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. No Morse code is required. 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. No Morse code is required. 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. No Morse code is required. 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. FARC does testing through the Laurel VEC once every quarter. You can look at the calendar to see when the next testing session will be. If we do not have one soon and you are ready to take the test, there is usually one or two within 50 miles every weekend.