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Getting Your License

Getting Licensed

To become a radio amateur you will need to get a license. Licensing of Amateur Radio in the United States is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  It is illegal to operate on the amateur bands without an Amateur Radio license.  The different levels of license gives different privileges on the ham bands. The more challenging the license requirements the more privileges that are granted and the more interesting and enjoyable ham radio becomes. The three classes of Amateur Radio Licenses are the Technician Class, General Class and Amateur Extra Class. With each upgrade in class of license you receive additional privileges on the HF or Shortwave Frequencies.  The different license classes are:

Technician Class: This license is granted after passing a 35-question test on basic regulations, operating practices, and electronic theory, with a focus on VHF and UHF applications. No Morse code is required. With a Technician Class license, you will have all ham radio privileges above 30 megahertz (MHz) including the 2-meter band. Technicians may operate FM voice, digital packet (computers), television, single-sideband voice and several other modes. Technicians may also operate on the 80, 40, and 15 meter HF bands using CW, and on the 10 meter band using CW, voice, and digital modes.

General Class: Technicians upgrade to General Class by passing a 35-question examination on regulations, operating practices, and electronics theory. No Morse code is required. In addition to Technician Class, General Class operators may use high power transmitters and have access to the 160, 30, 17, 12, and 10 meter bands and access to major parts of the 80, 40, 20, and 15 meter bands.

Extra Class: An upgrade to Extra Class is accomplished by passing a 50-question examination on regulations, specialized operating practices, advanced electronics theory, and radio equipment design. No Morse code is required. While this may seem a challenge it results in the privilege of operating on all authorized Amateur Radio frequencies.

For additional detail on Amateur Radio licensing regulations in the U.S. check out the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) web site and search for Licensing.

A Note About Morse Code

Although it is no longer required to learn the Morse Code to get a U.S. Amateur Radio License, it is still widely used and will continue to be in use for a long time to come. In fact, there are in actually more Amateur Radio Operators using Morse Code today than ever before.  Morse Code or CW is a preferred favorite of many Amateur Radio Operators because of how very effective it is at long distance communications. CW is 100 times more effective in getting through the noise than any other form of communicating. Consider the fastest CW signal may have a band width of 30 Hz where a SSB voice signal could have a bandwidth of 3,000 Hz. The same power output is spread out over an area 100 times as wide making it that much less efficient. This long distance efficiency makes Morse Code often a preferred method of communication for distant stations on expeditions to very remote parts of the world such as the South Pole.  CW transmitting equipment is easier to build than any other equipment.  Many Hams build their own radios that can send and receive Morse Code, and since they can be low power (or QRP) stations they are simple to build and easy to transport out into the field for backpacking or operating from a park bench. New Hams are encouraged to study and learn the Morse Code because it will open up many doors for communication in this incredible hobby.

In this new high tech world, code practice comes on cassette tapes, CDs, MP3s and now there are computer programs for PC's, iPhones, Blackberry's and just about any other computing platform that you can download for free that generate code practice.

See much more info on our CW-Morse Code page.

Preparing For License Examinations

In order to get your license you will need to prepare for and take one or more examinations.  There are books available to help you learn about the material on the various exams as well as some websites which will help prepare you for taking the tests.   A cautionary note: watch the dates on any material you use. The material used in the exams changes periodically. Anything you use should have the effective date and the expiration date on it. Some stores have been known to sell old editions of the books mentioned here!

Here are some books and other reading sources for license exam study materials:

Once you have studied the material, here are some sites where you can take some practice test to check if your ready to take your license exam:

Taking License Examinations

To learn about testing in the Louisville, Kentucky area, see our License Testing page for locations and times where license examinations are held.