squadron, the U.S Coast Guard Auxiliary, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, and providers like Safe Boating America, America's Boating Classes and Nautical Know How.
    • You can call (888) 723-4741 to find out the course schedules and charges which vary from one county to another.
    • To pass the course, you must get 80% of the answers right on the exam administered at the end of the course.
  2. The Boater Education Card is either handed out at the end of class, or mailed to you within 45 days.
  3. Only the card issued after a classroom course is recognized in most other states, and by many insurance companies for insurance discounts.
  4. The card costs $10.
  5. Two approved online options offered by Boat Education and Boater Exam


  • These courses may take up to 3 hours to complete excluding the time of the exam.
  • Course materials are free. Some providers charge a fee for exams or the certificate: check providers' websites for details.
  • A temporary card may be printed after passing the online exam; the permanent card will be mailed to you.
  • The card costs $10.
  • The option of studying at home using approved course material, and passing a proctored exam. You can order the Boat Pennsylvania home-study, video-based Boating course. The Boat Pennsylvania website can be visited for more details. You can also call at (800) 830-2268 to order the course.


The certificate is in the form of a plastic card and is permanent. There is no need to renew it.


To replace a card, complete the duplicate certificate application form and along with a replacement fee of $5, send it to the PA Fish and Boat Commission at:

PA Fish and Boat Commission
Bureau of Boating and Education
PO Box 67000
Harrisburg, PA 17106-7000    
Applications are processes within 6 weeks.    


  • While liability insurance is not mandatory for boating in Pennsylvania, it is a good idea to have liability insurance to tide over troubles if you or someone operating your boat is involved in a boating accident.
  • Read the PA Boating Handbook for complete information.
  • See how to register your boat in Pennsylvania.
  • Check the contact information of Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

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