If you are interested in amateur radios, start your ham education today. With the increase of emergencies like natural disasters, earning your ham radio license, which allows you to transmit, has the potential to be lifesaving.
With only an entry-level license, the owner has access to enough ham radio frequencies that they can communicate over amateur radios throughout North America. After completing the first exam, you will be on your way to empowering your hobby and your safety.
What Are the Advantages?
There are several advantages to having a ham radio license; ranging from the ability to transmit as a hobbyist to bolstering your resume, it can be beneficial to a variety of individuals. As a licensed beginner amateur radio user, you can transmit, not just listen, over ham radio frequencies above 30 MHz. With a higher license, there is even more accessibility.
Amateur radios can transmit without internet or connection to cell towers. This advantage can be important while in an emergency or while exploring the outdoors in a sparsely populated area.
Accessibility to clear and quick communication is a must in emergencies; therefore, becoming a licensed ham radio operator can be beneficial to emergency personnel like volunteer firefighters, natural disaster relief workers, and more. Moreover, it can strengthen a resume for someone applying to jobs related to emergency work like a park ranger or EMT.
Even if it is not a job requirement, having a ham radio license can show maturity, knowledge, and preparedness for emergencies. A ham radio license at any level has several advantages for a variety of users.
What are the Types of Licenses?
There are three types of ham radio licenses—Technician Class, General Class, and Amateur Extra. The types are treated as levels with Technician being the lowest and Amateur Extra the highest; none of the levels have a minimum age requirement and the licenses are valid for 10 years before renewal.
The Technician license (Level 1)
The Technician license is the first level of ham radio licenses. The exam covers basic regulations, operating practices, and electronics theory in 35 questions. On average, most local radio clubs offer the exam for $15. If you pass, you can take the next level exam, General license, the same day at no extra charge.
What the license includes:
- Basic regulations, focusing on VHF (very high frequency) and UHF (ultra-high frquency) applications
- All ham radio operations above 30 MHz
- Great for hand-held radios
- Operate on certain HF frequencies
- Operate on 80, 40, and 15-meter bands with CW
The General license (Level 2)
The General license exam is available to an amateur radio user once you earn the Technician license. The General license exam is 35 questions and can be taken the same day as the Technician license exam free of charge.
What the license includes:
- All VHF and UHF amateur bands
- Most HF frequencies (10-160 meters)
- Operate the majority of the amateur spectrum below 30 MHz
- Nationwide and worldwide communication
The Amateur Extra license (Level 3)
The Amateur Extra license is the highest-level amateur radio license offered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). To earn this level license, you need to already have both the Technician and General ham radio licenses.
After earning those qualifications, a 50-question written exam is taken. This exam covers specialized operating practices, advanced electronics theory, and radio equipment design; moreover, there is no Morse code knowledge required. On average, this exam will also cost about $15 unless taken the same day as the Technician and General license tests.
What the license includes:
- Access to all amateur service frequencies
- Can communicate all over the world (primarily with or in Europe)
- More operating modes
Each amateur radio license type offers its perks. It is recommended that before attending the initial Technician license exam, determine what level you are looking to earn that day so you can be prepared and financially efficient.
How to Prepare for the Ham Radio License Test
Preparing for an exam can feel overwhelming. The internet can help study, but it can also provide an overload of information leading to confusion. Thankfully, there is a simple option—Ham Radio Prep.
Studying using practice tests and online courses is a great option to staying on track to earn your ham radio license.
A common way for people to prepare for any exam is by taking practice versions. Ham Radio Prep offers 35-question practice exams that are exactly like the real test produced by the Federal Communications Commission.
If you are someone that learns best by playing puzzle games, Ham Radio Prep also offers flashcards and matching games. In addition to studying on your own, another option for preparing for your ham radio license exam is enrolling in an online class.
If you are someone who prefers learning through video, Ham Radio Prep’s online classes may be a great option for you. Through their program, 10 unique videos are given to you as a student and can be viewed on any device.
Where to Take the Ham Radio Test
Amateur radio license tests are proctored by Volunteer Exam Coordinators (VEC). The test can currently be taken in person or remotely (dependent on your local VECs). If taken online, you will need a webcam to be able to work over a Zoom meeting call. If you do not have a webcam, in-person testing remains an option.
If you choose to take the exam in person, it will still be administered by a VEC approved by the FCC. If able to, taking the exam in person will allow you to connect with local amateur radio enthusiasts. To explore your options, visit the ARRL (The National Association for Amateur Radio); plug in your zip code to find local clubs.
Earning a ham radio license is a great step for Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT), hobbyists (Marine, aircraft, hunters, etc.), and people looking for reliable communication in the event of an emergency.
Whether it’s taking the first step and earning a Technician’s license or all of them, Ham Radio Prep is a great place to ensure you will be walking away from each exam with a new license.