The Three Types of Ham Radio Licenses

The Three Types of Ham Radio Licenses

If you’re interested in becoming a licensed amateur radio operator, you’d do well to brush up on the various licenses before taking your first exam.

Commonly known as amateur radio, ham radio has become something of a niche hobby over the past two decades. Still, if you wanted to connect with like-minded individuals from different locales prior to the mid-90s, ham radio represented the best tool with which to do so. Even though ham radio has largely been overshadowed by the Worldwide Web, it’s a hobby that continues to delight adults and children the world over.

Amateur radio is still widely enjoyed in the U.S. In fact, recent years have seen a slight increase in its popularity among American citizens. As much fun as it is, though, ham radio isn’t a hobby you can jump right into. In order to legally operate an amateur radio console, you’ll need to obtain a license, per FCC mandates. Fortunately, provided you do a fair amount of studying, you should have no problem getting the license you seek in a timely manner. It’s worth noting, however, that ham radio licenses are not a one-size-fits-all affair. There are three different license types, each of which you’ll need to pass a test to obtain. If you’re interested in becoming a licensed amateur radio operator, you’d do well to brush up on the various licenses before taking your first exam.

Technician License

Technician class licenses are essentially entry level licenses for ham novices. With this license, you’ll have legal access to all ham radio frequencies above 30 megahertz. This enables licensees to make contact with other ham operators across North America. Furthermore, a Technician class license also entitles operators to limited privileges on short-wave bands that are used to communicate internationally. The Technician exam is fairly easy, ensuring that many examinees pass on their first try. Said exam is comprised of 35 questions, with subjects running the gamut from radio theory to operating practices. 

General License

A General class license entitles operators to a few additional privileges. For example, General class license holders are granted access to all operating modes and ham radio bands. However, their privileges on these bands remain limited. In other words, anyone interested in international communications is urged to pursue a General license. Like the Technician class exam, the General exam features 35 questions that cover a wide assortment of radio-related topics. It’s worth noting that prospective licensees can’t take the General exam without first passing the Technician exam. 

Amateur Extra License

The most advanced type of amateur radio license, an Amateur Extra class license provides total access to all bands and operating modes. The corresponding exam is slightly more difficult than the General and Technician exams, totaling 50 questions which cover a broader range of topics. In order to take this exam, you’ll need to have passed the previous two. When preparing for your Amateur Extra exam, it helps to have a high-quality console to practice on – preferably one equipped with top-tier directional couplers from Werlatone

Ham radio may not be as internationally popular as it once was, but it still has its fair share of supporters – both in the U.S. and abroad. Even though some prospective hammers will be turned off by the idea of obtaining a license, they can take solace in the fact that becoming licensed isn’t particularly cumbersome. Familiarizing yourself with the different license types is sure to serve you well in your efforts to become a licensed ham operator.

About the Author: Brent Davis is a high school chemistry teacher who’s dabbled in ham radio since childhood and takes every opportunity to teach his students about his favorite hobby. Whenever one of his radio consoles needs a new directional coupler, he visits Werlatone’s online store.