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North Carolina Boating Courses
Safety Education Requirements

Age and Education Requirements

North Carolina state law requires all boaters under the age of 26 to successfully complete a NASBLA approved boating education course before operating any vessel propelled by a motor of 10 HP or greater. (G.S. 75A-16.2)

There is no minimum age requirement for who can take the course. However, no one under 14 can legally operate a personal watercraft regardless of having passed the course.

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) Boater Education Program teaches the fundamentals of safe and responsible boating. You can complete the course in two ways: take a six (6) hour classroom course which is preferred or take the course online.


The Boating Education Requirement is Waived for:

  • Those who possess a U.S. Coast Guard operator's license,
  • Those who hold a temporary operator's certificate,
  • Anyone who is 26 years old or older,
  • Those who pass an equivalency exam,
  • Non-residents under 26 who possess a valid boater's education certificate from their home state.

We strongly advise all boaters of all ages to take boating safety courses throughout their years of boating.

The Course

You can find many boaters’ education classes online. It's important that the course you choose meets the minimum standards set by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA).

These standards include but are not limited to:

  • Getting to Know Your Boat: Understanding Boat Capacities and Registration Requirements
  • Boat Safety Equipment: Personal Flotation Devices, Lighting, Distress Signals, Fire Extinguishers, etc.
  • Trip Planning and Preparation: Preventative Maintenance, Checking Hazards, Filing a Float Plan
  • The Marine Environment: Pollution Laws and Ways to Protect our Waterways
  • Safe Boat Operation: Operator Responsibilities, Navigation Rules and Aids,
  • Emergency Preparedness: Rendering Assistance, Handling Emergencies, Legal Responsibilities
  • Other Water Activities: Water Skiing, Fishing, Hunting etc.
  • North Carolina's Boating Laws

Six to 13 lessons / units comprise most of the online boating courses. At the end of each lesson, a quiz is given. You must pass the quiz with a minimum score of 70% before going to the next unit.

You can also take the course in a classroom setting. Click Here for a current schedule of classes offered in North Carolina.

You must pass a final exam with a score of 80% or higher to receive the required boater's safety certificate.

Once you’ve successfully completed the Boating Safety Education Exam you must get your Certificate. To find out how click Vessel Operator's Certificate.

Continuing Education

As a boat operator you have a responsibility to keep up-to-date with new boating laws and safety information. In addition to knowing the changes in North Carolina, you must also be aware of the rules in the states where you plan on boating. A data base of all courses approved by NASBLA can be found here.

Skills-based and/or advanced courses involving navigation, piloting, etc., are also available.