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PA Boating Handbook
Minimum Age of Operation / Mandatory Boating Education

The following age restrictions and boating education requirements apply to the operation of motorboats.


PWCAll PWC (personal watercraft) operators, regardless of age, must have a Boating Safety Education Certificate.

  • Persons 11 years of age or younger may NOT operate.
  • Persons 12 through 15 years of age may NOT operate with any passengers on board 15 years of age or younger, or rent a PWC.
0-25hp 0-25 hp boatNone
Greater than 25hp
  • Persons 11 years of age or younger may NOT operate.
  • Greater than 25 hp boatPersons born on or after January 1, 1982, may not operate unless they have obtained and have in possession a Boating Safety Education Certificate.

Boating safety education is important, even for experienced boaters. Knowledgeable boaters are safer boaters. Boating courses are fun for the entire family and are offered at many locations throughout the state and in your own home. Safe boating education provides the groundwork for safe recreational boating and should be considered only as an introduction to safe boating practices. Boating regulations and conditions can be expected to change, therefore, PFBC encourages boaters to take additional boating safety courses through organizations such as the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, U.S. Power Squadrons, American Sailing Association, U.S. Sailing Association, American Red Cross and American Canoe Association.


Boaters who successfully complete a PFBC-approved boating course are issued a Pennsylvania Boating Safety Education Certificate, valid for a lifetime of boating safety.

Boating Safety Education Certificates are required:

  • To operate a personal watercraft
  • For persons born on or after January 1, 1982, to operate boats powered by motors greater than 25 horsepower.

Approved permanent Boating Safety Education Certificates for Pennsylvania residents must be issued by the PFBC. Out of state boaters must have a certificate issued for a course approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA).

Certificate Cards

Boating Safety Education CertificateThe PFBC-issued Boating Safety Education Certificate is a durable, waterproof plastic card. The card has a hole in it to make it handy to attach to your life jacket, boat keys or the lanyard on your PWC.

  • If you already have your Pennsylvania Boating Safety Education Certificate from PFBC and you are applying for a duplicate or replacement card, you can get a new one for $5 each. To obtain one (or more) download an application from our website. Fill out the application and send it to the PFBC with your fee.

  • If you do NOT have a Pennsylvania Boating Safety Education Certificate, but you have earned a certificate from the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, U.S. Power Squadrons or another approved course, you must mail to the PFBC the original certificate issued to you for successfully completing that course. If you want your original certificate returned, please include a self-addressed, stamped envelope. The cost for your new, permanent Pennsylvania Boating Safety Education Certificate is $10.

Classroom Courses and Distance Learning

Approved classroom boating courses are available from PFBC, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, U.S. Power Squadron and several other approved course providers. In addition, PFBC has several approved Internet and distance-learning courses. Information on these providers and their courses is available on the PFBC website. In some cases, there are fees for these courses in addition to the permanent Boating Safety Education Certificate fee of $10.

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