What do amateur (ham) radio operators do?
A: Most often, “hams” just talk to each other via radio and generally have a virtual community “on-the-air”. They share tips on operating, but also make friendships that last for lifetimes. The primary purpose that the FCC created the amateur radio bands is for the education and training of radio operators and to assist during times of national crisis. Hams assist with communication in national disasters (Amateur radio was the only available communication for many days after Hurrican Katrina). The Red Cross and all Emergency Management Agencies have organized amateur radio operators — people just like you that help out during times of need. Hams also assist with community events like walk-a-thons, art festivals, and public concerts, by providing a distributed and efficient observation and communications network. Hams help with schools by hosting events for school children like radio “foxhunts”, setting up satellite communications, and talking with astronauts on the International Space Station. In short, amateur radio is ultimately about public service.
That kinda sounds fun. What do I do to get started?
A: The FCC requires that your be appropriately licensed to transmit on amateur radio bands. (Anyone can listen, and many people do with commercially available scanners.) If you plan on transmitting, the first amateur radio license to get is the “Technician” license.
What is the Technician amateur radio license?
A: The Technician license is the introductory amateur radio license. There are a total of three license types defined by the FCC: “Technician”, “General”, and “Amateur Extra”. Each license type, beyond the entry-level Technician, provide additional operating frequency privileges.
What can I do with the Technician amateur radio license?
A: The Technician license allows you to operate an amateur radio station on all amateur radio frequencies above 30 MHz. The Technician frequency privileges include the popular 2 meter band where most local and area communication occurs. An amateur with the Technician license can use voice repeaters using a mobile or hand-held radio to communication with other hams in the area or around the world via internet connections or via amateur radio satellites. Many hams use their Technician license to participate as severe weather storm spotters or to provide emergency communications support to the Red Cross or local EMAs.
Do I have to know Morse code to get my amateur radio license?
A: Morse code is no longer required for any of the amateur radio licenses in the US. However, knowledge of Morse code enables traditional CW communication on many bands that are not suitable for “phone” (voice) communications. Plus, Morse code is pretty cool.
Why would I want to get the higher licenses like General and Amateur Extra?
A: Each higher license is provided with additional privileges (allowed to communicate on more bands with higher power and in more modes). Plus, it’s a challenge to learn more and get the higher license. Amateur radio is a hobby that will keep you entertained for a lifetime.
Are there any age requirements to get an amateur radio license?
A: Nope. Anyone can obtain an amateur radio license as long as they pass the license exam. There are many children under the age of 12 that have passed the exams and are successful amateur radio operators.
What is the total cost to get my amateur radio license?
A: The current Volunteer Examiner (VE) fee for taking the Technician license exam is $15 to cover the costs of the examination and postage to the FCC. The cost is regulated by the FCC and the Volunteer Examiner organizations
What topics are covered on the Technician license exam?
A: The Technician license exam, known as Element 2, consists of 35 multiple-choice questions. The test covers basic FCC rules, communications methods and procedures, basic electronics and safety topics.
Is the “Technician” (Element 2) exam hard to pass?
A: Not if you study a little bit. A passing score is 70% or 26 questions answered correctly. Plus, the FCC mandates that the exam questions and answers be publicaly available. So, you can study exactly what is going to be on the exam. There are many online and print resourses to help you study. (See our links page.)
W5YD in conjunction with the ARRL-VEC administers examinations periodically. To find out the next testing date, email us.
Other organizations also host FCC examination sessions. To find other amateur radio examination sessions near Mississippi State University, visit this link at the ARRL-VEC website.