Getting Licensed

Anyone is free to listen, however to get the full enjoyment one needs to make a contact to another Amateur Radio Operator around the world.  Amateur radio operators require a license from the Federal Communications Commission.

It is incredibly easy to obtain the basic Technician license. With just a little more studying you can talk to people around the world as a General class. If you go the extra mile to get your Amateur Extra, there are frequencies reserved just for fellow hams who went all the way. There are only 3 license classes being issued, and there is no morse code requirement for any of the license classes. 35 questions for Technician and General class, 50 for Amateur Extra class.

  1. Get a study guide and familiarize yourself with amateur radio. Technician      class licenses should take a week or two if you dedicate some time each day. The ARRL has several books in their licensing study guide section. There’s also several free online sources, such as N8KBR‘s study guides and W5JCK’s Amateur Extra study materials.
  2. Take a practice exam.  You can find practice exams on in the practice exam section. See if you can score 90% or higher several tests in a row.
  3. Find an exam location.   The SMRA has a testing team, so would be happy to test you. Check out our  calendar for upcoming exams or get in touch with the club at
  4. Tests are either PASS/FAIL. Technician and General class exams require 26/35 correct while the Extra exam requires 37/50. You will be informed of your pass/fail at the testing location, although you won’t be told which questions you got wrong. New licensees should check the FCC’s ULS listing website for their new callsign (search by name as “Last, First” since you don’t know  your future callsign), which could take several days and are assigned sequentially. Newly licensed people without callsigns CANNOT get on the air until the FCC issues a callsign.
  5. After you see your callsign in the ULS database, your Certificate of Successful      Completion of Exam (CSCE) is your temporary license and will allow you to  get on the air. Your CSCE is the white paper that shows your license class  and the exam administrators’ signatures. Expect a letter from the FCC with your printed license within a few weeks.
  6. Consider joining some organizations:
    • American Radio Relay League – The ARRL is national membership association for amateur radio operators, founded in 1914.
    • South Mountain Radio Amateurs –  Nothing beats a local club where you not only talk to people on the air, but you can attend meetings for face-to-face discussion about amateur radio and show each other tips/tricks about hamming. Membership is FREE  to newly licensed hams.
  7. There are some great on-line sites that will assist your learning process, track your progression through the question pool and send you back to areas of difficulty on the test.

If you’re unlicensed but looking for a friendly group of hams to explain what it’s all about, feel free to attend one of the SMRA meetings. Information on our meetings is on our calendar.