HAM Licensing Process

Welcome to the world of HAM

We have provided some information on the different FCC Licenses available and a brief explanation as to the privileges each provides to the licensed Amateur Radio operator. To round out your understanding of the license classes you need to understand the actual process of obtaining your license. It isn't all that difficult, but it is government regulated so details must be understood and rules followed. Make sure you read through all of the information on this page. If you go to an instructed class in this area, you will likely hear these things. Make sure you understand what is expected on test night - what you need to have with you and what you cannot bring into the test.

License Classes

  • Technician Class license.
  • General Class license.
  • Extra Class license.

License Renewal

Renew your license - Amateur radio licenses are granted by the FCC for a period of 10 years. That seems like a long time but it will come sooner than you think. If your time is near and you need to renew, you can find helpful links provided by the ARRL here. Amateur applications can be filed manually using paper forms or electronically via the FCC website. Filing interactively is easy and the results are immediate.

This Is How the License Process Works!

SPEP 1 - Obtain Study Materials or Use On-line Study Resources - So how do you get started in HAM radio? We the first thing is to study the materials. You can order the appropriate License Class manual published by the ARRL from a variety of places including Amazon. Or, you can sign-up for on-line study and testing services that are reasonably prices and highly effective. One of note is Ham Test Online at . Another approach is to sign up for an in-person training offered by Delta Amateur Radio Club in Memphis. These classes are free and at the end of the course there is a testing session. These classes require that you purchase one of the license manuals mentioned above. Some students will do all three of these.

SPEP 2 - Apply for FRN Number - IMPORTANT!! One of the requirements before you take the license test is to apply to the FCC for a Federal Registration Number (FRN). This FRN is required for the forms that the testers (called Volunteer Examiners VEs) fill out and send in to the FCC certifying that you have passed the testing process. When you start studying, make sure you apply to the FCC for this number. You only have to do it once for the first license. You can apply to the FCC by checking out this site click here. Save this number. You will need it for taking the test!

SPEP 3 - Schedule and Take the Test - When you are ready to take any of the license tests, you have a small bit of preparation to do. First, you should get in touch with the Testing Coordinator at this Club. you can readh him via email at Testing Coordinator You need to know that there are some things that you can take into the testing session and some things you can't.

What you MUST take to the testing session

What you can take Into a testing session

What you CAN'T take into the test

SPEP 4 - Get a Radio and Antenna - So you've passed the test and waited on your Call Sign to be issued by the FCC. Big Step! Now what? The very first question from a newly licensed Technician operator is "What radio should I buy?" This question alone could fill volumes of literature and if fact it does as you will learn. Radio Outlets and Manufacturers fill catalogs every quarter with all kinds of equipment that temp you to give them your money. Any you will! The biggest hurdle is making smart buying decisions based on research and in many cases, the opinion of "Elmer’s" have been here before and can help you make wiser decisions. It is tempting to jump in and purchase a $50 radio only to discover that it is difficult to use and more importantly, program with local repeaters. Now you have to acquire software and a cable to help make that task easier. We recognize that every HAM has a different budget and can afford different levels of equipment purchases. Talk before you leap! Ask the "old guys" what their experience has been. If they are smart, they will ask you what you want to do with the radio and help guide you to a smarter purchase of a device that you can use for years. Don't go into this thinking that you will buy a radio and it will be the only one I will ever buy. Doesn't work that way if you are curious and want to experiment. You will buy more than one. Start planning for it.

SPEP 5 - Join a Club and Hangout with other HAMS - One of the most important things you can do at the early stages of your HAM experience is to get involved with other HAMS and join a local Amateur Radio Club. Many HAMS join several clubs to broaden their awareness of radio activities, meet other like minded HAMS and most important, take advantage to mingle, discuss radio topics and ask questions that might assist you in taking the next step in the hobby. The Helena Amateur Radio Club is a great place to start. See our membership information here.

SPEP 6 - Observe and Practice - We have said this before but it is worth mentioning again. Join a Club or perhaps several. Join groups that focus on the types of communications skills that you are interested. LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN and ASK, ASK, and then ASK again. You have to get involved and participate to learn. Practice you skills. Attend weekly nets on-air. Join in for Field Day events and see how the experienced guys do it. Get involved with ARES or MedMERS or an Emergency Services group. There is lots to learn and you won't get qualified unless you have the practice and experience.

SPEP 7 - Ask Questions and Participate - The books don't tell you everything nor does the Internet. Look to build relationships in these Clubs and Groups and when you find someone that is like minded and has the skills and experience in a area that you are also interested in, ask that person to be your "Elmer". An "Elmer" is a guide, a Jedi, someone that you can call or email and ask the questions that are difficult to resolve on your own. Most HAMs love to help new HAMS get involved. One day, you will be the Elmer and have the chance to help get a fellow HAM up to speed in this wonderful hobby.