Even though a ham radio, also known as amateur radio is easy to operate, it still requires a license. A license that allows users to operate a ham radio isn’t all the same.
You have different classes you need to choose from. Follow our guide below to understand the difference.
The Levels of Licenses
As mentioned, there are different classes of radio licenses to choose from. We will break down each one for you to decide which is more suitable for your needs.
1. Technician Class License
The technician license allows all amateur privileges above 50 MHZ. Also, the technician license allows transmission of Morse code on some HF bands below 30 MHz.
2. General Class License
The general class license encompasses HF bands and lower frequencies, which is what is used for worldwide communication or to reach someone across the nation.
3. Extra License
The amateur extra class is the highest level for an amateur radio user. Expert Morse code operators use this license.
The Different Types of Classes
Now that you can see the general differences between classes, we will go more in-depth about which to take.
If you are a first-time amateur radio service user or just haven’t gotten around to certification yet, you should go for the technician license first. You cannot skip over this step and go straight to the extra license or general license.
However, if you have studied hard and feel that you are capable to ace the general license certification on the same day, you can do so without a fee.
As said, one would start with the technician class. Many people just obtain the FCC technician’s license and stick with it for a while. Depending on your needs, some may not find it necessary to get general or extra class certification.
If you want to upgrade to further communications, then you can move up in the license class. With a technician class license, you can operate radios such as ham radios, 10-meter radios, and others that run on the VHF/UHF bands.
A technician class license holder can also communicate around the world. They can operate on the HF bands as well but with much less power compared to the general class.
As you can see, if you intend on just operating your amateur radio in your country, a technician license class is more than enough.
Since you are moving up in FCC privileges, the general class license for amateur radio is a little harder. You get to operate on new additional frequencies and broadcast communications at a higher power output as well. We’re talking about up to 1,500 watts!
For emergency communications, one may need a general class license for more accessibility to HF bands.
Last but not least, you have the extra license. This provides you access to new segments on the HF bands.
Studying for the Exam
Just like with any other exam session, you need to study. How to get ham radio license is easy, but you must study for the exams because passing is a bit harder. In general, studying will take about 10 hours .
Attending a class with volunteer examiners is one of the best ways to study. Volunteer examiners might even give you tips on passing.
The first 2 tiers of the FCC amateur license (technician and general) will each have 35 questions. The amateur extra license will have 50. In order to pass, you must have at least 74% correct on the amateur radio service test.
We definitely suggest getting study materials as you can search for free resources online like the ARRL License Manual. ARRL resources can greatly increase your chances of passing the exams. You can also pay for premium materials and also enroll in an online class!
For online tests, some of them are interactive which can help some people retain information more easily. And of course, there are books available to help you pass your ham radio license test.
Certain licensing organizations may also offer apps you can study. These can be downloaded right into your phone! Just put in your hours, review things such as radio service codes etc, and when you pass your very own exam call sign will arrive via email or mail.
Ham Radio License FAQs
What Questions Will I See on the Amateur Ham Radio License Exam?
Just like a driver’s exam, it’s hard to know what exactly will be asked of you during your ham radio license exam. But as mentioned, search for the ARRL manual because it’s one thing you must study to increase chances of getting licensed.
Most if not all of the questions in exams are multiple-choice. Even if you are not sure about some of the answers, guessing can sometimes make you get a passing score.
Some common questions in FCC licensing exams include:
Which agency regulates and enforces the rules for the Amateur Radio Service in the United States?
When is an amateur station required to transmit its assigned call sign?
You will see these questions combined with many other ones about frequencies and more.
How to Take the Exam
Exam sessions for FCC radio licenses shouldn’t take too long since there are only 35-50 questions (depending on which ham radio license you opt for). You can choose to get your FCC ham radio license online or get it in person.
Remember to get your FCC Registration Number from the FCC website before you sign up for a test.
Search for local ham radio clubs if you choose to take the ham radio exam in person. Don’t worry if you can’t find a local ham radio service club or volunteer examiners for your exam sessions. You can always do the exams online!
Remote or online exam sessions are available from organizations such as the Greater Los Angeles Amateur Radio Club. Just visit their page or pages of other clubs to search for more information on how to register for the license exams.
How to Get a Ham Radio License
Finally, how do you get your ham radio license in your hands? You will know the good or bad news right on the day. If you pass, the volunteer examiners will hand you a signed document notifying you if you have passed the exams or not.
For those that started with the technician exam and want to try the general or even amateur extra license exam, you can move on to those after. Each ham radio station will have its own call sign. It comes with your official ham radio license that you will get through email.
You may not know when you get it, but it will be soon. However, that doesn’t mean you cannot start transmitting before them. You can start operating your ham radio for communications when your name appears in the database.
Once you get your license, you can use it for ten years.
Is the Ham Radio License Expensive?
The ham radio license is pretty affordable, especially since it lasts 10 years in the United States. Compared to something like a driver’s license, where most of us pay for classes as well, as long as you get the right materials you can get licensed.
Studying the right things and studying well also increase your chances of getting licensed, and the materials are often more expensive than the test itself.
The prices do go up depending on the organization if you decide to take the more advanced license exams.
Is it Hard to Get a Ham Radio?
We would say no. No official documents or prior experience is needed to get a ham radio license. You do need the right materials, put in around 10 hours of study time for the average person, and pay for your exam.
There are either 35-50 questions, which also shouldn’t take too much time out of your day. You will know if you passed right on the spot and receive your license shortly after. The process is quite straightforward and easy.
Regardless if you elementary amateur radios or any of our favorite ham radios, you need a license to operate it legally.
You can work your way up through the different levels depending on your needs, but it’s quite easy since the tests can be taken online.
Just make sure you get good study materials and wait for your certification to arrive.