Curious about jet ski license rules near you? Check out our guide to see the requirements in your state.
Jet skiing is a fun activity that lots of people love to try. But did you ever consider that you might need a license?
If not, you’re not on your own as many people aren’t aware that there are licensing restrictions to jet skiing in the US.
There’s no need to be deterred by the need to get a license as in many cases, it’s exceedingly easy to obtain.
Take a look at this simple guide which explains the rules and how to get a jet ski license.
Do You Need a License for a Jet Ski?
Unfortunately, this isn’t a simple yes/no answer as the regulations vary from one state to another. In some places, a license for jet ski activity is compulsory while in others you can participate without any need to get a license first.
Your age can also determine the requirements for the license; in some cases, you may need to take a safety course first.
However, while it’s useful to understand the law in your own state, a jet ski license is always recommended. Even if your state allows jet skiers to hit the water without obtaining a license, it’s beneficial to get one anyway.
If you’re wondering why you would bother to get a license if you didn’t legally need one, you might want to consider this fact:
In 2012 almost a fifth of boating accidents were caused by jet skis, leading to 770 deaths.
Jet skis are also known as personal watercraft, and although they may look different to a boat, they are subject to the same laws.
Jet skis may be tiny compared to the large yachts and boats they share the water with, but they have the potential to cause real danger if not operated safely.
This potential for accidents and injuries to occur means that enforcement agencies are very vigilant while you’re on the water. If you’re not operating your jet ski safely you could find yourself getting unwanted attention.
Obtaining a jet ski license equips you with the knowledge to use a jet ski safely, without putting yourself, your passengers or other water-users at risk. The course includes information about the rules which govern waterways, as well as how to use your jet ski properly.
With more than 40 states now requiring a jet ski license, it makes sense to go ahead and get one, regardless of whether it’s mandatory.
Where to Get a License
If you’ve been researching how to get a jet ski license you may have felt somewhat confused by the terminology.
In some places, a jet ski license is called a jet ski safety course certificate while in other places it’s known as a jet ski driving license or PWC license.
All of these are the same thing, just different names.
The only course you’ll need to undertake to get your jet ski license is the boating safety course for your state which is NASBLA-approved. You won’t need to undertake anything extra, so don’t be fooled by any online sites which try to imply otherwise.
Each state has its own criteria that apply before you’re able to get a license. The main condition is age but some of these additional factors may also apply:
- Vessel type
- Length of vessel
- Driver’s license
- Extent of supervision for the license owner
Some states also have extra requirements that must be fulfilled. This could include a safety lanyard and the use of a life-jacket approved by the US Coastguard.
There may also be restrictions on the time of day that the jet ski may be used and who is allowed on the jet ski or towed behind it.
Flouting the requirements for your state is not recommended, and not just because it’s unsafe. If you’re caught disobeying the law you could be slapped with a heavy penalty or if you’re a repeat offender, forced to attend a safety course too.
If you’re still not convinced that a jet ski license is essential, you might want to check with your insurer. Some insurers insist on a jet ski license even if it’s not legally required in your state.
When you consider how easy it is to get a jet ski license there’s really no excuse for not obtaining one!
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How to Get a Jet Ski License
Once you’re ready to start applying for your jet ski license, you’ll need to know exactly what to do.
The good news is that it’s possible to apply for your license online, with a simple and easy process that walks you through each step.
Boat-Ed provide online courses for each state, with the content approved by the National Association of Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) and the US Coast Guard. This is the only site you’ll need to obtain the necessary license to use a jet ski.
To get started, choose your state on their website. This will then direct you to a list of courses; choose the one you want and complete your free registration.
Boat-Ed have developed both printed material and online safety courses that have been approved in over 40 states, plus Canada. The courses can be taken online and are compatible with all types of devices including smartphones, tablets, and laptops.
The curriculum for the license is deliberately designed to be easy, accessible and fun while still delivering the essential information. There are six separate sections to each course which breaks it down into bite-sized chunks. The learning is entirely flexible, allowing you to complete every section at your own pace.
