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How To Become a HAM (Amateur Radio operator)

Amateur radio is a hobby that is enjoyed by people from all walks of life from around the world. The rules for becoming an amateur (ham) radio operator vary from country to country around the world.

Amateur radio operators must be licensed because they are given transmitting privileges on a wide variety of frequencies and are allow to use just about any equipment imaginable, even home built radios. Amateurs are allotted not single specific frequencies but usually whole ranges (bands) of different frequencies to operate on. These frequencies and methods of transmission are specified in the US by the FCC rules and so it is therefore necessary to be generally familiar with your operating limitations in order to transmit lawfully.

In order to qualify for an amateur radio license, you must pass certain tests to determine that you have the required knowledge. Fortunately, the tests are not terribly difficult for most people.

In the United States, there are three license levels (known as classes) where each class grants greater privileges to the individual. There is a single written test for each license class. The license classes are:

  • Technician Class - this is the entry level license. It gives privileges on all amateur frequencies above 50 Mhz and is the most popular. It requires only a written test.

  • General Class - this is the mid-level license. It enables privileges on most amateur frequencies below 50 Mhz and includes global HF (shortwave) communications. It has its own written test.

  • Extra Class - this is the highest level license. It grants privileges on all amateur frequencies. It has its own written test and requires that you also have passed all of the Technician and General class written tests.


Below are the step I would recommend do become a Ham.


Visit a Local Club
One good way to get start is by talking to the local hams in you community. The local club my have classes and if not it always help to be able to "Ask a question" when you need clarification on the material. The ARRL, in the link below, provides you the ability to search for a local club in your area. http://www.arrl.org/FandES/field/club/clubsearch.phtml

Study for the Exam.
To become a Ham you must first study and pass a series of exam mentioned above. With each exam you will have different operating privilege. Please remember that passing this exams, even the Extra exam, does not make anyone an expert. The exams are just to make sure you have the basic skill to operate your radio.

Below are some resources to help you study.

ARRL Handbook . The Handbook is the single most authoritative reference on practical communications topics. It is both reference book and tutorial, woven together with practical applications and solutions. The Handbook is both a useful introduction to radio communication and features the most current material on electronics and Amateur Radio.

ARRL License Study guides   
http://www.arrl.org/catalog/lm/

Online Study guide. See
http://www.n2mzz.com/ - under information and Sudy

Taking your Test
You can find a date, time and location where licensing exams will be given by using this web site:
http://www.arrl.org/arrlvec/examsearch.phtml In some cases, you can simply show up to take the exam, but many test sites prefer that you pre-register.

The fee for the exam is $15 (for 2009). When you pay, you will also fill out a FCC application for an amateur radio license.

The paper and pencil multiple choice exam will be given by experienced hams, called Volunteer Examiners, who have been authorized to administer the exam and grade it.

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 you a callsign (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