Ham Radio License

If you are thinking about getting your ham radio license, let me tell you from my own personal experience that it is not difficult to do even for people like me who do not have a background in electricity or science.

I first became interested in learning more about ham radio equipment when I started doing more to prepare for emergencies and disasters. Everything I read about ham radios stated over and over again, they were the most reliable form of communication when everything else fell apart. I wanted that peace of mind for myself and my family.

So, I started doing research about the ham radio license test. Fortunately, there were a lot of places to go to for great information. The Federal Communications Commission oversees the licensing of ham radio operators in the United States, so their website has some great information, but for the best information, I went to the American Radio Relay League, or ARRL. Here is their website: ARRL.org. This organization helped me learn a lot about ham radio. They also offer a study manual for sale. Having a great study guide is essential when you are preparing for the ham radio test.

To get your ham radio license, you have to pass a 35 question test. The questions cover a variety of topics including FCC regulations, operating procedures, electrical principles and circuits, radio equipment, antennas, safety, and more. It is a lot to learn, but if you are willing to study, you can do it.

I read and read and read for months. Some topics were easier for me to grasp than others. I think the way you study is going to be a very personal thing. Everyone learns a bit differently.

One of the things I strongly recommend is taking practice exams. This was a fantastic way for me to judge how well I understood the material. As I said before, electrical theory is not my strong suit, so it was important for me to constantly reinforce my learning. Here is one place I went for a ham radio practice test: http://www.qrz.com/hamtest/. You can go back to that site to test again and again. It helps to see if a pattern develops in certain areas of the test.

When you are ready to take the exam, you will need to find a local volunteer group to administer the exam. You can go to the ARRL site here: ARRL Find a License Exam Session and put in your zip code and find a date and time that suits you. Most of the time, you can just walk in and sit to take the exam. Reservations are not required. Often, you will be able to make contact with your local radio club, too. These folks will be a great resource, too, when you are ready to make your first ham radio purchase (mine was a handheld ham radio).

handheld ham radio

There is a small fee to take the ham radio license test. For me, it was $15.00. In many cases, if you don't pass, you can take it again by paying the fee again and taking another test. You will get a test with different questions, but the benefit is that you can take it while a lot of the information is still fresh in your mind. Sometimes all you need are a different pool of questions. Of the 3 of us taking the technician ham radio license test on the day I took mine, we all only missed one question, so that should tell you that it is fairly easy to pass if you put in some effort studying.

While you only have to answer 35 questions on the exam, there are a total of 426 possible questions you could be asked. Think about that. That is a lot of material you have to learn.

If you know about frequency, wavelength, voltage, antenna radiation, hertz and transceivers, you are already way ahead of where I was when I started. I didn't know what any of those things were. If you don't, you have nothing to worry about because the study guides all cover that. Honestly, you will do fine.

After you take the test, it will be given to someone else in another room for grading. You will learn about your score right away. Waiting was painful. I am not a patient person. In the end, the paperwork to process my application for a license was filled out and I had to sign something. I was so excited, I really don't remember the process that much. All the studying had finally paid off. I was going to actually get my ham radio license!

One of the volunteer examiners told me that within a week or so, I would be able to access the FCC site and see my ham radio call sign and once that was "live", I was official.

The next step would be to get my Yaesu ham radio - a handheld ham radio.