Licensing & Education

Amateur Radio (also called Ham Radio) is the use of designated radio frequency spectrum for purposes of private recreation, non-commercial exchange of messages, wireless experimentation, self-training, and emergency communication.  The term "amateur" is used to specify persons interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest, and to differentiate it from commercial broadcasting, public safety (such as police and fire), or professional two-way radio services (such as maritime, aviation, taxis, etc.).

Sites for more details about Ham Radio:

American Radio Relay League
What is Ham Radio?

W5YI: About Amateur Radio

Wikipeda Amateur Radio - Covers history, activities, practices, licensing, in space, and Amateur Radio in pop culture.

LEARA Elmers

Throughout the history of Amateur Radio many more experienced members of the ham radio community have mentored newer members in every facet of the hobby.  These mentors are known as "Elmers."  LEARA has a group of Elmers who are ready and waiting to assist beginners and those willing to learn more about Amateur Radio.

If you (or someone you know) is a new licensee or is thinking of becoming an Amateur Radio operator and would like assistance, please send an e-mail message to LEARA's Elmers or contact Marv - W8AZO.  If there is no answer, please leave a message that includes:

  1. Your name.
  2. Call sign.  If not yet a ham, indicate that you are interested in becoming one.
  3. What kind of help you need (e.g.: basic operation, radio/antenna set-up & tuning, CW practice, etc.).
  4. Your home address.  This will be used so we may match you with a nearby "Elmer."
  5. A phone number where the "Elmer" may contact you.
  6. Any other details that might help us choose the proper Elmer for you.

How do I get my Ham Radio license?

You can get your Ham Radio license in three easy steps:

  1. Study the question pools or training manuals.
  2. Take practice tests.
  3. Find an exam session near you.

Question Pools & Training Materials

To obtain an Amateur Radio license or upgrade your current license class, you'll need to be aware of the material that will appear on the exam. The National Conference of Volunteer Exam Coordinators (NCVEC) maintains the question pools for all license classes. The question pools change every few years. If you've put down the books for a while you'll need the latest questions.

There are three license classes, in successive order: Technician (entry level), General, and Extra. Each license class gives you more privileges and frequencies in which you can operate. The Morse Code requirement was dropped for an Amateur Radio license in 2007 and is no longer given as part of the licensing process. Different study materials are available in a variety of formats for all license classes:

  • National Conference of Volunteer Exam Coordinators question pools are available for free in different formats including Word, text, and PDF. These only include the questions and answers. They do not include explanations of the questions as found in the following links.
  • ARRL Ham Radio License Manuals are training materials which include explanations of all questions and answers.
  • Gordon West's study manuals. "Gordo" West is the leading ham radio educator. Printed guides, audio study course, and software are available.
  • "No-Nonsense Study Guides" are a textbook way of studying for the exams. The PDF is available for free. Other formats include Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, printed paperback, and Audible audio book.

If you desire a training class, check active clubs in your area looking at their newsletter, website, and social media for training class announcements. Alternatively, contact those clubs to see if they're willing to sponsor a training class or know a club that does.

Practice Tests

Once you feel you know the material well enough, you can take sample tests. Question selection on the exams is random. A 74% or higher score is needed to pass the license exams, meaning the maximum wrong is 9 for the Technician and General, 13 for the Extra. Passing a few practice exams will not indicate a candidate's readiness. Constantly achieving practice test scores of 80% or higher indicates a readiness to take the exam.

The following online systems will help track questions and elements a candidate knows well and which they don't:

Exam Testing Sessions

Once you feel you know the questions well enough and have passed sample tests, you're ready to take your exam.  ARRL VEC is the most well-known FCC certified organization to administer Ham Radio exams and maintains an updated list of exam sessions. The NCVEC provides a complete list of certified organizations for obtaining a license.  Check lists of exam sessions often as they are frequently updated.

Once you've decided on a date and location, contact the Volunteer Exam Coordinator (VEC) to reserve a seat at that session. Even if walk-ins are allowed, it's still a good idea to contact the VEC to verify information such as: location, directions, date, start time, testing fee, valid forms of ID, and test you plan on taking so the VEC has enough copies. You definitely need to contact the VEC ahead of time if you have any special needs or any assistance is required in completing the exam, such as a large print edition or administration of the exam orally.

For the exam session you are allowed to bring pens or pencils (preferred- so you can change answers) and a basic or scientific calculator.  You are not allowed to bring calculators that store programs or text.  The testing fee for the exams is about $15.


Once you've passed the exam and received your license, you're ready to become a LEARA member!  Congratulations!

To help you get started in Ham Radio or started with your new privileges, the ARRL offers a wide selection of products you will find useful.