Amateur Radio Licensing
Where do I start?
Amateur Radio is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under the Communications Act of 1934. It is also subject to numerous international agreements. All Amateur Radio operators must be licensed. In the U.S. there are three license classes. Each successive level of license comes with an expansion of privileges. Your entry into Amateur Radio begins with a Technician Class License.
Earning each license requires passing an examination. Although regulated by the FCC, license exams are given by volunteer groups of Amateur Radio operators. Operating under organizations called Volunteer Examiner Coordinators, volunteers administer and grade tests and report results to the FCC, which then issues the license. U.S. licenses are good for 10 years before renewal, and anyone may hold one except a representative of a foreign government.
What Amateur Radio licenses are available?
Technician Class License You can get an entry level Amateur Radio Technician license by passing a 35-question multiple-choice examination. No Morse code test is required. The exam covers basic regulations, operating practices, and electronics theory, with a focus on VHF and UHF applications.
Technician Class operators are authorized to use all amateur VHF and UHF frequencies (all frequencies above 50 MHz). Technicians also may operate on the 80, 40, and 15 meter HF bands using Morse code, and on the 10 meter band using Morse code, voice, and digital modes. No Morse code test is required.
General Class License The General Class license offers a giant step up in operating privileges. The high-power HF privileges granted to General licensees allow for cross-country and worldwide communication.
Technicians may upgrade to General by passing a 35-question multiple-choice examination. The written exam covers intermediate regulations, operating practices, and electronics theory, with a focus on HF applications. You must successfully pass the Technician exam to be eligible to sit for the General class exam. No Morse code test is required.
In addition to the Technician privileges, General Class operators are authorized to operate on any frequency in the 160, 30, 17, 12, and 10 meter bands. They may also use significant segments of the 80, 40, 20, and 15 meter bands.
Amateur Extra Class License The HF bands can be awfully crowded, particularly at the top of the solar cycle. Once you earn HF privileges, you may quickly yearn for more room. The Extra Class license is the answer. Extra Class licensees are authorized to operate on all frequencies allocated to the Amateur Service.
General licensees may upgrade to Extra Class by passing a 50-question multiple-choice examination. No Morse code test is required. In addition to some of the more obscure regulations, the test covers specialized operating practices, advanced electronics theory, and radio equipment design.
How do I prepare for the license exam?Many publishers, including the ARRL, offer books, courses and computer software to facilitate self-study for the Amateur Radio licenses.
Members of our local ham clubs in town often offer courses to prepare for amateur licenses.
The type of material may depend upon how you best learn. ARRL (under Licensing, Education and Training) offers manuals which are excellent study guides, taking each section of study separately with follow-up questions from the actual question pool for that section. In addition the complete question pool is included in each manual. For Technician the book is entitled, "Ham Radio License Manual". They also offer courses with included CDs for use with your computer. Gordon West also produces a set of very good study guides for each license.
In addition there are several practice tests on the internet in which questions from each section are chosen randomly. These are best used as practice for the exam after studying the material from separate textbooks. Also, this writer adds that it is best to use more than one of these sites in your practice. The sites include:
Online license courses (commercial site):
Provided below are links to the question pools currently used for each exam in pdf format.
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