How To Get Your Amateur Radio License (Be a Ham)

First, you’re just like everyone that ever started with amateur radio! Don’t worry about your skills or lack thereof. No one was born knowing this information. You can get your license with a few easy steps.

Licensing

First, you will need to pass a test to get your Technician license. We encourage you to keep studying and get your General license. The study material between these two tests is very similar, and once you get your General license, you will have access to all of the capabilities of amateur radio. There is an Amateur Extra license, but it really doesn’t gain you many usable privileges, it’s more for bragging rights, and you can work on that later in your career.

Online Studying

There are tons of study materials available online. These sites are our favorites for studying the questions and taking practice tests to gauge your abilities.

Typically, when you’re getting 82% or higher on the practice exams, you’re ready to take your test. Study to pass the test. You will gain knowledge as you start to operate. An amateur radio license is a license to learn. Think of these tests like a driver’s license. The day you passed your driver’s test, you started to learn how to drive.

Video Training

YouTube has many good videos. Local Technician classes are available online at https://w5nor.org/tech/. Other videos include David Casler KE0OG’s page at http://dcasler.com/ham-radio/training/ and the Ham Radio Crash Course. David has classes for the General License (https://dcasler.com/ham-radio/general/) and the Amateur Extra license (https://dcasler.com/ham-radio/extra/), too.

Test Sessions

In Oklahoma, we have many test sessions scheduled throughout the month, detailed at http://ok.arrl.org/test/. The 10-year FCC license costs $35. The Technician and General tests consist of 35 multiple-choice questions (out of a total pool of about 400), and you must get at least 26 questions correct. (Miss 9, you’re doing fine. Miss 10, and you’re doing it again.) The Amateur Extra test has 50 multiple-choice questions (out of a total pool of about 400.)

ARRL National Membership

The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) is the national association for amateur radio. They have a lot of great information, send out lots of good magazines, and emails, and work hard to save our radio spectrum. Their annual membership costs only $49, and you can join online at https://www.arrl.org/join-arrl-renew-membership/.

Costs

  • Study Materials – The online materials above are free and will get you licensed. There are many books and study guides that you can buy, and they are all effective. It is a matter of personal preference based on how you learn best.
  • License Test Fees – Testing fees range from $0 to $15.
  • FCC License Fees – The FCC provides 10-year amateur radio licenses for $35.
  • Radio, antennas, and all the rest – You can start with a $25 handheld radio and then expand from there. Just like any hobby, what you spend depends on your interests. You can buy pieces and parts as you progress through your activities. Much of the equipment is available second-hand, and you can build antennas and radios.

Summary

There is a TON of stuff to do in amateur radio. Finding a place to start is always difficult. You can get started with a $25 radio. And as you get more involved, you can add to your radio inventory. Again, welcome aboard, lean on us and we’ll get you going!