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By - Craig Mullins

How to Get Your Amateur Ham Radio License

Want to know how to get your ham radio license? Look no further than this extensive guide.

Have you ever wondered what it takes to get your ham radio license?

How To Get Your Ham Radio License
How To Get Your Ham Radio License

Have you wondered how you will communicate with others if there is a natural disaster and cell phone and land lines go down?

Or have you just thought it would be cool to get your ham license so you can get a vanity plate with your license number on it?

If you have looked into it in the past but were deterred because of the requirement to know Morse Code? If so, it’s time to look again! The requirement has been dropped for getting a ham radio license in the U.S.

Just think, the next time you are out glamping or just hanging out by your RV with your fishing pole in the water, you’ll be able to turn on your ham radio and chit-chat with other operators in your locale.

What Does Ham Radio Stand For?

Ham radio gets its name from the first three people who operated ham radios with the Harvard Radio Club back in 1908. Their names were Albert Hyman, Bob Almy, and Poogie Murray.

After using various combinations of their names as their stations call sign, their name was eventually shortened to just HAM. The name HAM was then used to describe all amateur radio operators during a congressional debate on a wireless regulation bill.

What is Ham Radio?

Ham radios are radio stations that are operated by amateurs who are licensed through the Federal Communications Commission.

The Technician class license allows ham radio operators to broadcast over all VHF/UHF amateur bands with a frequency above 30 MHz. General class includes HF privileges within 10 through 100 meters. Amateur Extra class includes all amateur band privileges.

Ham Radio License Classifications

Although there used to be six classifications for licenses, there are now only three. They are the Technician License, General License, and the Amateur Extra License.

The first license everyone gets is the Technician License. You have to have this license to get the General License, and you have to have the General License to get the Extra License.

Requirements for Passing Each Test

To become a ham radio operator, only the Technician License is required.

However, you may choose to take the additional tests if you want to have access to more bandwidths and to communicate worldwide.

Many operators find the Technician license meets most of their needs.

Requirements for the Technician License

The requirements for getting the Technician license is simply:

  • Apply for and pass a 35 multiple-choice written test (and get at least 26 correct)

The questions that appear on the Technical License exam are taken from a pool of about 400 questions.

Requirements for the General Class License

To obtain your General Class license you will need to apply for and pass a 35 multiple choice exam (and get at least 26 correct).

The pool for the General Class questions is about 500 questions.

Requirements for the Amateur Extra Class License

To obtain your Amateur Extra Class license, you will need to apply for and pass a 50 multiple choice exam (and get at least 37 correct).

The pool for the General Class questions is about 700 questions.

How to Study for Your Ham Radio Test

On average, it takes about 10 hours of study time to pass the Technician license exam.

There are several ways to study for your ham radio test.

  • Study from books
  • Take an online study course
  • Study online free by taking practice test questions (which may not have all the questions)
  • Download an app and study anywhere you want

The average study time for the General and Extra licenses are 20 and 30 hours, respectively.

Where to Take Your Test

To take your exam, you will need to find a place where you can take your test in person. Note, if you do not find a place within your exact zip code, try searching by just your city or state.

You will need to bring your legal photo ID (or two other forms of identification), your social security number, number 2 pencils with erasers, a pen, and cash or check to pay for your test fee.

You Can Take All Three License Exams on the Same Day

It is important to note that you can take all three exam licenses on the same day, provided you pass each test in order.

This means there is no time requirement for having one license before you can take the exam for the next one.

If you intend to get all three licenses, this is a good way to save money since most VEC test administrators charge by the day, not by the test.

How to Apply via the FCC Website

Once you’ve passed your test, your test administrator will forward your information to the FCC so they can issue your license. They can do this online or by sending it through the mail.

If they file your information electronically, your license should be valid within 48 hours. If they mail it, however, it may take up to two weeks.

You are not authorized to transmit until the FCC issues your license.

To confirm that your license has been issued, you can confirm this via the FCC website.

To do this, you first need to register with them to get a registration number.

Once you have registered, you can log in and confirm that your license grant information appears on the Universal Licensing System.

How Much Are Does It Cost to Get Your License?

Ham radio license costs break down are follows:

  • Free to approximately $50 for study materials (depending on the option you take)
  • $15 for the in-person test fee
  • Your license cost is free

Your license will be valid for ten years before you will need to renew it.

Take Steps to Get Your License Today

If you start today, you can have your license in a relatively short time.

Then, once you get your ham radio license and your ham radio, you’ll be able to use them wherever you are. At your house, on the road, and off the beaten track.

No matter where you go, having a bit of your own personal protection along with being able to communicate with others using your ham license will go a long way towards keeping you safe, everywhere!

If you have more questions about becoming a ham radio operator, feel free to contact me for more information.