Do You Need A Jet Ski License? (Step-By-Step Guide)

During the boating season, a lot of people become interested in driving Personal watercraft like jet skis. You are also probably excited to drive a jet ski this season for the first time.

You must have a Jet Ski license to drive a jet ski in most of the states in the USA. Some states may allow you to drive any kind of PWCs without a license. Moreover, there are some differences in requirements based on the states you are going for Jet Ski.   


In many states, it is mandatory to have a Jet Ski license. On the other hand, some states do not require any license for jet skiing. You can take your personal jet skis in those states to drive without any license. 

In the last decade, many PWC accidents happened because of inexperienced Jet Ski drivers. Therefore, the state governments have become strict about issuing Jet Ski licenses for PWCs. Most of these states grant licenses considering the age and education of the rider related to jet skiing.  

So, you have to fit the age requirement and complete safety courses to get a Jet Ski license. As the qualification for driving jet skis are different based on where you are, you should check the requirements of different states for a Jet Ski license. 

In your state, you may not need a license to drive a jet ski. But you should still get a jet ski license because it will be useful in case you go out of your state for jet skiing. Besides, you have to take a safety course to get a license. This training course on watercraft driving will help you ensure your and your passenger’s safety. 


Some of these requirements are:

  • Safety cable 
  • Life jacket (Coast Guard approved)
  • Jet skiing Limited time of a day
  • Passenger age and qualifications

So, you must maintain these requirements no matter in which state you choose for jet skiing. Not all states require a Jet Ski license, but they will surely want to see these requirements fulfilled by a Jet Ski rider. 


Do You Need A License To Own A Jet Ski? 

People, who decide to get a jet ski for the first time, often ask if they need a Jet Ski driving license before buying a jet ski. If you also want to know, the answer is no. You do not need a Jet Ski driving license to own a jet ski. 

It is similar to owning a car. You do not need a license to keep it on your property. But you should not drive your jet ski in public water space without a license if your state does not allow it. Using a jet ski without permission will result in punishment. 


Do You Need A License To Rent A Jet Ski?

You must have a Jet Ski license to borrow a jet ski from the rentals. These PWC and Jet Ski rentals have some of their own rules. You have to fulfil those requirements as well. 

Even if you do not need a license in your state to drive a Jet Ski, you need a license to rent a Jet Ski from any Jet Ski rental shop. They will need a guarantee that you can drive a jet ski and will not damage their assets. Therefore, they are quite strict about it. 

However, many rental shops provide temporary certificates to legal aged Jet Ski riders on site. So, if you have the legal age to drive a jet ski in the state, you can get a temporary certificate from the rental services. But, you have to prove your competency to get a rented jet ski. 


How Can You Get A Jet Ski License?

You should know that there is no separate license for jet skis in the USA. You actually need a regular boating license to drive a jet ski. So, if you want to drive a jet ski, you have to pass a boating safety course approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators.

As I have mentioned, different states have different requirements for issuing PWC licenses. However, most of the states consider the following facts: 

  • The type of your watercraft
  • Vehicle length 
  • Driving License 
  • Driver and passenger age 
  • Experience
  • Approved boating safety course

You have to mention all this information in your application for a boating license or Jet Ski license. Since there is no separate category for Jet Ski license, you have to apply for a PWC driving license. 

To apply for a PWC driving license, you need: 

  • A copy of your identity card
  • Proof of passing boat safety courses or PWC license test
  • The payment for the boating license 
  • A PDF of the Application form

After that, you have to submit these documents to the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators approved service center to get your boating license. You may also have to prove your Jet Ski driving skills by facing some test drives. 

Getting a Jet Ski license can cost you $30 to $70. The fee depends on the state you are applying from to get the license. It also depends on the duration of the PWC license. The duration of a license can be one to 10 years. 


What Is A Boating Safety Course?

A boating safety course is a course or program approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators. This course is for people who want to learn about operating various watercraft. It is also required to get a boating license in many states.

As you can see, you will not get a boating license without taking boating courses first. These courses ensure that you have the proper knowledge of using a PWC safely.

You will learn how to drive a jet ski in real-life situations from these courses. Find a NASBLA approved boating course in your state because about 40 states of the USA have educational requirements for a Boating License.  

People often argue that jet skis are not as big as boats or other types of PWCs. So, why do they need to take the same boat safety courses for the license? The answer is simple, small or not, a jet ski is also a watercraft. Hence, it falls under the same rule. Moreover, inexperienced and young Jet Ski drivers cause more accidents.

