How to Get a Ham Radio License

How to Get a Ham Radio License

WW2W’s Shack

After my last ham radio post, one of the first things I wanted to write about is how you can get your Amateur Radio License.  Well, it’s not as difficult now as it used to be.  When I last tested to get my General Class license, I had to be able to receive Morse Code at 13 words per minute.  Not long ago, the FCC and agencies in other countries removed this as a requirement for any class of license, so now all you have to do is pass one to three theory exams depending on what class license you want to go for.  Or at least, that is the requirement here in the United States, and because I live in the US, that is the system I am most familiar with.  To find out about the requirements in your own country, I would try searching Google for the agency that covers you.


In the US, this is what you need to do …  First, I would purchase a book covering the theory you need to know to pass your particular test test.  Subjects that will be important are Ohm’s Law, how to calculate the length of your antenna, and more.  There will also be a portion of each exam that covers the laws you must follow as a radio operator.  One example of a rule is that you must identify your station with your call sign at the beginning of each conversation and every 10 minutes through-out, as well as at the end of your last transmission.  But that’s just one of the many rules you must know in order to pass the test.  A book on this is almost essential not just to pass the test, but to know what you are doing after the test, and there is book that covers each license class.  The classes are Technician, General and Extra. has a list of books you can purchase for each class.


Once you have studied for the test, the next step is to practice!  As the question pool is known, there are many sites around the net that help you practice with questions from the exact question pool you’ll face when you go to take your exam. is an excellent resource to practice for your test.  Also, another web-based practice site is  There are also apps for Android and iOS that allow you to take a practice exam no matter where you are.  Once you can consistently pass the test, then it’s time for the next step: actually taking your exam.

Taking the Test

Again, has an excellent source on how to find out where you can take your exam.  In my grandfather’s day, you had to find your regional FCC office to take the test, but now you don’t have to.  The law has made provisions for VEC’s or Volunteer Exam Coordinators.  These are usually organizations that have been set up by fellow hams to proctor the exam.  The two that are best known are the ARRL’s own VEC, called ARRL-VEC or W5YI’s VEC.  Check RadioExam,org if either of these do not have test sessions near you.  Once you find a date, continue to prepare.

On test day, make sure you bring a simple calculator, pencils, your ID, and any paperwork you may need.  Once you take the test, they will usually grade it right away and let you know if you passed or not.  If you passed, congratulations!  As soon as your license shows up on the FCC web site, you may begin to use it!  You will receive a paper copy of your license in the mail.

Next Steps

After you get your license, the first band I would try is the 2m band.  This band is popular and easy to operate.  Your first real radio should probably be a simple single band radio until you learn the ropes.  Don’t go into this blind; search the web for local clubs that can get you in contact with fellow hams, so you can learn the ropes of how to be a good radio operator.  We in the amateur radio community call this “Elmering”, a process where the community can help new hams become better operators so that together we can help pass down the hobby from one generation of operators to the next.  Without this process, Amateur Radio will fade into non-existence.

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About the Author

Joel McLaughlin
Joel is a consultant in the IT field and is located in Columbus, OH. While he loves Linux and tends to use it more than anything else, he will stoop to running closed source if it is the best tool for the job. His techno passions are Linux, Android, netbooks, GPS, podcasting and Amateur Radio.

1 Comment on "How to Get a Ham Radio License"

  1. LOL, do I need to get an Easter Ham Radio? 😉

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