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Do I need a Boating license in Virginia?

Mandatory Boater Education

In Virginia, all motorboat operators with a 10 hp motor or greater, regardless of age


All PWC (personal watercraft e.g. a Jet ski, Sea Doo) operators need to take a boating safety course.

A person shall be considered in compliance with the requirement for boating safety education if he/she meets one or more of the following provisions:

  • Passes an equivalency/challenge exam;
  • Possesses or once possessed a valid license to operate a vessel issued to maritime personnel by the United States Coast Guard
  • Possesses a marine certificate issued by the Canadian government or possesses a Canadian Pleasure Craft Operator's Card;
  • Possesses a temporary operator's certificate as indicated on new boat registration;
  • Possesses a rental or lease agreement and training documentation as issued by a motorboat rental or leasing business;
  • Operates the motorboat under onboard direct supervision of a person who meets the compliance requirement;
  • Operates a boat not registered in Virginia, temporarily using the waters of Virginia for a period not to exceed 90 days, and meets any applicable boating safety education requirements of the state of residency;
  • Has assumed operation of the motorboat due to the illness or physical impairment of the initial operator, and is returning the motorboat to shore in order to provide assistance or care for the operator;
  • Is or once was registered as a commercial fisherman pursuant to the Code of Virginia or is under the onboard direct supervision of the commercial fisherman while operating the commercial fisherman's boat.
  • Provides documentation that he is serving or has qualified as a surface warfare officer or enlisted surface warfare specialist in the United States Navy.
  • Provides documentation that he is serving or has qualified as an Officer of the Deck Underway, boat coxswain, boat officer, boat operator, watercraft operator, or Marine Deck Officer in any branch of the Armed Forces of the United States, United States Coast Guard, or Merchant Marine.

The boater must carry proof of competency on board at all times.

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