Everything You Need to Know About Rhode Island Boating Licenses

Get the scoop on whether you need a boating license — and how to get one — in the Ocean State.

Whether you enjoy coastal living year-round, have a summer home here, or are visiting on vacation, there’s nothing like getting out on the open water in Rhode Island. It’s one of the best ways to explore the area, and there’s always a new adventure to be had.

We recently brought you our insider’s guide to the area’s best boating destinations, and in addition to some great feedback on the outings, we’ve received several questions about boating licenses in Rhode Island. It’s important to know what’s required and expected before setting out on a boating escape.

That’s why we’re here to give you the 411 on RI boating licenses, including if and why you need one, what it takes to secure one, and how long the process typically takes.

Do You Need a License to Drive a Boat in Rhode Island?

While there is no official RI boating license, boating safety education is required for all Rhode Island residents driving a boat.

There is a mandatory in-state boating education certification requirement that came into effect back in 2002. As the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management’s (RI DEM) official rule states, “Anyone born after January 1, 1986, who operates a vessel with a motor that exceeds 10-horse power” must be certified and pass an in-person Boating Safety Challenge exam. They will then receive an official RI Boater Education Card which must be carried at all times, much like a driver’s license.

Note that the rules are a bit different for out-of-state boaters, who are exempt from having to complete Rhode Island’s boating safety education requirements as long as they meet the requirements of their home state.

What It Takes to Get a Rhode Island Boating Certification

Boaters seeking RI certification can expect formal coursework followed by an in-person exam before receiving the RI Boater Education Card.

First, you must complete coursework through a National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA)-certified provider. The provider must be state-approved, and classes are available both in-person and online. To receive proper credit, it’s your responsibility to make sure it is state-approved and NASBLA-certified, and that the teacher is also certified, before taking a course. NASBLA is considered the standard in recreational boating safety across the country.

Whether you’re looking for classroom courses, online boating safety courses, or to take the Boating Safety Challenge Exam, the RI DEM website offers an official list of resources here. Boat Ed is another respected resource for Rhode Island boater certification questions and online classes at no cost. (Boating certification classes are free!)

How Long it Typically Takes to Get a Boating License in Rhode Island

Great question! It’s actually up to your schedule, pace, and preferences. According to Boat Ed, it’s possible to finish their coursework in just a few days or less. Many other options include eight hours of classroom training that is completed in a single day.

Once coursework is completed, you can schedule your own in-person boating exam, which also comes at no cost to participants. Exams are available by appointment and results are typically available within a week. After successfully passing the exam, you can expect to receive your permanent Certificate of Boating Safety Education by mail.

Once you’re certified, there is no need to renew unless you lose or need replacement documents. So get through these three quick and easy steps (boating coursework, in-person exam, and receiving your certification documents), and get out on the water.



Hogan Associates is an independent Rhode Island brokerage founded by Leslie Hogan and Matt Hadfield, two of Rhode Island’s most experienced agents, each with a strong track record of success in the Greater Newport real estate market. Hogan Associates’ 36 sales agents work on behalf of buyers and sellers of fine properties in the coastal communities of southern RI. The firm has offices in Newport and Middletown and is a member of Who’s Who in Luxury Real Estate, an elite broker network with more than 130,000 sales professionals located in approximately 880 offices in 70 countries and territories. In 2020 & 2021 Hogan Associates received Newport Life Magazine’s Best of Newport County award. For more information, visit HoganRI.com.


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