How to Become an Amateur Radio Operator

Amateur radio

is a hobby of many facets.  People join the ranks of other amateur radio operators for different reasons. Some wish to help their local communities through offering emergency communications, others want to make contacts with the far corners of the globe. Some want to learn about radio spectrum, space weather, and signal propagation, and some just want to rag chew with a group of friends. Amateur radio allows all of these things and MORE!


In the United States there are currently three levels of Amateur Radio Licenses. Each level defines specific frequencies, operations, and power levels that the licensee is allowed. Licenses are good for 10 years, and are renewable without re-certification. The below are generalizations to help those wanting to know a little more about the licenses.

Technician License – This is the first level, and allows the use mainly of VHF and UHF frequencies. This will allow you to connect to repeaters and satellites, as well as local person to person contacts. This will also the open door for digital communications.

General License – This is the second level, and opens the door for limited HF communications. This will allow you to connect around the world without the need of other infrastructure.

Amateur Extra License – This is the third and final level, opening all of the available amateur radio frequencies as granted by the FCC.


How to get your license?

First, you have to learn. Learning can be conducted through free formal classes in person, online, or can be done at your own pace with whatever resources works for you.

Once you start to grasp the information, you can take sample tests online (see resources below).

If you are confident that you know the material, find an exam session, sign-up, and show-up. Some may require you to get an FCC Registration Number (FRN) prior to taking the test. This is so that your information will be already in the FCC database, and the testing station doesn’t have to handle any social security numbers, so you keep your privacy (see resources below). Typical cost for the exam is around $15.

Need more reasons to become licensed? Go here ( ) for more information.


Resources for becoming an amateur radio operator (ham).

Find a Class:

  • Check our club announcements for classes local to the New River Valley area of Virginia.
  • Check with the ARRL

Study Materials and Online Tests:

FCC Registration Number (FRN):

Find an Exam Session:

  • Check our page for sessions local to the New River Valley area of Virginia.
  • Check with the ARRL

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