- Written by Brent N9BA
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Amateur Radio is often called "Ham Radio" and is traditionally a geeky hobby. The hobby does require a license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) but the entry level license is easily obtained by passed a 35 question multiple choice test.
The Amateur Radio hobby isn't the most popular but it does have several practical advantages. Here are a few reasons why you should consider getting your license.
There is a community
The Amateur Radio hobby isn't just about talking on the radio and has many opportunities to get involved in a community of like minded individuals. There are clubs in many communities that focus on the hobby and have various related presentations at monthly meetings. The Amateur Radio hobby is a great community to becoming involved with to meet new people and make life long friendships.
Being aware of local emergencies
Whether you are navigating around town or visiting a different city, Amateur Radio can be a great resource to learn about local emergencies. The information you can gather from another radio operator on the local repeater could mean the difference between avoiding the emergency or sitting in traffic for a few hours.
Many communities also have radio operators involved in monitoring local weather conditions and reporting them directly to the National Weather Service. This allows many to be aware of an impending weather event and take action to stay safe.
The Amateur Radio hobby provides many opportunities to learn about local events from those witnessing them first hand. If you get licensed, you can become part of this network and provide information that may help others.
Staying connected when disaster strikes
When a large scale event such as a hurricane or tornado happens, it causes damage to local infrastructure such as telephones, internet, TV or radio stations, and the power grid. This damage could leave you without the ability to call for help using traditional means.
The good news is Amateur Radio doesn't need infrastructure to work. When all other normal forms of communication are damaged or overloaded, Amateur Radio operators are still able to communicate. You could be the vital link between life and death for somone who needs help.
It is a skill that is learned and maintained
To become an Amateur Radio operator, you must pass a license exam required by the Federal Communications Commission. The exam covers basic electronics, laws governing the Amateur Radio service, math and some basic physics. You can prepare for the exam by self study or taking a class.
The entry level Amateur Radio licence, called Technician Class, is earned after completing the 35 question multiple choice exam. The exams are offered by local volunteer examiners and the cost doesn't normally exceed $15.
It is more affordable than you think
If the potential cost of joining the Amateur Radio ranks is a factor then please read on. In recent years the equipment has become more affordable and there is a large used market. Like many hobbies, you want to start small and learn from others what is a good deal.
So where do I start?
You can start by learning more about the hobby on the American Radio Relay League's (ARRL) website at www.arrl.org/licensing-education-training. The website will help you locate study materials and locate an exam session.