Home Communications HAM Radio 101 – Get Your HAM Radio License

HAM Radio 101 – Get Your HAM Radio License

There are so many unanswered questions for the new HAM enthusiast. In this HAM Radio 101, we’ll find out what you need to do to get your HAM Radio License

HAM Radio 101 – Get Your HAM Radio License

What does it take to get your HAM radio License?

I’m sure you can think of all manner of hoops that you must jump through.

What you have to do to get your HAM license

  • Study (it’s pretty simple, really)
  • Then you just have to take a simple test, made up of 35 questions.
  • Pay $15 to take the Exam

What you get when you pass your HAM license Exam

  • A cool call sign
  • A license good for 10 years
  • Privileges: All VHF/UHF Amateur bands (frequencies above 30 MHz).
  • Limited operations in certain HF bands.

I don’t need no stinkin’ license

I hear so many people say “I don’t need a license after SHTF”.

This is true, but good luck figuring out a HAM radio, without the internet to help you. It’s not intuitive, there really is a lot of things you need to understand. This is why you need your license and need to practice before it’s to late!

Otherwise you may be stuck using a CB for your comms. I’m not hating, I have 2 CBs just for post-SHTF listening. Got to get my local recon somewhere.

Preparing for your HAM License Exam

Class Room Training

Some people learn better in a classroom environment, or don’t trust themselves to dig in and learn on their own. That’s fine. There are many classes organized by ARRL (American Radio Relay League). You can find a class in your area on their website:  Find an Amateur Radio License Class

Self-Guided Training

If you are one, who can study on your own, you can buy books (or eBooks) dedicated to HAM Radio License and Study Guides.

Once you feel like you have a good grasp there are many places where you can take practice tests, that use the same questions, that you’ll see on the Exam.

Tidbit of knowledge:  Remember that wavelength = 300 / frequency in MHz (Trust me, you’ll need to know this to answer some of the questions, and it comes in handy later on while HAM’ing)

Practice Tests Sites:

My Tactic to pass the exam

Once you’ve registered you free account on QRZ.com, head to the practice tests (Resources > Practice Amateur Radio Exams).

Click the green plus sign beside “2014 Technician Exam Practice Test -or- study a specific sub-category“. The image below shows the wrong expand, expand the most recent version of the exam you are taking!

qrz practice test
Expand the 2014 test, NOT the 2010 as I erroneously indicated in the image above!

This allows you to take a “practice test” for each subcategory (these are the real exam questions). I took each sub-category one at a time, until I could answer every question correctly, then I’d move on to the next subcategory.

It may take you a few weeks, but once you can answer all the questions take the full practice exam.

Wisdom from Others

It may behoove you to find a local Amateur Radio Club. This is  a group of people who are experienced HAM operators and will welcome you with open arms to their club. They will share their knowledge with you, answer any questions you may have and can help prepare for your Exam. Many of them will also help you figure out how to get on the air and work these fancy radios too.

Many of these radio clubs offer classes for their members or to get new members. They will likely be the same people who are administering the ham exams in your area.

I can’t recommend this highly enough. My club meets once a month in person, but every Tuesday we have a “Net”, which is a meeting via Radio.

Find a Club in your Area (ARRL)

Taking your HAM Exam (hey, that rhymes)

Once you’re kicking butt on those practice tests (I know it won’t take you long, because you are AWESOME!), it’s time to find a testing location in your area.

Find an Amateur Radio License Exam Session

What should you bring to an Exam?

Chant the mantra “wavelength = 300 / frequency in MHz“!


That’s all there is to getting your HAM license. It’s easy, you can study in your spare time, and you get some great communication abilities!


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  1. Great article, I might add that in addition to ebooks, iPad has free apps that will help with training.Ham Radio Exam-Tech, General, and Extra by Roy Watson, and A+ Ham Tech, General, and Extra by James Thomas are six that I’ve found really helpful in my studying. They have randomized practice tests, as well as the ability to test by section. It randomizes the sections, but then after you are done allows you to study the correct answers. I’m not advertising or advocating them. Just saying that they worked for me. I’m currently a General and working on my extra. Steve, KF5YGB

  2. Hi i read somewhere in Your posts that Your club is in Md? Im new i want to get my license and join a club i live in Md as well but i couldnt find again the name of that club!

    • Which part of Maryland are you in, or what is the closest city? I’d hate to have you drive hours and hours to come to a club in Southern, MD, when there is probably one right in your area 😉


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