How To Become A Ham
Being an amateur radio operator is a fun and a very rewarding hobby. In the US, you can start with an "Amateur Technician Class" license issued by the FCC. Enjoy clear 2-way FM communication using repeaters, in some cases hundreds of miles away, with just a small handheld radio like the one pictured below. You can even talk to astronauts on the International Space Station. You might decide to jump in with "both feet" first using a larger home-based radio. Join us!
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. 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.
Don't let the words Federal Communications Commission scare you. While amateur radio licensing is governed by the FCC the exam is not given by the FCC or its agents, but rather it administered by VE's or "Volunteer Examiners". The VE's are hams that hold licenses that are at least one grade (up to Extra Class) higher than the test they are administering. VE's are not compensated for their time and do this work for the benefit of the community and hobby. A small fee (determined by the FCC) is collected by the VE to cover the costs of the testing materials, rental of testing space, etc.
TECHNICIAN TRAINING - Online
YouTube - Dave Casler Technician Course - Recommended
Ham Radio Prep - Online Course - not free
TECHNICIAN TRAINING - Books
New test questions start 7/1/2022. Make sure you purchase the correct edition.
KB6NU Study Guide - Free PDF version available!
ARRL Ham Radio License Manual, 5th edition - Used by Dave Cassler above
ONLINE SAMPLE TESTS
https://hamstudy.org/ - Recommended
Technician Question Pool (PDF) 7/1/2022-6/30/2026
General Question Pool (PDF) 7/1/2023-6/30/2027
Extra Question Pool (Word) 7/1/2020-6/30/2024
FCC Part 97 Rules
How To Evaluate Your Stations Compliance With FCC Guidelines For Human Exposure To Radio Frequency Electromagnetic Fields
Use this link to download "RF Exposure and You" , a PDF file from the ARRL discussing this topic.
The first five(5) chapters are a pretty in-depth explanation of RF electromagnetic fields and their effects on human exposure. But if what you are interested in are the guidelines and worksheets to determine if your station is in compliance, Bulletin 65 begins at Chapter 6, and Supplement B concerning amateur radio with worksheets in is Chapter 7.
Please be aware that these are the original rules. All of these rules still apply, with the exception that they have removed the exemption of certain amateur radio stations. Now, all stations that emit RF must complete the full evaluation and keep a copy with your station papers.