Some of the subjects covered include boating emergencies, etiquette on the water, safe operation of vessels and legal requirements. After every section, there is a quiz that you’ll need to pass before you’re able to move on. If you fail, you can just go back and study the section again until you’re able to achieve the pass mark.
Once all the units in the course have been completed, there will be some final steps to complete. These vary from state to state but typically include a final exam that tests you on the whole course.
Completing the full course, including any final requirements for your state, is all that’s necessary to obtain the license. This will be mailed to you once you’re successful or in some cases, it can be printed out.
When you have your license, it’s not something you can just bury in a drawer and forget. Just like an auto-driving license, you’ll need to carry it on you at all times.
If you’re out on the water, an enforcement officer may ask to see your license. You should, therefore, keep your certificate with you, just in case sight is requested.
How to Get a Jet Ski License Online
Getting a PWC license online is pretty straightforward. These are the steps you’ll need to take:
- Sign up for a course on the Boat-Ed website. Each state has a unique course, specific to its legal requirements. Some are even free.
- Complete the course on your computer, tablet, or smartphone. You get unlimited exam attempts!
- Receive your boating certificate or card through the mail.
An important thing to note here is that the Boater Education Card proves that you have successfully completed a boat safety course. This never expires or needs to be renewed so it is therefore not able to be called a boating license. However, this is the “license” card that you’ll need to have with you on the water (in most states).
Even if your state doesn’t require a license, the knowledge gained in these courses is really helpful. It’ll also help lower your insurance fees.
Keep reading to find out more about the specific licensing requirements for Florida, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia.
Jet Ski License Florida
Florida doesn’t stipulate that everyone must have boater safety education, only those meeting the below criteria must apply:
- Participants who were born on or after January 1st, 1988
- Participants who will be operating an engine of 10hp or greater
More information about the jet ski regulations can be found at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FCW).
The process is particularly simple:
- Take the online course and pass all the units
- Print out your documentation as proof
This two-step process is all that’s needed to be able to take a jet ski out on the water in Florida.
The FWC stipulates that photo ID plus the Boating Safety Education ID card are carried at all times while on the water.
Anyone can take the safety course to qualify for a license. It’s not a requirement to be a resident of Florida to take the course. There is also no minimum requirement to pass the course, but the actual operation of the PWC may be subject to different regulations.
Jet Ski License Michigan
Not everyone in Michigan is required to undergo boating safety education to take a PWC onto the water. Those born after December 31st 1978 are required to undergo boater safety education. Individuals born on or before December 31st 1978 are able to ride PWCs without any restrictions.
There is no minimum age requirement to undertake the course. You also do not need to be a resident of Michigan to study the course.
The Department of Natural Resources is responsible for watercraft safety in Michigan. As well as approving the Boat-Ed online course, Michigan also offer a classroom-based course for those that prefer it.
No-one under the age of 14 is permitted to operate a PWC. Those aged over 14 but under 16 years old may only operate a PWC if they have obtained their safety certificate and are accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Jet Ski License NJ
In New Jersey, everyone is required to have passed boating education in order to operate motorized vessels on the water. In a few cases, individuals may also need to obtain a non-tidal boat license.
There are very specific rules around who can operate PWCs in New Jersey and at what age. Children who are aged under 13 may not operate PWCs anywhere on the water in NJ. Those aged between the ages of 13 and 16 years must pass the approved boater safety course. After doing so, they are permitted to operate motorized vessels which are 12” long or greater, with an electric engine sized 10hp or less.
Anyone who is aged 16 years or older is required to hold a boating education certificate.
To obtain the certification:
- Pass the online official Boat-Ed course
- Complete the additional requirements
You will be asked to present photo ID to be permitted to take the in-person exam.
The Department of Environmental Protection Compliance and Enforcement are responsible for monitoring and enforcing water safety. However, it is the Motor Vehicle Commission who hold responsibility for the issuing of licenses in NJ.
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Jet Ski License NY
The jet ski and boating regulations in New York are complex so they should be checked very carefully. At present, not everyone is required to obtain a license but this is about to change. A phased approach is being introduced that will ensure everyone will need to get a jet ski license by January 1st 2025.
