The middle level amateur radio license is the General Class License.
General Class opens up the HF, for High Frequency, bands to you. You’ll be able to transmit on most of the ham frequencies from 160 meters through 10 meters.
.Because those frequencies open up, many more modes of transmission become available to you, including Single Sideband Phone, and a vast array of digital modes.
In addition to more frequencies and more modes, when you get your General ticket, your on-the-air ham universe expands to encompass the entire globe! Getting your General opens up the possibility of working DX, talking with folks in other countries. (DX is short for “distance”, and is ham shorthand for international conversations.) When it comes to expanding your possibilities within the hobby, in terms of what you might call your return on investment, the General Class license has to be one of the greatest bargains in the world.
Those General Class frequencies have gotten a lot easier to participate in over the years, too. Time was when working the HF bands meant you would be devoting a whole room of your home (or a big part of the basement) to housing big radios – a separate receiver, transmitter, antenna tuner, power amplifier, speaker, and all sorts of other stuff. That equipment could be cantankerous and undependable, too. Today, you can purchase an “all band” (HF, VHF, UHF) radio with amazing features folks never dreamed of in the old days, and the whole thing is about the size of a car stereo unit.
Perhaps you have dreams of working DX from a mountaintop with your portable rig, or adventuring off to a distant island on a DXpedition. Maybe you want to earn your WAS (Worked All States) or DXCC (DX Century Club, for working 100 foreign countries.)
Or, maybe your reason for going for your General is none of the above. Maybe you just want the satisfaction of a sense of accomplishment, or perhaps you are just a curious soul who enjoys learning more about radio and the ham radio hobby. That’s cool, too!
Earning your General Class license requires passing a 35 question multiple-choice exam, usually administered by a local ham radio club.
The exam covers FCC law, ham radio operating procedures focused on the General Class privileges, some more advanced electrical and radio wave propagation science, and safety. Here’s a sample question:
Which of the following is a limitation on transmitter power on the 1.8 MHz band?
A. 200 watts PEP output
B. 1000 watts PEP output
C. 1200 watts PEP output
D. 1500 watts PEP output
While it’s quite possible to both study for and pass the General Class exam in a week or two, most people take four to six weeks to prepare for the exam. To speed up your journey to your General Class ticket, we recommend you get either the Kindle or paperback edition, and supplement with the 14 hour audio edition — audio is a great way to use commuting or exercising time, for instance.