Unlike “no license required” Citizens Band and Family Radio Service radios, the radios amateur radio operators can use are high-powered radios operating on frequencies reserved, for the most part, exclusively for amateur radio. For this reason, the law requires you get an FCC license to operate those radios.
The entry-level amateur radio license is the Technician Class license.
Earning your Technician Class license requires passing a 35 question multiple-choice exam, usually administered by a local ham radio club. The 35 questions are pulled semi-randomly from a question pool of over 400 questions. The major topics of the exam include; basic FCC law, ham radio operating procedures, some very basic electrical and electromagnetic science, and safety. There is no longer any Morse Code requirement for any amateur radio license. There is also no age limit, upper or lower. People as young as 5 years old have passed the exam and gotten their license.
Here’s a sample question:
Which of the following is a purpose of the Amateur Radio Service as stated in the FCC rules and regulations?
A. Providing personal radio communications for as many citizens as possible
B. Providing communications for international non-profit organizations
C. Advancing skills in the technical and communication phases of the radio art
D. All of these choices are correct
With that license, you will get almost unlimited operating privileges in the ham bands above 50 mHz, including the very popular “2 meter” and “70 cm” bands. Even with an inexpensive radio — under $40 — you’ll have access to thousands of repeater stations that magnify the power of your radio far beyond the capabilities of those other services.
You’ll find the ham community is almost universally friendly, helpful, and welcoming of newcomers. It’s about fun!
While it’s quite possible to both study for and pass the Technician Class exam in one weekend, most people take two to four weeks to prepare for the exam. How much time it takes you will depend a lot on your prior background, but even those with no prior electronics education can be ready to go in a month.