Getting Your License

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There’s only so much RF Spectrum (radio frequencies) available and many are used by emergency services, aircraft, nautical craft, spacecraft and network providers. Then there are government and commercial operators.

In addition, radio communications are international in nature and can reach across oceans and continents – indeed into outer space. So licensing helps to manage all those uses.

An Amateur Radio license not only grants you non-commercial use of many frequencies – it allows you to use more power than a store-bought “walkie talkie” or typical CB radio equipment. This makes it ideal for many uses such as emergency communications, outdoor activities (especially outside of cell service), experimentation and various hobby interests.



There are three levels of licensing:

  • Technician (Fairly easy, even with one-day cram study)
  • General (Moderate study)
  • Amateur Extra (Requires extensive study)

Most new Hams get the Technician license – which gives them the ability to use local UHF and VHF repeaters and small portions of HF spectrum. This license is mostly used for local and regional communications with a range of up to about 100 miles.

The General and Amateur Extra licenses give you progressively more access to HF frequencies for world-wide international communications.



If you are just getting started and want a Technician license, there are a few ways to study up:

  • Online study and practice tests
  • Classes at the local radio club
  • Printed study guides
  • One-day cram sessions

See below for resources for online and in-person study.


No-Nonsense Study Guide – Technician
ARRL Study Materials (More in-depth)
HamExam.Org (practice tests that track your understanding of the subjects)
List of other test locations
Local club that offers one-day cram / test



Q: Do I need to learn Morse Code?
A: No! It’s no longer necessary for any level of licensing – though it’s still useful and fun!

Q: What’s the most common advice you give in order to pass the test?
A: If you are good at memorization, study just the CORRECT ANSWERS in the question pool (check the box “Only show correct answers”) and then take a few practice tests online. Once you can pass the practice tests, you’re ready to take the exam.

Q: What’s the best way to study if I’m not good at memorization?
A: Either take a class here at the club or read this guide thoroughly.

Q: Are there age requirements to get licensed?
A: No! Anyone who can pass the test will be licensed! Our club has Hams as young as 8 years old. The youngest Ham we’re aware of is 5 years old.

Q: Can I use my license to help in an emergency?
A: Yes! There are many governmental and community organizations that encourage Hams to help with emergencies and public service events.

Q: Do you offer cram sessions?
A: No. The Marin Amateur Radio Society does not currently offer one-day crams with the test at the end of the session. See this local club for those.

Q: What is the pass/failure rate for Technician Class exams?
A: We have observed a 90% or better rate for those who have studied or even crammed (but the cram technique used by other clubs is very specific – essentially reading through all the correct answers twice).

Q: What if I’m “Non-Technical”?
A: Only about 15 percent of the questions in the Technician exam are technical and a 74% score is required to pass. So obviously you can pass the test without any electronics or technical knowledge.

Q: What do I REALLY need to know to get on the air?
A: Most of what you need are the do’s and don’ts of what your license privileges provide. In other words, aside from the obvious safety aspects, you need to know the rules and how to keep from breaking them. The rest you can learn talking to other Hams on the air!

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