How to Become an Amateur (Ham) Radio Operator

First, you need to earn an FCC Amateur Radio license, then you can join in the on-air fun. Getting your FCC Ham radio operator’s license is relatively easy, and TSRC is here to help.

There are three classes of FCC license with different levels of operating privileges. You have to earn them in order, but if you’re ready, you could take all three exams in one day.

  • Technician Class, with full VHF and UHF privileges and limited HF (shortwave) privileges
  • General Class, which adds a full range of HF privileges
  • Extra Class, which offers access to additional HF frequencies

Live in or near the Upper Valley area of Vermont and New Hampshire? When you earn your first FCC Amateur Radio license, TSRC has a free one-year Associate membership for you for the asking! It’s a great way to learn more about all the hobby has to offer.

Studying On Your Own

To get started, visit the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) website: ARRL is the national association for Amateur Radio. It’s a great place to learn about the various aspects of ham radio and what it takes to earn your license. Attending TSRC meetings is another great way to learn, and make new friends in the process.

Next, get some study materials. The ARRL Ham Radio Technician License study guide can be purchased on or directly from ARRL for about $33. Or, you can read it free online on the ARRL website. There are also a variety of on-line resources to choose from. If you feel you need a complete course, try There are also a number of free practice exam sites including the one on the ARRL website. TSRC and other clubs also offer “get licensed” courses from time to time. If you’re interested, just ask!

Try a smartphone app for studying on the run. The Apple AppStore has multiple applications to help you study for the exam. For example, the excellent Amateur Radio Exam Prep: Technician by Patrick J Maloney is $5. Similar apps exist for other smartphone platforms.

A half hour of study each night for a few weeks, take an online practice exam until you’re scoring in the nineties, and you’re ready for the Technician Class license exam!

Take a Class!

Need more support, or maybe some one on one learning? TSRC runs periodic “tech-in-a-day sessions. Contact any officer for information. Or, we can help find a nearby ham to be your “Elmer” (ancient Ham slang for “mentor.”) Contact us at [email protected] or [email protected] for more information.

Another great option is New England Sci-Tech a STEM education and makers’ space group near Boston. They offer a variety of online courses, and online testing as well! They have a great success record, so check them out.  

Also, check out the Nashua Amateur Radio Society’s online weekend courses. This is a club with loads of teaching and operating experience. It’s a huge club and their website offers a wide range of resources to hams far and wide.

Disabled in some way? Visit ARRL’s Handi-Ham page for specialized resources.

FCC License Exam Sessions

When you are ready to take the exam you will need to find an exam session. Exams are normally given in Claremont, NH once each quarter by the Connecticut Valley FM Association, and by TSRC in the Upper Valley between the CVRC sessions. TSRC’s exam coordinator is Jed Peterson KC1KQZ, [email protected]. TSRC exam dates will be listed on our home page. Most groups charge a nominal fee to cover actual exam costs, and the FCC implemented a new license application fee of $35 on April 19, 2022 in response to a broad directive from Congress. Exam schedules and venues may vary.

The ARRL website also includes a search engine to find an exam session. Bring two forms of photo ID and $35 with you to any ARRL-sponsored exam session. All exams are given by certified volunteer examiners, and you will have the results before you leave. When you pass, the examiners will send your results to the FCC. It can take up to a week for the FCC to issue you your new call sign, but often less. Check the FCC Universal Licensing System web page and search for your name. Once you have your call sign, you can join us on the air! Congratulations!