How To Get a Ham Radio License in the US?

Ham radio is more relevant now than ever. It allows you to communicate over long distances with cell or internet towers, giving you complete self-reliance. Recent disasters only prove that you can’t rely on the electrical grid, as they falter under survival conditions. 

With ham radio, you own the software and hardware, giving you a direct line of communication during emergencies. There’s also a global community of amateur radio operators that use them for aviation, hiking, hunting, off-roading, or as hobbyists who communicate on various frequencies. 

However, you can’t enjoy all the fantastic benefits of operating a ham radio until you pass the exam and get your license. Operating an amateur radio without a license can cost you up to $17,000 for intentional interference. 

To get a ham radio license, you’ll need to plan ahead. In this guide, we’ll share the requirements, how to register and schedule an exam session, and the best ways to prepare. Let’s begin! 

Requirements for Obtaining a Ham Radio License

Before you can acquire a ham radio license, there are some basic requirements you’ll want to meet. We’ll discuss these requirements so that you know whether you qualify or not. 

Age Requirements

Fortunately, obtaining a ham radio license has no age requirement. Any person who has passed the exam can acquire a license. Regardless of age, they’ll still need all the knowledge to safely operate a ham radio and understand the various FCC regulations. 

Citizenship Requirements

You can only obtain a ham radio license if you’re a US citizen or legal resident with a mailing address in the United States. Furthermore, you’re required to have a social security number or taxpayer identification number. 

Steps for Registering and Taking the Licensing Exam

If you meet the requirements, it’s time to register for the exam. This registration locks your session in place, so you can focus on preparing and acing the big test! Below, we’ll discuss how to find a test location, schedule an exam date and what to bring to your session. 

Finding a Testing Location

Obtaining your ham radio license means you’ll need to attend an examination session administered by a Volunteer Examiner team. Fortunately, many testing locations are available, or you can even take an exam online. 

The easiest way to take the test is with a local ham radio club that is ARRL affiliated. Check out The National Association Amateur Radio page to search testing locations by zip code. 

However, if you live in a rural town that makes it inconvenient to take the test in person, don’t worry! The FCC announced in 2020 that ham radio licensing exams could be held remotely. Typically, you’ll need a webcam setup and a Zoom software tool to access the online room. 

Below are the notable clubs that offer online testing for ham radio licensing: 

  • Greater Los Angeles Amateur Radio Group (GLAARG)

  • Aurora Amateur Radio Group (AARG)

  • New England Amateur Radio (NEAR)

  • Anchorage Alaska Radio Club 

Scheduling an Exam Date

Once you’ve found a testing location or online organization that offers the ham radio licensing exam, you’ll have to schedule a date. 

On the ARRL website, you’ll receive a bunch of dates and times of exam dates near you. Simply scroll down the page and choose the time that fits your availability. Most exams require you to register for the exam ahead of time, while some allow walk-ins. 

After you’ve selected the date and time, you’ll have to register your information online. Submit the form, and an email will be sent to confirm your registration. Let’s go over what you’ll need to bring along! 

What to Bring to the Exam

Before taking the test, you’ll want to bring specific items to register for the licensing examination properly. Here is what to bring to your exam: 

  • A legal photo ID: this includes a state driver’s license, state photo ID, student photo ID, government-issued passport, and military or law enforcement office photo ID. 

  • Two forms of identification: This includes your legal photo ID. However, you can also bring a non-photo state ID card, school ID card, public library card, social security number card, bank statement, utility bill, or other business correspondence with your name and home address. 

  • Writing tools: Two number-two pencils, an eraser, and a pen 

  • Calculator: You can’t use cell phones as a calculator or bring written notes to the exam session. 

  • Money: Bring cash, a money order, or a check to cover the exam fee. Typically it costs $15 for adults and $5 for anyone under 18 years old. 

Resources for Studying and Preparing for the Exam

Now that you know the requirements and how to register for the licensing exam, you’re ready to begin preparing for it. Like any other exam, you want to dedicate time and effort to studying. 

