So, you want to be a Ham?

Amateur radio (also called ham radio) is the use of designated radio frequency spectrum for purposes of private recreation, non-commercial exchange of messages, wireless experimentation, self-training, and emergency communication. The term "amateur" is used to specify persons interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest, and to differentiate it from commercial broadcasting, public safety (such as police and fire) or professional two-way radio services (such as maritime, aviation, taxis, etc.).

Amateur radio operation is coordinated by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and licensed by the individual national governments that regulate technical and operational characteristics of transmissions and issue individual stations with an identifying call sign. Prospective amateur operators are tested for their understanding of key concepts in electronics and the host government's radio regulations.

Amateurs use a variety of voice, text, image and data communications modes and have access to frequency allocations throughout the RF spectrum to enable communication across a city, a region, a country, a continent or the whole world and even into space. An estimated two million people throughout the world are regularly involved with amateur radio.


Classes of Licenses


Morse code is no longer a requirement for any license class.

There are only three current classes of new amateur radio licenses: Technician, General, and Extra. The Novice and Advance Class licenses are no longer issued.

Technician Class - This is the entry level license class, requires Exam element 2 and permits VHF/UHF operation with limited HF operation on 10 meters.

The General Class License provides additional HF operating privileges and requires passing Elements 2 and 3.

The Extra Class License is the highest Class license, provides the most HF operating privileges, and requires passing Elements 2,3 and 4.

Once you have pass an exam element and are issued the corresponding license, you do not have to take it again to upgrade to the next class of license unless you let your license expire. Note that it is possible to go directly to General or Extra by taking multiple exam elements in one session.

Renewal of Ham Radio Licenses are free but must be done in the last 3 months of your license term.


Take the Test


License exams, known as VE Sessions, are administered for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) by local Volunteer Examiners (VEs) who are ham radio operators with at least a general class who have been accredited by the ARRL or another Volunteer Exam Coordinator (VEC). VEs must have a higher license class than the test they are administering (Extra's, however, can give the extra exam).

Testing sessions are administered on the second Saturday on every even numbered months at the Woodmen of the World building on Highway 42 (John Wayland Highway) just north of Dayton, Virginia. Sign-in starts at 9:00 am, followed immediately by testing.

Exams are also given at most Hamfests, annual ham radio flea market events in Richmond, Berryville, Manassas, Roanoke, and Virginia Beach to name a few.


Study Materials


For all three License Classes (Technician, General, and Extra), there are numerous printed study guides, UTube videos, online study guides, etc.


Gordon West Study Manuals

The Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) License Manuals and study guides. 

Online Study Guides and practice tests:  


VE Testing Materials  

Ham Test Online