Ham Radio 101

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Ham Radio?

Amateur Radio (ham radio) is a popular hobby and service that brings people, electronics and communication together. People use ham radio to talk across town, around the world, or even into space, all without the Internet or cell phones. It’s fun, social, educational, and can be a lifeline during times of need.

Click here for more information.

Do I need a license to use Ham Radio?

Yes. Before you can get on the air, you need to be licensed and know the rules to operate legally. US licenses are good for 10 years before renewal and anyone may hold one except a representative of a foreign government. In the US there are three license classes—Technician, General and Extra.

Click here for more information.

How do I get a Ham Radio license?

Would you like to become an Amateur Radio operator? It’s not difficult to do. The entry-level license in the United States, the Technician class, is all that is necessary for local routine and emergency communications. Once you obtain your Technician license, you will officially be a Ham Radio operator. Then you can decide if you would like to move up to the additional privileges of the General and Extra license classes.

Technician License: To earn the Technician license requires passing one examination totaling 35 questions on radio theory, regulations and operating practices.

General License: This license opens the door to world-wide communications. Earning the General class license requires passing a 35 question examination. General class licensees must also have passed the Technician written examination.

Extra License: The Amateur Extra class license conveys all available U.S. Amateur Radio operating privileges on all bands and all modes. Earning the license is more difficult; it requires passing a thorough 50 question examination. Extra class licensees must also have passed all previous license class written examinations.

Click here to find a location for Ham Radio license classes.

Prefer to get your license from home? Click here for online study and remote testing options.

How do I renew my Ham Radio license?

If you are currently a licensed ham radio operator and you need to renew your license, the FCC has detailed information on their website. Please visit “Common Amateur Filing Task: Renewing A License” for the easy online process to renew your license through the Universal Licensing System (ULS) at any time within 90 days of the expiration date for the license and up to two years after the license expires.

Do young people use Ham Radio?

Yes. Despite popular belief, ham radio is not just an “old persons” hobby. More young people are getting into ham radio for various reasons, such as using digital modes like FT8, JS8Call, or digital chat modes. Some like to talk to other hams all over the world or participate in ham radio contests. Others get licensed because they no longer need to learn Morse Code. Whatever the reason, the goal is to keep ham radio fun and interesting.

What does it cost to get started in Ham Radio?

There are FREE study options online at at HamStudy.org and HamExam.org. Remote testing fees for your license are usually $15 or less. Some in-person testing sessions are free, but others may have a small fee. The FCC recently began charging a $35 fee for a ham radio license. Newly licensed hams can get a new handheld transceiver (HT), such as the Yaesu FT-4X, for around $90. This totals up to approximately $150 to get on the air with a brand new radio.

Are there any Ham Radio operators near me?

You will be surprised when you find out how many licensed ham radio operators live near you. You can quickly find local hams by using the tool at the link below.

Click here to find out how many hams are located nearby.

What is a Repeater?

An amateur radio repeater is an electronic device that receives a weak or low-level amateur radio signal and re transmits it at a higher level or higher power, so that the signal can cover longer distances without degradation. In amateur radio, repeaters are typically maintained by individual hobbyists or local groups of amateur radio operators. Many repeaters are provided openly to other amateur radio operators.

Click here for more information.

What is a Net?

An amateur radio net, or simply ham net, is an “on-the-air” gathering of amateur radio operators. Most nets convene on a regular schedule and specific frequency, and are organized for a particular purpose, such as relaying messages, discussing a common topic of interest, in severe weather (for example, during a Skywarn activation), emergencies, or simply as a regular gathering of friends for conversation.

Nets operate more or less formally depending on their purpose and organization. Groups of nets may organize and operate in collaboration for a common purpose, such as to pass along emergency messages in time of disaster. One such system of nets is the National Traffic System (NTS), organized and operated by members of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) to handle routine and emergency messages on a nationwide and local basis.

Click here for more information.

What are Ham Radio modes?

A “mode” can be either a modulation mode like AM or FM, or it can be an operating mode like voice, Morse, digital, or packet. There are many additional operating modes or styles beyond what you find here.  For example, mobile and portable operation, satellite, QRP, EME/moonbounce, and many others.  Ham radio is a vast enterprise!

Click here for more information.

What is Morse Code and do I need to know it?

The basic definition of Morse code refers to a method of communication that uses a series of dots and dashes to relay information. For many of today’s hams there was no choice; obtaining a ham license required learning Morse code.  Five words a minute was the requirement for the entry level Novice license and also for the renewable, but VHF only, Technician ticket.  A General or Advanced class required 13 wpm and it was 20 wpm for an Extra.

In 1991 the code requirement was eliminated for the Technician class, in 2000 it was reduced to 5 wpm for all classes that still required code and in 2007 the code requirement was eliminated entirely. 

Does my Ham Radio affect my neighbors?

Amateur Radio is basically a safe activity. In recent years, however, there has been considerable discussion and concern about the possible hazards of electromagnetic radiation, including both RF energy and power-frequency (50-60 Hz) electromagnetic fields.  To allay such concerns, the FCC set limits on the amount of RF energy people can be exposed to. Some stations now need to be evaluated to ensure they are in compliance with RF exposure limits. Click here for the ARRL has provided an online RF exposure calculator.

When was the FCC, (Federal Communications Commission), established?

The Radio Act of 1927 established the Federal Radio Commission, which a few years later was renamed the Federal Communications Commission, or FCC to regulate broadcast stations. Please click on the following link for a brief history of broadcasting and the creation of the FCC.


Still need answers? We’re here to help!

Fill out the short form below and we will reach out to you as soon as possible.