However, you only need a 74 percent or higher to pass the test. Yes, you only need to answer 26 out of the 35 questions correctly for the Technician and General class license exams. So don’t overstress yourself trying to achieve the perfect score. 

If you like being top of the class, we’ve got some guides below to get you started. 

Books and Study Guides

There are plenty of physical resources to help you best prepare for the exam. Books like the ARRL Ham Radio License Manual, The No-Nonsense Technician Class License Study Guide, and the Pass Your Amateur Radio Technician Class Test are excellent resources for retaining ham radio knowledge. Many of these books have built-in study guides to summarize and help you remember the information for the big day.

Online Resources and Practice Exams

The key to solidifying your understanding from conceptual knowledge to practice is by taking practice exams. We recommend utilizing free practice exams with actual questions from previous tests. Websites that offer online practices are below: 

Not everyone studies effectively in an online setting. Some may prefer to meet for several hours a week and physically take practice exams. If that’s you, ask your local Amateur Radio club about prep classes or use the ARRL online search service

Most local amateur radio clubs offer specific training for each of the three levels of licenses. Training is theoretical, so test your knowledge with practice exams afterward. 

Moonraker Radio Communication

Once you obtain your license, it’s time to look for the best ham radio on the market. At Moonraker, we’re your trusted source for buying amateur radio equipment such as ham radios, transceivers, amplifiers, microphones, morse code keys, antenna and antenna support, power cables, and more.

We offer guides to help you learn the technology involved with amateur radio, what frequencies to use, and how to choose the best products for your communication needs. 

Got Questions? Contact Moonraker Today!

Getting into amateur radio isn’t as easy as buying a ham radio and turning it on. Legal regulations in the US require you to obtain a license first. There are over 750,000 ham radio licenses in the US, meaning you’ll have access to a large community of passionate individuals.

You can make new friends and connect with other amateur enthusiasts worldwide. And if there’s ever an emergency, you’ll be equipped and knowledgeable enough to help you and your loved ones. 

Now you’re ready to take what you’ve learned and embark on your studies for the exam. If you’re searching for the best ham radios on the market, Moonraker has the best options. 

At Moonraker, you can find amateur radio kits and accessories to start your journey. You’ll find ham radios, of course, but also headsets and microphones, antennas, and other accessories for your radio. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact our support team so we can link you to the right product. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are commonly asked questions about getting a ham radio license in the US. 

Do I need a license to operate a ham radio?

Yes, under the Federal Communications Commission Act of 1934, you’ll need a license to become a ham radio operator. There are three license classes in the US - the higher the license, the more frequencies are made available. Earning a higher-class license typically requires passing a more challenging exam. 

What is the age requirement for obtaining a ham radio license in the US?

Operating a ham radio for personal use is granted to people of any age as long as they have their ham radio license in the US. This requires them to have demonstrated knowledge of amateur radio station operations and necessary FCC regulations. Adolescents as young as five years old have passed the examination and were granted licenses!

Are there different types of ham radio licenses?

There are three types of ham radio licenses: Technician, General, and Amateur Extra. Each license requires passing a separate examination. The technician license allows you to communicate in your local area and around the country. However, the general license provides access to worldwide communication, and the Amateur Extra gives all the available bands used by ham radios. 

What is the exam like, and what should I expect on test day?

The exam depends on the type of license you’re aiming for. The Technician exam has 35 questions covering topics that include ham radio operating practices, radio theory, and your knowledge of the regulations. 

On test day, you’ll need to have registered for your exam, take the test, and complete the paperwork. Each test takes around 15 to 45 minutes to complete. Bring these items to the test session: 

  • Your social security number 

  • A few pencils 

  • Two forms of identification 

  • A calculator 

  • Scratch paper 

  • Your original ham radio license (if you’re planning to upgrade your license to a higher class) 

Can I use my ham radio for emergency communication?

Yes! As long as you’re licensed, you can use a ham radio for emergency communication. It’s one of the best ways to communicate during emergencies because it allows you to listen and speak to your local emergency services. The ham radio range is much longer than typical communication services.