Ham radio license requirements

Communicating using ham radio equipment

The beginner license requirements are simple for anyone with the desire to be a ham radio operator. There are no age limits, and children as young as five have managed to obtain a license and run a station.

You have to learn Morse code as a beginner, but it is not at all difficult with a few weeks of practice. International treaty agreements require this, because code is still the surest, simplest way to get a radio signal through under almost any conditions. Beginners need only be able to receive five words in code per minute. They must also pass a very simple 20-question, multiple-choice test on radio theory and on the government-established regulations controlling amateur radio.

In the United States the Amateur Radio Service is administered by the Federal Communications Commission, which issues five classes of amateur licenses: Novice, Technical, General (the most common), Advanced, and Amateur Extra. The Novice license is issued for a five-year period and is renewable. It was deliberately designed to make entry into amateur radio and getting on the air as easy as possible. The Novice test may be administered by any qualified ham.

With each advance in rank of license, further technical. This knowledge is required. There is also a slow increase in the number of words per minute that you must be able to receive in Morse code. Examinations above the novice level are given by specially accredited Volunteer Examiners. Test sessions are coordinated by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL). As you advance, you are permitted to use more and more transmitting power and to operate within wider portions of the amateur radio bands.

As a ham, you have a “name” by which every other radio amateur will know you. That is, each station is assigned a call letter. An amateur radio call – for example, WB1CUJ – always consists of a one- or two-letter prefix that indicates your country. The United States is either W, K, or N. This is followed by a single numeral for your geographical region, such as 1 for New England. Two or three letters follow that represent you as an individual. You can often see these amateur call letters on automobile license plates – a privilege of hams in the United States and Canada.

The Amateur Radio Relay League

Most hams agree that the easiest way to a Novice license is through one of the classes conducted by community radio clubs or with the assistance of a licensed amateur nearby. Help in locating a club or local ham – or just general information about amateur radio – is available from the American Radio Relay League, Newington, Connecticut 06111, an association of U.S. and Canadian radio amateurs. The League publishes training material, a monthly technical journal, an annual handbook, and a number of other publications on special phases of amateur radio. It also operates a headquarters station, WIAW, which transmits to hams. It maintains a Technical Information Service to answer questions from any amateur on problems relating to station equipment. It coordinates an extensive field organization for public service and other operating activities, and it represents the interests of radio amateurs with national and international government agencies.