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Thread: Questions about getting into ham radio

  1. #1

    Default Questions about getting into ham radio

    Hello everybody! I'm an electronics student studying to become an electronics technician with a focus on componet and board level troubleshooting. I've got a pretty good basis on radio communication such as how an AM and FM radio operate, wave propogation, various types of antennas, and calculating transmitted power.

    My class is currently working on a lab in which each each build, tune, and trubleshoot an AM and FM radio and it's gotten me thinking about the possibility of ham radio operation. Yesterday I bought the ARRL 2012 handbook and i"m waiting for that to come in the mail. I'm assuming that will have a lot of useful info, but I want to hear from the experts.

    I have several questions:

    First, what is the cost of becoming a ham radio operator? What's the cost of the testing, licensing, and basic equipment? I am a college student after all.

    Second, how do I go about getting the ball rolling on such a project? I have no idea where to begin. Are there classes? Or is there a place I just walk into and take a test? Are there different levels of certification? If so, what rights/privelages does each level grant me? I assume that there's some sort of test that I'd need to take sooner or later- what is the nature of that test? What sort of questions would I expect to find on that test?

    Third, what information would prove useful in this pursuit? I've got quite a bit of building and troubleshooting experience with active devices, amplifiers, function generators, analog and digital devices, linear and non-linear. I'm not up to par with my vacuum tube experience. Would I need to learn morse code?

    I'm sure more questions will come to mind, I tend to have a lot of them so I'd thank you for bearing with me. Thank you all and have a great day!

  2. #2
    Super Moderator 5B4AJB's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Meneou, Cyprus



    Quote Originally Posted by Techtronicman View Post
    what is the cost of becoming a ham radio operator?
    Very low. Probably about $25 or so, it depends where you are in the world. Secondhand radios are a good option for a beginner, provided they come from a trusted source. IE:- your local radio club and not ebay

    Quote Originally Posted by Techtronicman View Post
    how do I go about getting the ball rolling
    Check your book for local clubs, they usually handle courses & licensing.
    There are different license classes, each allowing different operating conditions (mainly power output).
    Have a look at for some typical questions.

    Quote Originally Posted by Techtronicman View Post
    what information would prove useful
    I was lucky enough to be studying AC theory at college when I decided to take my HAM course, it helped a lot, together with a lot of listening to radios and CB, got me through.
    Morse code is not required any more for a full license, but you can still learn it if you want to, it is still a very active mode...

  3. #3


    To answer some of your questions, it's roughly about $14 to take the test. A basic rig could range from $100 to $200, depending on what you want the rig to do.

    The license class begins with Technician, General, and Extra. If your just looking to get on the air and ragchew on local repeaters, a Technician license is all you need. The General and Extra license class open a much broader band use. If I'm not mistaken, the Technician and General test are a list of 35 multiple choice questions where the Extra class has 50 multiple choice questions.

    As far as how to get started, you've started right. Go to and browse their webpage for different study material.

    I hope this helps and good luck with your journey into the hobby of amateur radio.

  4. #4


    The costs are very low to start, then climb at an exponential rate! Just kidding. Since you are an electronics student I'd recommend that you roll your own, maybe a QRP transmitter/receiver. There are LOTs of project like that on the net and in the Handbook. As for the testing, visit my blog link below and under Other Goodies you'll find what you need to study for the Tech license. You're not going to need a lot of electronics knowledge for that test, it's going to be mostly on regulations and testing if you know your way around a radio and the bands. No Morse.

  5. #5


    Also, 50% of the general test is the same as the tech, so you could prob get both with only a little more studying.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    North Carolina


    I got a nice ICOM radio from my uncle as a starting Technician, and as far as I can tell it cost around $100. But, This is a handheld radio, so if you want a true "home Base" rig, it is going to cost more. I suggest purchasing a Yaesu or Kenwood product if you want a high-quality radio with all the bells and whistles, but those prices could be high. I hear that they also sell "beginner" radios as well, but ICOM and Kenwood sell good all-around radios. As for the testing, I am 15 years old and I have my Technician license. The only costs for Tech are around $30 for the ARRL guide(which i highly recommend, however I believe you need to be an ARRL member to get it. The one you have sounds like it will work fine), and whatever the VEs charge to administer your test. For finding the testing session, ARRL has a part on their website for that. You can take the test whenever you want, but seeing the price, I suggest being sure you know the material(I almost failed because I took it too early). Morse is not a requirement for Tech anymore, so you do not need to know that, but I believe you will for Extra.
    Hope this helps.
    Just because you have always done it that way does not mean it isn't incredibly stupid.
    Electricity hurts. Be careful.

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