Therefore, taking a boating safety course is mandatory in most of the states. There are also age requirements to enroll in boating safety courses which also vary from state to state. Some states even approved 12 years olds to get enrolled in a boating safety course. 

Young people under 18 can also obtain a PWC driving license, but there are also some conditions. They have to be supervised by a licensed adult supervisor. Again, it depends on the state regulations. 


What to Expect From a Boating Safety Course? 

So, you are probably wondering why taking a boating safety course is necessary and what you can learn about jet skiing from this course? 

First of all, you will learn the basic concepts of operating a boat. The courses will start with introducing you to the different parts of various water vehicles. The instructors will teach some definitions and terminologies. Then, you will learn about boat engines and their power systems.  

The training program must cover navigation rules besides teaching how to start and operate a watercraft. Thus, you can also learn how to drive a jet ski from these courses. Many courses arrange training in realistic situations to help learners with some critical moves. 

Teaching boating safety is the most important part of the boating safety course. To keep yourself and passengers safe, you have to take some safety measures. You will get helpful tips and advice from the instructors about staying safe in the vehicle. 

You may face various problems like changes in the weather, fault in the vehicle, or passenger-related problems. The training course will teach you how to handle unwanted situations. 

Since the training course focuses on different types of watercraft, it will also teach you the basics of driving and riding a jet ski with or without passengers.

Thus, completing a boating safety course is proof that you are capable of driving any kind of PWCs. The majority of states put a lot of emphasis on training courses even if you are riding as a passenger on boats or water jets.  

After you finish the required class hours of the boating safety course, you may have to prove your boating skill through tests and examinations. Once you pass the course, you can apply for the PWC driving license. 

Although some states do not require any boating safety courses or licenses for PWCs, you should complete the course for your own benefit. You will not only learn about the basics of driving a jet ski, but you will also learn about managing difficult situations. 


Can You Get a Jet Ski License Online?

Fortunately, you do not have to go to the service centers to apply for a Jet Ski license. You can easily submit your application forms and documents online. And you can get your license sent to you.

Besides, sometimes it is not possible to attend physical classes of boating safety courses in your area. You may have a full-time job, or the training center can be far from your location. You do not have to worry about these situations either because you will find great online boating safety courses. 

So, here is how you can apply for a Jet Ski license online without any problem:  

Step 1: Choose a State

First, you have to go to the service center website for a boating license. Then, you have to select your state and sign up with your information. The service is free, so you do not have to spend money. On the website, you will find the boating safety licenses courses and online boating safety courses. 

Step 2: Taking Online Courses

Yes, it is possible to take online courses. These courses are really interesting and educative. The curriculum is designed in such a way that you can access it with your computer, tablet, or smartphone quite easily. This way, you can learn about boat safety and security. 

Step 3: Getting the Boating License

Similar to physical boating license safety courses, you must pass the tests of online courses. You may even have to go for a test drive of a jet ski to show what you have learned from the course. After you successfully complete all the topics of the training course, upload the information for the online application. Finally, you just have to wait for your license. 

Your boating driving license will be sent to you via mail. You will also get a soft copy which you can show from your phone if necessary.  



Jet Ski License Requirements In Different States

Now that you have learned about the general concepts of getting a Jet Ski license, you may also want to know about the different rules and regulations of some major states regarding PWC licenses. 

Alaska and Arizona 

In these states, it is not mediatory to have a boating education to operate a jet ski. However, it is strongly advised to attend boater safety courses as you can use them to get a Jet Ski license for other states. Besides, the boating license helps you to get boat insurance. 

There are some boat safety courses in Alaska and Arizona that you can choose to get your license. Online classes are also available. Moreover, there is no age requirement to take the classes. So, whether you are 12 or 22, it does not matter. You can take boat safety courses.

But in Arizona, children under 12 years cannot operate a water vehicle having more than 8 HP. Thus, they cannot drive a Jet Ski without the supervision of an experienced Jet Ski operator.

You must fulfill the requirements to use a jet ski. In Alaska, all water vehicles must carry life jackets for all the passengers. An adult Jet Ski driver may be allowed to skip the life jacket, but an underage passenger must wear a life jacket. 


California has one of the best jet skiing sites in the USA. In January 2018, California announced that all boats and PWC drivers must have California Boater Card while staying in the water. To get your card, you have to take a boater safety course. You have to be a minimum of 12 years old to enrol in the course.

You have to be 16 years old to operate a jet ski without any supervision. And the engine power must not be over 15 HP. 12 to 15 years olds can drive a Jet Ski under the supervision of an experienced Jet Ski operator. Both have to carry their Boater Card. 


