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. 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. 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. 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.
Once you are ready to take the test, you just need to find a location where you can take the test. OBRA has several testing sessions per year... so, when you're close to being readycontact us.
Studying for the tests
There are many different ways that you can study for any of the Amateur Radio tests. Every person learns differently and one of the different tools will fit your style of learning.
If you learn best by reading a reference manual style of book then the ARRL books will work great for you. Even if that style of learning is not the best option for you, the books are great for reference. You can purchase these books directly from the ARRL at www.arrl.org/shop/Beginners/ and this book www.arrl.org/shop/ARRL-Ham-Radio-License-Manual-3rd-Edition/ will get you started. The ARRL also has books for the General and Extra class licenses.
We find a great success in teaching with the Gordon West series. He takes a different approach to teaching, he walks through each of the questions and explains why the correct answer is the correct answer. You can pick up his books on Amazon, just search for Gordon West Technician Class Manual.
If you learn by using flash cards, you can use hamstudy.org. When you use their flash card tool, you get the real questions and the real answers. You can flip the card over (virtually of course) and see the correct answer and why it is the correct answer. Hamstudy.org keeps track of the ones you miss and will bring them back up until you get it right. I know many people that used this free tool online and never picked up a book and passed their tests.
There is also hamtestsonline .com that is similar to hamstudy.org.
There is a new video course online by a teenager kd2eom it is essentially similar to the classes we do locally (ours are free and done on demand) this video course is not free and runs about $95. But you can watch the videos anytime you like and self pace your learning.
If you have a smartphone or tablet computer, you can get tools to study on those as well. There are plenty of resources available to learn and practice for your Amateur Radio test.
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