Become a Ham
Becoming an Amateur Radio Operator!
If you're reading this page, then you've probably found an interest in Amateur "HAM" Radio and you're asking yourself, "How do I get started?" Becoming a amateur radio operator is easier than you might think. Whatever your age, gender or physical ability, you can become an Amateur Radio operator! People from all walks of life earn their entry-level Amateur Radio license every day!
To become an Amateur Radio operator, or *Ham*, you need to obtain license from the United States Federal Communications Commission. The entry-level license is called a Technician Class license. To get your Technician Class license, you must pass a 35 question multiple choice exam that deals with basic electronics, good operating practices, safety and FCC rules. Whatever you've heard, Morse code is not required for any Class of Amateur license.
So here's how you do it.
- Study for your test.
- Find a testing location in your area.
- Take your test.
- Have fun with your new license!
Studying for the Technician Class Test
There is no right or wrong way to study for your test. People learn more effectively in different ways. Choose the one that best suits your learning style and you will be ready for your test before you know it! The Technician Class exam consists of 35 multiple choice questions selected from a larger question pool. To pass the exam, you must correctly answer at least 70% of those questions. Most people seem to prefer the self-study method, but there are lots of ways to prepare. There are books, computer software, audio and video courses to name a few. The American Radio Relay League has a great selection of study materials, Following are some of the many study aids available. Click on any items to see how to obtain it.
Books, CDs, Videos, etc.
- Many amateur radio operators studied for their license exam using these types of media. They can be ordered by main, telephone or via the internet and they can be studied at your own pace and in the comfort of your own home. Check out the many study guides available to you from the American Radio Relay League's online catalog (choose the *Licensing! Manuals, Videos and More* category). Many of these can also be found at hamfests (amateur radio flea markets).
- Many amateur radio clubs and organizations offer classroom education to prepare for your exam. The Lewis and Clark Radio Club periodically offers such classes in the Godfrey\Alton areas. These classes usually meet one evening per week, for about 6-8 weeks. Courses are taught by experienced Amateur Radio operators and are valuable because the instructors can answer your specific questions and better explain some of the concepts of radio theory. For these courses, you will generally need to acquire a book for required reading before each class.
- The ARRL provides an online license course search where you can find upcoming classes in your area.
- You can also use the ARRL Affiliated Club Search to locate other clubs in your area to see if they have upcoming Technician courses.
Practice, Practice, Practice!
- If you think you're ready for your Technician Class exam, but you're not sure, you can take practice exams online. Just go to the QRZ web site at http://www.qrz.com/p/testing.pl and take the practice exam as many times as you wish, no strings attached!
- Other Practice Test sites: Ham Radio License Exam - QRZ - Radio Exam - Eham - AA9PW
Finding a Test Session in Your Area
Okay, now you're ready to take your exam. The next step is to find a place that's offering a test session.
All over the U.S., there are licensed amateur radio operators called Volunteer Examiners who are authorized to administer Amateur Radio license exams on behalf of the FCC. Volunteer examiners, or VEs, are members of VE Teams. They are often affiliated with radio clubs and hold periodic test sessions where candidates can take a licensing exam. The Sangamon Valley Radio Club has such a VE team. If you're in the Springfield, Illinois area, we would be happy to have you attend a testing session. Go to our Testing page for more information.
You can search the ARRL's web site for an upcoming exam session near you. Just go to http://www.arrl.org/arrlvec/examsearch.phtml to search for a session. In some cases, you can simply show up to take the exam. Other VE teams would prefer that you pre-register.
Taking Your Technician Class Test
On the day of the testing session, you need to bring personal identification and the applicable testing fee. Current identification requirements and testing fees can be found on our Testing page. The team will ask for the required documentation and the fee for the exam before you start, You will then be asked to fill out an application for license which is provided by the VE Team. The *paper and pencil* multiple choice exam will then be given by the Volunteer Examiners, who have been authorized to administer the exam and grade it. Immediately upon completion, the exam will be graded and you will know if you passed or failed.
If you pass the exam, the Volunteer Examiners will submit your application and certificate of successful test completion to the FCC. Within a few weeks, the FCC will mail you an official paper license with your new callsign. Note that you can check the FCC web site a few days after the exam to see if the FCC has issued your callsign. Just search on your last name. You may start using your new radio privileges as soon as you know your callsign; you do not need to wait for the paper license to arrive in the mail.
If you fail the exam, you may retake it at any time, but you must pay the exam fee again.
That's it! That's all there is to beginning this great hobby we call *Ham Radio*!