At present, license requirements are as follow:
- Anyone born after January 1st 1993 – a safety certification will be needed by 2020
- Anyone born after January 1st 1988 – a safety certification will be needed by 2022
- Anyone born after January 1st 1983 – a safety certification will be needed by 2023
- Anyone born after January 1st 1978 – a safety certification will be needed by 2024
By 2025, everyone will be required to obtain safety certification to operate motorized watercraft.
You must be at least 10 years of age to take the online course, but you don’t need to be a resident of New York.
Any child under the age of 10 must be accompanied on a PWC by a rider who either does not require a license (at present) or who holds a license. Children must be at least 14 years old to operate a PWC in New York and have passed the safety licensing requirements.
Other than passing the test online, New York State licensing does not stipulate any additional safety requirements.
If you are in New York and don’t have a boaters license, you should check out my article on the best New York Jet Ski Rentals.
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Jet Ski License Pennsylvania (PA)
A PA jet ski license is required by everyone; there are no exceptions in Pennsylvania. This means that anyone who wants to use a PWC on a stretch of water in Pennsylvania must first obtain safety certification.
Children who are aged under 11 years old can not operate a PWC under any circumstances. Those aged from 12-15 years of age cannot operate a PWC if they are carrying any passengers 15 years old or younger.
Anyone who is visiting Pennsylvania from another state can qualify for an exception to the safety requirements if they were born on or after January 1st 1982. They must hold a boater safety certificate from their home state and they must be on the water in Pennsylvania for 60 days or less.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission is responsible for licensing and monitoring activity in PA.
In addition to the state laws, some smaller bodies of water in PA may have restrictions about the size of motor permitted. Anyone operating a more powerful PWCs may need to double check before taking their vessel onto the water.
To qualify for the boater safety certificate in Pennsylvania, only the online course is required. There are no additional checks which must be carried out.
Jet Ski License Texas
The state of Texas does not presently insist that all PWC operators pass a safety certificate. Those who were born on or after September 1st 1993 must hold a jet ski license in order to be allowed to operate a PWC in Texas. Those born before that date are not required to undergo safety training.
Children aged under 13 may operate a PWC in very restricted circumstances:
- They are supervised by someone who is at least 18 years of age
- The individual supervising must be aboard the PWC as soon as it starts to move
- The individual supervising must be legally entitled to operate a PWC
There are additional requirements for the use of PWCs in Texas. In addition to complying with all regulations relating to general motorboat use, PWC operators must:
- Everyone on the PWC must be wearing a lifejacket which is approved by the USCG
- Attach the kill switch from the PWC to their clothing (if the PWC has a kill switch)
In addition, inflatable lifejackets must not be worn onboard a PWC as they are not approved for use. Texas Parks and Wildlife are responsible for regulation and their website contains a comprehensive list of regulations that apply to the use of PWCs.
Jet Ski License Virginia
With effect from July 1st 2016, all PWC operators must pass a boater safety education course. Individuals who are aged under 14 years of age are not permitted to operate a PWC. Operators aged 14 or 15 years of age will be required to provide proof that they have completed their license.
Although children younger than 14 cannot operate a PWC there is nothing to prevent them passing the safety education. The state-approved course does not have a minimum age, nor do you have to be a resident of Virginia.
Regulations and certification for the licensing is monitored by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF).
There are additional safety requirements for Virginia which are the same as those for Texas, namely, a USCG-approved life jacket must be worn and the kill switch for the PWC must be attached to the operator’s clothing. Inflatable life jackets are not permitted.
In addition, PWCs must not be operated at any time between sunset and sunrise. The DGIF website has a full list of the restrictions and regulations which apply to the use of PWCs in Virginia.
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Staying Safe While Having Fun
PWCs can provide exhilarating fun while on the water but safety at all times is imperative. Obtaining a license before operating a PWC is highly recommended, even if the state regulation doesn’t insist on it. An increasing number of states are beginning to introduce mandatory training and you may find even if it’s not compulsory now, that may change in the near future.
Getting a jet ski license in the US is easy and convenient, courtesy of the online training, so why not get your boater safety certificate wherever you are?