Getting Your LicenseTo legally operate any Amateur radio, you must be licensed through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and this is achieved through a testing process managed by Volunteer Examiners (VEs).
Why should I get licensed?
Before operating a radio on the Amateur bands (frequency ranges) you need to learn the proper operating and safety procedures along with demonstrating a basic knowledge of electronics and radio theory. Safety procedures are important when operating radios that can transmit. To get on the air, you need to be licensed and know the rules to operate legally. In the US licenses issued by the FCC (Federal Communication Commission) are good for 10 years before renewal and anyone may hold one except a representative of a foreign government. In the US, there are three license levels Technician Class, General Class and Extra Class. .
Learning Morse Code is no longer required to get your license but is still a part of the hobby that many people enjoy.
Technician Class License
- This is the entry level Amateur Radio license
- Exam Requirement: 35-question Technician Written Exam (Element 2).
- Privileges: All VHF/UHF Amateur bands (frequencies above 30 MHz). Limited operations in certain HF bands.
General Class License
- Exam Requirements: 35-question General written exam (Element 3).
- License Privileges: All VHF/UHF Amateur bands and most HF privileges (10 through 160 meters)
Extra Class License
- Exam Requirement: 50-question Extra written exam (Element 4).
- License Privileges: All Amateur band privileges.
I have to take a test?Before you freak-out yes, you need to take an exam to get your license but the good news is the tests are short and all the questions and answers are publicly available for study.
Traditionally local Amateur Radio clubs offered specific classes which were a very time consuming and labor intensive for students and instructors alike. This process involved the development of curriculum, securing of classrooms and weekly meetings that occurred for several weeks.
With the internet a single instructor can focus on a topic, create a video and teach thousands of students at any time of day from almost any device. If a student is having a hard time with a concept, they can search the internet and find dozens of sources to explain the details. A recent search on the topic "Ohm's Law" resulted in 2,480,000 hits including 203,000 videos. There are now multiple resources and materials available for exam preparation that can be chosen based on your individual learning style.
Since the test questions are publicly available there are multiple practice test sites available for free on the internet. These practice sites let you practice on real questions and focus on the areas that may be difficult for each individual.
Here are some websites that we know well to help get you started on learning.
To get yourself started visit the Getting Licensed page at the ARRL which is a National Association for AMATEUR RADIO. http://www.arrl.org/getting-licensed
Study materials for amateur radio exams
Free Online Study course with a nominal fee cell phone app can be found here
For a self-paced online course that doesn't cost a lot (~$25) but really learn the material you can check out HamTestOnline.
Practice exams and information can be found here
Find an Amateur Radio License Exam in Your Area
Search the ARRL test session database for test locations near you: http://www.arrl.org/find-an-amateur-radio-license-exam-session
OPTIMIZE YOUR SEARCH: Less information entered in the search fields will return more information in the list. The more specific the search criteria, the less information returned. Zip Code searches can use the mileage range in the drop-down menu.
Be sure to bring Valid ID (driver's license), a basic calculator, if needed, and $15.00 cash to take the exam. Candidates who pass their test may then be given the next exam element at no additional charge. If a candidate retakes an exam element, an additional $15.00 is charged.
Federal Registration Number
The Volunteer Exam Coordinator (VEC) submits test results electronically to ARRL. In order to submit test results electronically candidates need to register for a Federal Registration Number (FRN) with the COmission REgistration System (CORES) and receive your FRN before sitting for your exam to ensure your new license is processed quickly and easily through the FCC’s ULS (Universal Licensing System).
To conduct business with the FCC, you must register through FCC CORES and be assigned an FRN. This number will be used to uniquely identify you in all transactions with the FCC.
View the FCC web page New Users guide to ULS for step-by-step instructions on the registration process or the Commission Registration System Video Tutorials page for videos that help guide CORES users through a variety of situations.
Local ARRL Test SessionFor information on monthly test sessions in the Stafford area reach out to K4TER@arrl.net .
Volunteer Examiner (VE) KI4JVE (Harry) supporting a test session at the Sherrif's substation