Getting Started in Ham Radio
Amateur Radio enthusiasts know that there’s a lot of knowledge and training that go into being a successful Amateur Radio operators (hams). Before you can get on the air, you need to be licensed. The rules for earning an Amateur Radio license vary depending on which country you live in. You need to know the rules to operate legally. You also need to know how to operate safely and you’ll need some knowledge and training to operate successfully. Getting licensed is a long standing tradition for hams. US licenses are good for 10 years before renewal, and anyone may hold one except a representative of a foreign government.
In the US Amateur Radio is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under the Communications Act of 1934. It is also subject to numerous international agreements. All Amateur Radio operators must be licensed. In the US there are three license classes—Technician, General and Extra. Most countries have similar licensing structures with increasing privileges as your skill increases. Each successive level of license comes with an expansion of privileges. With only 3 License Classes, getting started in Amateur radio has never been easier! Morse code is no longer required for any US Amateur Radio license! But it is still a very popular operating mode and is still in widespread use.
The FCC has authorized Volunteer Examiners (VE) to administer the tests. These are Amateur Radio operators who have taken additional training and testing to be certified to perform this function. There is always a minimum of 3 VEs required to administer any test. Each test is graded by each of the VEs to ensure accuracy in scoring.
For more information, contact someone from our club (see our Contact page) or Call the ARRL’s toll-free number at 1-888-277-5289 and request an informational Amateur Radio prospect package and / or visit the ARRL getting started page at ARRL Hello Radio.
LEVEL 1: Technician Class License
Your introduction to Amateur Radio.
- Exam Requirement: 35-question Technician Written Exam (Element 2). (This is derived from a pool of 450 questions).
- Privileges: All VHF/UHF Amateur bands (frequencies above 30 MHz).
- Limited operations in certain HF bands.
LEVEL 2: General Class License
Moving onto the HF (High Frequency) bands for world wide contacts.
- Exam Requirement: 35-question General Written Exam (Element 3). (This is derived from a pool of 450 questions).
- Privileges: All Technician Class privileges plus privileges on parts of all the HF Amateur bands (frequencies from 1.8 MHz to 30 MHz).
LEVEL 3: Extra Class License
Access to all the the HF (High Frequency) bands for world wide contacts.
- Exam Requirement: 50-question General Written Exam (Element 4). (This is derived from a pool of 900 questions).
- Privileges: All Technician Class privileges plus all General Class privileges plus privileges on the parts of all the HF Amateur bands (frequencies from 1.8 MHz to 30 MHz) that are restricted to Extra Class Licensees.
How to learn what you need to pass the license tests.
- Take a Class – our club offers hands on classes through the year. Contact us for the current schedule. Technician and General classes usually are held on evenings over an 8 week period. Extra Classes are done with tutoring sessions on specific topics. All classes require independent study of a manual.
- Get a License Manual – There are manuals for each class of license. Each covers the information on the exam, has the entire pool of exam questions and answers and provides a little related material. The ARRL manuals tend to be a little more formally written and the Gordon West manuals tend to be less formally written. Some people find one style better to learn from and some find the other style better.
- Study On-Line – There are several websites that offer online practice tests. But be careful the one you find has the current tests. The questions pools are revised every 2 years or so. The following two are kept current
- QRZ On-Line Tests. This is a FREE part of the QRZ call sign lookup website. The questions and answers are good for practicing but there is not a lot of logic built in as a learning tool.
- Ham Test Online. This site lets you try it a little for free but it charges for full use. It has very good explanations of why the correct answer is right. It also has very good logic in not asking you questions you got right over and over again and giving you more questions and answers with explanations for those that you get wrong.
- Join a Club – Going to club meetings and joining a local club can help a lot when you have specific questions or need help with a particular topic. The larger the club the more likely you will find someone who can help.
Exams are conducted by accredited Volunteer Examiners and sessions are sponsored by CVARC. Exams are conducted for all FCC Amateur Radio license classes under the supervision of the ARRL VEC. No pre-registration is necessary, walk-ins are welcome. The Exams start at 8:30 AM and willl be conducted at:
East County Sheriff’s Station (ECSS)
2101 East Olsen Road
Thousand Oaks, CA 91360
ON EXAM DAY BRING THE FOLLOWING ITEMS:
1. A legal photo ID (driver’s license, passport).
2. When no photo ID is available, two forms of identification must be presented:
a. non-photo ID/driver’s license (some states still have them)
b. birth certificate (must have the appropriate seal)
c. social security card
d. library card
e. utility bill, bank statement or other business correspondence that specifically names the person; or a postmarked envelope addressed to the person at his or her current mailing address as it appears on the Form 605.
3. Students may bring any of the above items and/or a school ID, minor’s work permit, report card, or a legal guardian may present a photo ID.
4. Bring your Social Security Number (SSN) or your FCC issued Federal Registration Number (FRN). VEC’s are required by the FCC to submit either your SSN or your FRN number with your license application form. If you prefer not to give your SSN at the exam session, then you may register your SSN with the FCC before exam day. Once you have a FCC issued FRN, you may no longer use your SSN on the application. For instructions on how to register your SSN with the FCC and receive a FRN, visit the FCC’s FAQ page and the FCC’s registration instructions page. Please note that some exam teams will only accept a valid FRN on your application. Check with your local exam team before exam day.
5. If you are upgrading your existing license, bring the original and a photocopy of your current Amateur Radio license and any Certificates of Successful Completion of Examination (CSCE) you may hold from previous exam sessions; OR a printed copy of your current license from the FCC website: http://wireless.fcc.gov/uls/index.htm?job=home (the photocopy will not be returned).
6. Two number two pencils with erasers and a pen.
7. A calculator with the memory erased and formulas cleared is allowed. You may not bring any written notes or calculations into the exam session. Slide rules and logarithmic tables are acceptable, as long as they’re free of notes and formulas.
Cell phone must be silenced or turned off during the exam session and the phones’ calculator function may not be used. In addition, iPhones, iPads, Androids, smartphones, Blackberry devices and all similar electronic devices with a calculator capability, may NOT be used.
8. Bring a check, a money order or cash to cover the $15 exam session fee.
“Grandfather” upgrades – please refer to: ARRL’s Grandfather Information (http://www.arrl.org/exam-element-credit)
CVARC can process “Grandfather” upgrade requests at scheduled exam sessions, provided they comply with the instructions found at the above website. The normal test fee applies.
2017 Exam Schedule:
- Feb 12
- Apr 9
- Jun 11
- Aug 13
- Oct 8
- Dec 10