Becoming a Ham

The WCRL is dedicated to helping further amateur radio as a hobby and as a service. We encourage everyone interested in the hobby to contact their local amateur radio club. Most clubs are happy to assist newcomers and often have a combined experience of several decades in the hobby. If the WCRL happens to be your local club, then  it’s a WIN WIN!

With that said, here are some resources that we have compiled to help those who may be interested in the hobby.

This is an article that pretty well goes over the basics of “What is ham radio?”

Why should I become a ham?

Hams are just people. Every single one of us is different and I would argue that no two of us use amateur radio quite the same. Some of us just have a knack for tinkering and building. Many hams are passionate about Emergency services and use the hobby to serve their community as a volunteer. Some of us just like the idea of being able to communicate no matter what, independently of anyone else. With all the variety in our hobby, there is definitely something for everyone in ham radio.

How do I become a ham?

All amateur radio operators must be licensed by the FCC. There is no age limit any American citizen who is not a representative of a foreign government may obtain a license.

Most hams start with the Technician level license which will give you all the operating privileges you need to get started in the hobby, though many of us do chose to upgrade later. In order to get a Tech license you must pass a 35 question multiple choice exam with questions on FCC laws, basic operating procedures and basic electronics theory. Anyone who studies can pass this test, second graders have done it before.  The test costs $15 and your license will be good for 10 years.

Studying

There are many different ways to go about studying for your exam. There are often times local classes, and books such as The ARRL Handbook   can be purchased. However you can also learn everything you need to know online for free. I studied this down to earth questions and answers online guide known as the No Nonsense Technician Class then went on to take flashcards and practice tests at HamExam  No matter how you decide to study, I encourage you to take a free online practice test before you begin to see where you are and get a feel for the test.

Finding a testing session

Tests are no longer administered by the FCC, but by volunteer examiners (VE’s). Most amateur radio clubs have their own VE team and hold periodic VE sessions. To look for a VE session near you visit The ARRL

Getting started

Now you have your callsign, whats next? The best way to start is by meeting some other local hams. It doesn’t really matter how. I encourage you to join your local amateur radio club, but this may not be possible for everyone. Regardless of how you do it, meeting some other hams is a great way to start. I could go into the specifics of buying radios, repeater usage and so fourth, but that is what the local club is for. Clubs are a wealth of information, so use it!

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