Boater Education Requirements in Alabama

Under the Roberson/Archer Act of 1944, any person operating a motorized boat on Alabama waters must obtain an Alabama Boater Safety Certification—this includes the operators of personal watercraft operators (PWCs).

Boat operators are required to carry their Alabama Boater Safety Certification, also called a boating license, on board with them during boat operation and they must have the certification available for law enforcement to inspect, if they request to do so.

How to Obtain an Alabama Boating License

You must be 12 years of age or older in order to obtain Boater Safety Certification in the state of Alabama. To obtain certification, you must do the following:

  • Visit the Department of Public Safety Driver’s License Examining Office in their county of residence.
  • Submit an application and pay a $5 fee.
  • Show photo identification to the license examiner.
  • Answer medical questions.
  • Successfully complete a written or oral exam, or provide proof of exemption (i.e. a Boating Safety Course Certificate, or age exemption).
  • Provide the proper documentation to the Probate or License Commissioners office in order to have the ‘V’ Class placed on their drivers license (those without a drivers license will be issued a ‘Vessel Only’ license).

Boater safety certifications can be cancelled, revoked or suspended if a person is found operating a boat while under the influence, or operating a boat in a careless or reckless manner.


  • Operators of sailboats, rowboats and canoes.
  • A person who has a valid USCG Motorboat operator’s license.
  • An operator born prior to April 28th, 1994.
  • A person who has just purchased a boat is able to operate the boat without certification for up to 30 days after the date of sale, so long as the boat is registered in their name and they are carrying the bill of sale on board.
  • A person operating a rented boat that has been provided with instruction on the safe operation of the boat by the rental company (the person’s operating privileges must not have been revoked or suspended).
  • A person who has obtained a valid certificate of completion of a United States Power Squadron Boating Course or a USCG Auxiliary Boating Course. Either of these fulfills the boating safety certification requirements.

Alabama’s Age and Horsepower Restrictions

It is illegal for any person under 12 years of age to operate a motorized boat (including personal watercraft (PWCs), at any time.

Any person 14 years of age or older may operate any boat (including a PWC) without supervision so long as they have obtained their Boater Safety Certification and are carrying the certification during operation.

Supervision Requirements

Any person aged 12-13 may obtain their Boater Safety Certification and may operate a boat after the certification has been obtained, however they must be supervised during operation. The supervisor must 21 years of age or older, have obtained their Boater Safety Certification, and they must be seated in a position to take immediate control of the boat, if required.

Alabama’s Reciprocity Regulations for Non-Residents

Non-residents that are 12-13 years of age, may operate a boat on Alabama waters if they are supervised by a person on board who:

  • Is 21 years of age or older.
  • Is in a position to take control of the boat immediately, if need be.
  • Has obtained their Alabama Boater Safety Certification (unless the supervisor is also a non-resident, in which case they are not required to have their certification, unless they are operating in Alabama for more than 45 days per calendar year).

Non-residents 14 years of age or older may legally operate a boat on Alabama’s waterways for up to 45 days per year, after which time they are required to obtain their Boater Safety Certification. This can include Alabama non-resident certification or certification from the operator’s home state.