Getting your own FCC license and beginning your journey into the wonderful world of Amateur Radio starts with preparing for a simple 35 question multiple choice test. Once you have completed this test and have your CSCE (Certificate of Successful Completion of Exam) in hand AND the FCC has issued you your call-sign in the database then you can begin to operate on the air as an Amateur Radio Operator in the Amateur Radio Service.
But just what is the Amateur Radio Service? Well the FCC defines it as:
The amateur and amateur-satellite services are for qualified persons of any age who are interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest. These services present an opportunity for self-training, intercommunication, and technical investigations. Twenty-nine small frequency bands throughout the spectrum are allocated to this service internationally. Some 1,300 digital, analog, pulse, and spread-spectrum emission types may be transmitted.
Millions of amateur operators in all areas of the world communicate with each other directly or through ad hoc relay systems and amateur-satellites. They exchange messages by voice, teleprinting, telegraphy, facsimile, and television. In areas where the FCC regulates the services, an amateur operator must have an FCC or Canadian license. FCC-issued Reciprocal Permit for Alien Amateur Licensee are no longer needed. Reciprocal operation in the U.S. is now authorized by Section 47 C.F.R. § 97.107.
All frequencies are shared. No frequency is assigned for the exclusive use of any amateur station. Station control operators cooperate in selecting transmitting channels to make the most effective use of the frequencies. They design, construct, modify, and repair their stations. The FCC equipment authorization program does not generally apply to amateur station transmitters.
And the FCC gives the Amateur Radio Service a specific mission in the rules that govern that service, known here after as “Part 97”
§97.1 Basis and purpose.
The rules and regulations in this part are designed to provide an amateur radio service having a fundamental purpose as expressed in the following principles:
(a) Recognition and enhancement of the value of the amateur service to the public as a voluntary noncommercial communication service, particularly with respect to providing emergency communications.
(b) Continuation and extension of the amateur’s proven ability to contribute to the advancement of the radio art.
(c) Encouragement and improvement of the amateur service through rules which provide for advancing skills in both the communication and technical phases of the art.
(d) Expansion of the existing reservoir within the amateur radio service of trained operators, technicians, and electronics experts.
(e) Continuation and extension of the amateur’s unique ability to enhance international goodwill.
(a) The definitions of terms used in part 97 are:
(1) Amateur operator. A person named in an amateur operator/primary license station grant on the ULS consolidated licensee database to be the control operator of an amateur station.
(2) Amateur radio services. The amateur service, the amateur-satellite service and the radio amateur civil emergency service.
(4) Amateur service. A radiocommunication service for the purpose of self-training, intercommunication and technical investigations carried out by amateurs, that is, duly authorized persons interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest.
(5) Amateur station. A station in an amateur radio service consisting of the apparatus necessary for carrying on radiocommunications.
So now that all the formalities are out of the way….
HOW DO I GET THE LICENSE?
Well my suggestion is to begin by reading these 3 books.
Other handy prep material can be found on the ARRL website.
After each you can then schedule a test session with some VEs (Volunteer Examiners) and take the test for each class of license. With each License class you will gain additional privileges to operate with, beginning with the Technician class license you will be able to operate on all modes and frequencies allotted to the US Amateur Service up to the legal limit above 50MHZ. also you will have some small slices of HF bands where you can work CW, PHONE, and DIGITAL modes communicating with hams all over the country and indeed the world!
The TECHNICIAN class is the current entry level class of license for the USA issued by the FCC.
Finding exam sessions is easy, just check these websites for the one closest to you. Laurel VEC does free testing while the ARRL will most likely have a small charge. Check with the VEs administering the test session for what you need to bring and cannot bring along with any fees if any. You always can take more than one test at a test session, so if you felt ready you could walk in off the street with no license and walk out with a CSCE showing you will SOON be an EXTRA class operator.
Finally NEVER overlook the value of a good mentor. We hams call them “Elmers” and one very good way to find one, if you don’t already know a ham is to find a local club. The ARRL and Google can help you with this one better than I could.
Look forward to working you on the air!