Colorado is a bit strict about all motorboats and PWCs. The state allows 14 years and above to operate a jet ski. However, people under 16 cannot drive a jet ski unless they complete a boating safety course. They also have to carry a boater education card with them on board so that they can show the cards upon request. 

Furthermore, children under 16 have to take boating safety courses in a classroom setting. They cannot get a boating safety card through online courses. But 16 years olds are allowed to take online courses. 


Like California, Florida is also one of the most popular states for jet-skiing. The locations and weather of Florida are perfect for water sports. However, accidents related to jet skiing also happened in California and Florida. So, the state government of Florida set an age requirement for getting PWC driving licenses. Also, people who are born in 1988 or after must take a boater safety course and get a boater education card to drive a motorboat having more than 10hp. 

Moreover, PWC owners have to be at least 14 years old to operate. So, if you are born after 1988, you must carry a boating card with you when you go jet skiing anywhere in Florida. You must carry the boating safety education ID card and your photo ID when you are driving a motor vehicle. 


If you are born after 1998, you must have a boater education card to drive any motorboats like jet skis. For that, you also have to pass a boater safety course approved by the state.  

Twelve years old and above can take boating safety courses. Although 12 years are allowed to drive a jet ski, they should not be operating without the guidance of an adult jet skier. 

New York

Passing a boating safety course is a must to drive a jet ski in New York. Only 14 years and above can take boating safety courses for operating a personally owned jet ski. After completing the course, you have to pass the test to get your boater card. Ten years old children can also take boating safety courses for other boats having low engine power. 

Children under 14 years are not legally allowed to drive jet skis in New York. If people above 14 years old do not have a boating license or boating card, they must be under the supervision of someone who has a license. 

North Carolina 

You need a boat license to operate a jet ski in North Carolina. Children less than 14 years are not allowed to drive any kind of PWCs. Teenagers from 14 to 16 years old can drive a jet ski when they are accompanied by a certified adult. You cannot get a boating license without passing a NASBLA approved course.


If you are a resident of Texas, you have to be born in 1993 or after to get permission to drive a jet ski. Teenagers who are 16 years and above can drive a motorboat over 15 hp. Without a boater license, you cannot operate a jet ski. 

So, you have to take a boating safety course. You must be at least 13 years old to get admitted into the training course. After passing the course, you can apply for a boating license. While you are jet-skiing you must carry your boater education card with you. 


In Washington, you have to take a boater safety course to obtain your boating license. Without a boating license, you cannot drive a jet ski. The legal age for driving a jet ski is 14 years. You also have to be 14 years old to get into a NASBLA approved course. 

However, some online courses do not have any age limits. Now, if you are renting a jet ski, you have to be 16 years old. The boating license card should be with you when you ride your jet ski. 


Can You Drive A Jet Ski Without A License and Boating Course? 

There are few states that allow jet skiing without a license. If you are in states like Alaska and Idaho, you do not even need a boating course to drive a jet ski.

However, the NASBLA always advises people of every state to take boating safety courses because it is surely useful to operate any kind of watercraft. As many people still ignore the advice, many states like South Carolina have also changed rules and regulations and made it mandatory to have a boater education card for PWC owners. 

If your state does not allow you to drive a jet ski because of your age, you can travel to a different state where your age is legal to enjoy jet skiing. 

For example, you are 15 and living in California, where the age requirement is 16 to operate a jet ski. So, you can travel to any jet skiing location in Florida to enjoy jet skiing. Jet skiing in Florida also requires a boating license, and you can take an online course in Florida for getting a Jet Ski operating license. 



Punishment For Driving A Jet Ski Without License

So, what if someone is caught operating a jet ski without a driving license? The person will be punished according to state law. So, you should not attempt to operate a jet ski without a boating license. 

If you are in a state where a boating license or card is compulsory, you have to carry it with you when you go for jet skiing. The coast guard or police may show you the license anytime. So, if you fail to show the license you will be fined. 

If a Jet Ski rider drives a jet ski without any license multiple times, the punishment will become severe. The law may force you to take a boating safety course and charge you more. In some states, your acts can cause you to lose your jet ski. 

Now, you may think what happens when the kids drive a jet ski without a license? When a child breaks the law, the parents have to pay the fine. Again, if any rental shop rents a jet ski to some without proof of license, they will also be punished. 

Therefore, it is better to get a boating license to drive your jet ski. Many people do not like to waste their time in boating safety classes and so they try to drive a jet ski without a license. But, you should understand that the boating safety course is worth your time. 

The tips and instructions are useful for everyone. The course will get you a certificate which is necessary to apply for Jet Ski insurance. 



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