How to be a Ham (USA)

So you want to become a ham? Ham radio, despite what you see on this site, is an interesting, exciting and educational hobby. As with all hobbies, there are people that take it too far. THAT is what this site exists to do. All of us who run the site are hams, and enjoy pokng fun at not only those around us, but ourselves. Ham radio is in serious danger of becoming extinct – a combination of a less-than-positive public image of Ham Radio, along with an aging majority of hams either going off the air or dying is quickly reducing our numbers.

So – you wanna get involved? Ham radio isn’t only for the nerdy, the overweight, the smelly… people from all walks of life and around the world are hams and get something out of the hobby.

The US Amateur Radio service consists of three license classes. According to the ARRL website, they are described as follows:

Technician Class
Hams enter the hobby as Technicians by passing a 35-question multiple-choice examination. No Morse code test is required. The exam covers basic regulations, operating practices, and electronics theory, with a focus on VHF and UHF applications.

Technician Class operators are authorized to use all amateur VHF and UHF frequencies (all frequencies above 50 MHz). Technicians who pass a 5 WPM Morse code examination are entitled to limited power outputs on certain HF frequencies. “Technicians with HF” may operate on the 80, 40, and 15 meter bands using CW, and on the 10 meter band using CW, voice, and digital modes.

General Class
The General Class is a giant step up in operating privileges. The high-power HF privileges granted to General licensees allow for cross-country and worldwide communication. Some people prefer to earn the General Class license as their first ticket, so they may operate on HF right away.

Technicians may upgrade to General Class by passing a 5 WPM Morse code test and a 35-question multiple-choice examination. The written exam covers intermediate regulations, operating practices, and electronics theory, with a focus on HF applications.

In addition to the Technician privileges, General Class operators are authorized to operate on any frequency in the 160, 30, 17, 12, and 10 meter bands. They may also use significant segments of the 80, 40, 20, and 15 meter bands.

Extra Class
The HF bands can be awfully crowded, particularly at the top of the solar cycle. Once one earns HF privileges, one may quickly yearn for more room. The Extra Class license is the answer.

General licensees may upgrade to Extra Class by passing a 50-question multiple-choice examination. No further Morse code test is required. In addition to some of the more obscure regulations, the test covers specialized operating practices, advanced electronics theory, and radio equipment design. Frankly, the test is very difficult, but others have passed it, and you can too.

Extra Class licensees are authorized to operate on all frequencies allocated to the Amateur Service.

How do you prepare

The ARRL examination guides are available on the internet at: As well, most major ham radio outlets or your local bookstore/library will have books on the subject.

Most ham radio clubs offer courses and study help to help you get your license. To locate a club near you, visit:

If you like what you see and decide to get your license – let us know! Thakns for helping our hobby, and thanks for supporting Ham Radio and Hamsexy!

1 Response to How to be a Ham (USA)

  1. TomatoPaste says:

    Your writeup is correct with the exception of the following:

    “Technicians who pass a 5 WPM Morse code examination are entitled to limited power outputs on certain HF frequencies.”

    The proper term is PERMITTED, not ENTITLED. A ham ticket does not “entitle” one to anythying, any more than a driving license “entitles” its holder to operate a car on public roads. It is simply “permission” from the goverment to operate a radio transmitter on a certain group of frequencies in a certain way, and it can be revoked for any reason.

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