How to Get Licensed

First - why should I get licensed?

Before you can get on the air, you need to be licensed and know the rules to operate legally. US licenses are good for 10 years before renewal, and anyone may hold one except a representative of a foreign government. In the US, there are three license classes—Technician, General and Extra.


The Technician class license is the entry-level license of choice for most new ham radio operators. To earn the Technician license requires passing one examination totaling 35 questions on radio theory, regulations and operating practices. The license gives access to all Amateur Radio frequencies above 30 MHz, allowing these licensees the ability to communicate locally and most often within North America. It also allows for some limited privileges on the HF (also called "short wave") bands used for international communications. Below are the progressive levels of licensing. The more you advance through the classifications, the more operating privileges you acquire.

LEVEL 1: Technician Class License

Exam Requirement: 35-question Technician Written Exam (Element 2).

Privileges: All VHF/UHF Amateur bands (frequencies above 30 MHz). Limited operations in certain HF bands.

 The FCC Technician License exam covers basic regulations, operating practices and electronics theory, with a focus on VHF and UHF applications. Morse code is not required for this license. With a Technician Class license, you will have all ham radio privileges above 30 MHz. These privileges include the very popular 2-meter band. Many Technician licensees enjoy using small (2 meter) hand-held radios to stay in touch with other hams in their area. Technicians may operate FM voice, digital packet (computers), television, single-sideband voice and several other interesting modes. You can even make international radio contacts via satellites, using relatively simple station equipment. Technician licensees now also have additional privileges on certain HF frequencies. Technicians may also operate on the 80, 40 and 15 meter bands using CW, and on the 10 meter band using CW, voice and digital modes.


The General class license grants some operating privileges on all amateur radio bands and all operating modes. This license opens the door to world-wide communications. Earning the General class license requires passing a 35 question examination. General class licensees must also have passed the Technician written examination.

LEVEL 2: General Class License

Exam Requirements: 35-question General written exam (Element 3).

License Privileges: All VHF/UHF Amateur bands and most HF privileges (10 through 160 meters).

The General Class license is the second of three US Amateur Radio licenses. To upgrade to General Class, you must already hold a Technician Class license (or have recently passed the Technician license exam). Upgrading to a General license, which conveys extensive HF privileges, only requires passing a written examination. Once you do, the entire range of operating modes and the majority of the amateur spectrum below 30 MHz become available to you. The FCC grants exam Element 3 credit to individuals that previously held certain older types of licenses.


The Amateur Extra class license conveys all available U.S. Amateur Radio operating privileges on all bands and all modes. Earning the license is more difficult; it requires passing a thorough 50 question examination. Extra class licensees must also have passed all previous license class written examinations.

LEVEL 3: Extra Class License

Exam Requirement: 50-question Extra written exam (Element 4).

License Privileges: All Amateur bands privileges.

 General licensees may upgrade to Extra Class by passing a 50-question multiple-choice examination. No Morse code test is required. In addition to some of the more obscure regulations, the test covers specialized operating practices, advanced electronics theory and radio equipment design. Non-licensed individuals must pass Element 2, Element 3, and Element 4 written exams to earn an Extra License. The FCC grants exam element 3 credit to individuals that previously held certain older types of licenses. The HF bands can be awfully crowded, particularly at the top of the solar cycle. Once one earns HF privileges, one may quickly yearn for more room. The Extra Class license is the answer. Extra Class licensees are authorized to operate on all frequencies allocated to the Amateur Service.

There is much information regarding getting licensed from the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) website. Please visit them at You don’t have to be a member of the ARRL to take advantage of a host of great information.

Much of the information on this page is printed from the ARRL website as The 220 MHz Guys ARC Inc. is an official ARRL affiliated amateur radio club.