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Getting Licensed

In the United States there are three license classes:

Technician License

This is the entry-level license that most ham radio operators start with. You will need to pass a 35-question test. The technician license gives you privileges on all amateur bands above 30 Megahertz. These are commonly referred to as the VHF and UHF bands. Also, you have phone privileges on the 10 Meter band and CW privileges the 80 Meter, 40 Meter and 15 Meter Bands. So even as a technician, you can have some fun operating on the HF bands!

Here is a link to an ARRL chart that explains the US Amateur Radio Bands and how the privileges for each license are allocated. 


General License

You will need to take another 35-question test and must have passed the Technician test. This class of license gives you privileges on the amateur bands below 30 Megahertz. These are commonly referred to as the HF bands.

Amateur Extra License

This is the most difficult license to get. You will need to pass a 50-question test and must have passed the Technician and General license tests. After you pass this test, you will have all the privileges on all the bands that any amateur radio operator can have. 

Getting Started

Begin with the Technician Class license. Check-out the Getting Licensed page on the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) website.

The ARRL is the largest organization representing the Amateur Radio community in the United States. It was founded over a century ago by Hiram Percy Maxim and Clarence D. Tuska. More information can be found on Wikipedia's entry for the ARRL

After you’ve checked-out the ARRL Getting Licensed site and realized that you’ve “Got a feeling you can’t let go”, get the ARRL’s Ham Radio License Manual, Level 1, Technician. It’s available on the ARRL website or on Amazon. If you buy from a site other than the ARRL, make sure to get the latest edition with the latest question pool. Again, check with the ARRL website to make sure.

Next Steps

When the truck drops off that precious package at your door, open it, read it, and then read some more. Make sure you study the sections you’re having trouble understanding. You will be learning things that you may never have been exposed to before, so take your time. Don’t get discouraged. All Amateur Radio Operators climbed the learning curve that you’re on now. Don’t give up, you’ll get there!

When you feel you’ve gone through the book enough times and feel comfortable with most of the material, try some practice exams. Here are a few websites where questions / tests are available:


Study any practice questions you have problems with. Also do what you can to familiarize yourself with amateur radio. If you have a scanner, monitor some repeaters or simplex frequencies on the VHF or UHF bands. Join or attend an amateur radio club meeting. If you have a friend who introduced you to the hobby, spend time with them and ask questions. Don’t be reticent about asking questions. Hams are eager to help anyway they can.

Getting Close

Hey, you’re passing those practice tests online!

Time to find a place to take a test!

You can go to this ARRL website for more information on where to take a test:

You can also contact a local amateur radio club like us, the Anaheim Amateur Radio Association, for testing places and times.

Virtual license testing is also available. You can find more information at this website:

Also, you will need to have an FCC Registration Number (FRN) before taking the test. You will use your FRN for any correspondence you might have with the FCC (i.e. license UPGRADES, etc.). You obtaining an FRN can be done at this website:

Taking the Test

Stick to your daily routine as much as possible and maybe review a few areas you’ve been having trouble with. Then, close all you study materials and go take the test.

It’s ok to feel a little nervous, but be confident! You’ve read, studied, talked radio with your friends and other hams, and now you’re ready to take the test. The Volunteer Examiners (VE's) will welcome you, tell you where to sit and explain what you need to start the test. Then you begin.

The Moment of Truth

You’ve answered all the questions best you can, and now you hand the completed test to a VE, who disappears into another room. You hang around, nervously waiting for the results. Finally, the VE returns and calls your name. He smiles and says: “Congratulations, you passed your test!

The VE will tell you when he thinks the FCC will grant your license and how to find out what your call sign is. With the following link to the FCC you can do a license search by name, FRN or call sign:

Your best bet is to search by FRN. Back in the good old days, it took several weeks to get your printed license via snail mail. Today it takes only a few days after you pass your test to find out what your call sign is, then finally you can get on the air.

What’s Next?

Hopefully while you studied and talked ham radio to a few friends, you sort-of got an idea on what interests you on the VHF and UHF bands. Best thing to do is get a 2 meter / 440 Handy-Talkie (HT) or a mobile unit (these are radios for the car but can be easily used in-doors with at 12-volt power supply). A mobile unit, in your home, will give you a larger RF footprint and you will need to install an antenna that matches the capabilities of the radio. See Projects under the Technical tab of this website for some ideas on antenna installation.

The important thing is to get on the air and begin talking radio with others in the amateur radio community. There are many interesting aspects to amateur radio. Digital communication modes such as PSK and FT8 are growing in popularity with many hams. But FM repeaters and simplex voice operation are probably the most popular operating modes on the VHF and UHF bands. There’s also Single Side Band and moon bounce. How about working one of the Oscar Satellites or even the International Space Station using a 2-meter uplink and a 440 downlink! So get on the radio and learn, learn, learn. Ask questions, join a club, find an Elmer and discover what interests you.

Above all else, use good judgment and polite operating skills when you’re on the air. We’re all in the hobby to have fun and share our experiences with our fellow hams. Being respectful and courteous to everyone is an important aspect of amateur radio.


Forms for Downloading

Click the links to download the document.  All documents are in Adobe .pdf format.

Renewals via the Web — License Renewal and Modification via the Web.

Duplicate license — How to obtain a replacement license from the FCC.