How to get your Ham Radio License

What is a Ham Radio License?

Amateur radio operators (also known as Hams) are licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of the U.S. Federal Government. A license is required to operate amateur radio equipment because the radio bands are shared with commercial networks (telephone, broadcast (AM and FM radio, television, and private businesses), civil/governmental networks (police, fire fighters, emergency medical systems), transportation networks (railroad, boating, aviation) and each service must communicate only in regulated (by law) portions of the radio band. Amateurs must be aware of the other users of the radio frequencies and keep to their own assigned frequencies.

There are three levels of Amateur or “Ham” Radio License: Technician, General and Amateur Extra. To gain each license you must pass a test, and each license requires progressively more knowledge. Morse Code was once a requirement to be licensed. However, it is no longer required. (You can find Morse Code still in use today on many ham bands.)

The American Radio Relay League and the W5YI Group both publish books and other study materials to help prepare you to pass your license exam. You can start as a Technician and work your way up. If you successfully pass an exam at one level, you may take the exam at the next level at the same sitting. By passing multiple tests , possibly at the same testing session, you can become a General or Amateur Extra class licensee. Each class of license comes with more privileges of both frequencies and transmission types that are allowed.

The Kalamazoo Amateur Radio Club Can Help

The Kalamazoo Amateur Radio Club offers classes to help you prepare for the Technician and General class licenses. Classes are usually offered in the fall and are often for 10 weeks (one session per week). Classes are usually held at the SW Michigan Red Cross Chapter. Our volunteer instructors are willing to offer classes more often if there are at least five people that will attend.

If you want more information about licensing or our licensing class, please contact the local licensing coordinator at

If you would like to register for a local licensing class, please send email containing your name, telephone number, email address (that you check), and general questions to the local licensing coordinator at This will get you on a class list and will allow the licensing instructor to contact you about a class (confirmations, reminders or schedule changes).

As a convenience for those completing our licensing classes, the licensing exam(s) will be held at the instructional location at the last class meeting.

Regular, Locally Scheduled License Exams

The license exams are administrated by a team of volunteers that have been trained to provide the exams. Currently, test sessions, also known as Volunteer Examiner Sessions or VE Sessions, are offered in Kalamazoo in the odd months. January through May VE Sessions fall on the fourth Saturday, and July through November VE sessions fall on the third Saturday. Check the K.A.R.C. Calendar for specific dates and times.

VE Sessions are held that the Kalamazoo County Sherriff’s Department on Lake Street in Kalamazoo. John Tucker WB8ZVV organizes the sessions and should be contacted for specific directions if it is your first time testing in Kalamazoo. E-mail John at

VE Sessions can also be found at most “Hamfests” – local, regional and national Ham Radio conventions and swap meets. An annual Kalamazoo Hamfest is held at the Kalamazoo County Expo Center in October.