Getting started in ham radio - Starting the licensing process

8 July 2015

One of the biggest questions for people that are showing some interest in amateur/ham radio is "how do I get started?". This will be a simple short blog post to go over some of the basics, I will try to not go into too much detail. For US licensing, a little studying, and at most $15 to take the test is all that is needed. Plus if you're more proficient, you can study for one, two or all 3 license levels, and no need to pay anything extra. The cost should be at most $15, which covers your testing, regardless if you go for one, two, or all 3 in the same session. Granted you will need to pass the Tech before going for General, and pass both Tech and General before going for Extra. Another caveat is even if you fail the Tech license to start, and if you miss it by one or two, you can retake the test with a different set of questions which may work out in your favor.
The quick and simple list of the process:

  • Study for license
  • Take the test
  • Wait 3 days to 3 weeks for call sign

This is the primary process across much of the world although some countries may require a few extra things. Within the US, the study guides are freely available online, available in books to be purchased or checked out from many local libraries, as well as sample/example tests in most books and online. One key thing to remember is that many of the online sources are post-study options to help the answers soak in, but some people taking the shortcut study only the websites, which is essentially memorizing answers. The problem there is that once you have your license and need to do something other than press that talk button, you end up with a hundred questions that would have been answered had you had studied properly. Most licensed hams have little patience for people asking questions that had been answered on the simplest Tech study guides, so just memorizing the answers to get licensed is a sure way to isolate yourself among those licensed for some time, both locally and online (in Facebook groups, Yahoo groups, forums like, etc).
So with that said, below is a list of websites I know of and have been made aware of with study guides, flash cards and sample tests. Something worth noting is that some site require payment to use the site, buy books, or receive the information, other sites are free. As a reminder, these are for primarily US licenses. If someone comes along and reads this from outside of the US, feel free to contact me (km4fmk -at- AFO -dot- net) and I can add websites for Canada and other countries. As a word of caution, sites that people report to me that are primarily advertising with little study content will not be added. The primary source of information is the ARRL website - getting your Tech license.

Site Guide Sample tests Flash cards Notes N Y Y Free site, tracks progress with login Y Prices start at $24.95 per license Y N N Free study guides based on the books of the same name N Y Y Free site, tracks progress with login exams N Y N Free exams, tracking with login

Then there are a series of "study guide videos" for all license levels on Youtube if auditory studying works out a little better for you personally. Also many local amateur radio clubs offer licensing classes, some just for the entry level Technician licensing, others do it for all 3 license levels. Your best bet is searching online for your area, typically your city or county name with "amateur radio clubs", and then looking for an email address or phone number to contact them to see if they offer classes, or know of other local clubs that do. While you have them on the phone, ask them which local clubs do the testing.

That is all for now, feel free to contact me with questions, or if you're on Facebook, check out my Facebook ham radio help page.

Take care and 73s!

As more blog entries are added, some get moved to the archived blog entries page. As this is a new website, this will probably not need to be done for some time.