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Virginia Boating Courses
Safety Education Requirements

Age and Education Requirements

To legally operate a vessel in Virginia, all persons older than the required minimum age (as outlined by the phase-in schedule) must successfully complete a boating safety education course approved by the Virginia  Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) and the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA).

On July 1, 2011, Virginia began its phase-in of the Education Compliance Requirement for all Virginia boaters. As of July 1, 2012 all PWC operators, regardless of age, and motorboat operators 30 years of age or younger are required to meet the boating education requirements by successfully completing a boating safety course before operating a vessel on Virginia waterways.

The phase in schedule will continue as follows:

  • Motorboat operators 40 years of age or younger shall meet the requirements by July 1, 2013.

  • Motorboat operators 45 years of age or younger shall meet the requirements by July 1, 2014.

  • Motorboat operators 50 years of age or younger shall meet the requirements by July 1, 2015.

  • All motorboat operators,regardless of age,shall meet the requirements by July 1, 2016.

  • Anyone who is able to take the exam is welcome to do so in Virginia. There is no minimum age requirement to take the boating safety course.


    The Boating Education Requirement is Waived for:

    • Boaters who have not yet reached the required age
    • Boaters who have passed a Virginia Challenge Exam
    • Non-residents who hold an approved Boater Education Card / Certificate from another 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.
    • Virginia'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 Virginia. 

    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 (link to this state's License Page in Lake Browser)

    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 Virginia, 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.