First thing that we need to answer what you want to do with your license?
Are you getting your license because you are joining your local CERT team or wanting to assist you local OEM during storms? Are you interested in doing contests or operating for remote area? Are you more of a computer person and want to do digital communications? Maybe you are interested remote controlled planes/boats/cars etc.
What license class will you need?
Now that you know what you are going to do with your license, now you have to actually get it. If you are just planning on using your license locally, like to help your local OEM or talking to friends, then a technician class is probably all you need for now, you can always upgrade later if you want to expand your fun.
If you want to talk around the world, or operate in remote location or do digital communications, you should probably get your general class license. There is a small portion of some of the HF bands that you have access to as a technician, but you are limited to CW or Morse code for all of it. There is a small portion of the 10 meter band that you can use data communications on. It you don’t have any voice privileges in the HF bands.
I know what I want to do and I know what license class I need, how do I get my license?
There are several ways that you can study for your license. I have a series of blog posts on my site that will help you study for your technician class. You can find it here.
I am working on the General class course now so if you are listening to this episode later(February 2017) check out the course section of the menu on my site.
You can also check out the no nonsense study guides by Dan, KB6NU
You can also purchase a study guide through the ARRL as well.
Lastly, go to a local club and take a class through them. While this will give you the most personal approach and get questions answered easier, often time classes are only given once or a couple times a year. If you miss your chance you may have to wait until next year to take it. This often leads to people not getting their license because they lose interest while waiting for the class. With this being said, most clubs have a volunteer examiner team that can give you your test at any time or at any/every club meeting.
I have my license, now what do I do?
Now that you have your license, you need the equipment to use, right? So many people ask, “what Radio should I buy?” Or “should I get an hand held(HT) or a radio for my car first?” Some people say get a good HT first because you can use it anywhere. Other say get a mobile radio for your car or for your house. While there isn’t a right or wrong answer for this question, it is really a question that you have to answer yourself. Here is my thoughts on this question.
- A good HT is good to have, but not a major necessity. I don’t recommend getting a high dollar HT right off the bat. While you can hook it to an external antenna to get out a little further and still have the option to use it anywhere, you have to put in extra money to make it worth using in your vehicle or at home.
- Figure out where you are going to be using your license the most and go from there. If you are going to be using it mostly in your car, get a good mobile radio. If you are going to be operating mostly on foot or horseback then a HT is probably the best option.
- Up until a few years ago, for a decent HT You were looking at $250+, and if you wanted a mobile radio it was $300+. So if you only had $400 to spend, it was pretty much one or the other. As of about a year ago, some new radios came on to the American market that were SUPER cheap and worked decent enough. If you plan on using the radio in your car mostly but you still want a HT, you can spend most of your money on a good quality mobile radio and go the cheaper route with the handle. You can buy a Beufang UV-5R radio for about $30 and it will work just as good as a $250 yaesu on an analog repeater.
- Whether you decide to get a good HT or a mobile radio, don’t get just any one. Make sure that you get a dual band(2M/440), dual receive radio. If you don’t, you will end up regretting it later on.
- If you are looking at doing digital or long distance work, you are going to need more of an initial investment because HF radios are not cheap. If you are looking at doing things like SOTA or DX then you are also going to have to get something portable. Check out my episodes on SOTA, NPOTA, Special Event Stations, and Contesting.
Get an Elmer!
The probably number one reason that someone gets their license and then never uses it is because they either have no idea what to do with it afterwards or they are overwhelmed with information that they get to confused and give up on it.
If you haven’t already found you a club, do so ASAP! If don’t know where one is, check out the ARRL website. If you are lucky and there are several clubs near you, check them all out! Go to each of their meetings a couple times and see which one fits you best. You can even join them all if you want. Whichever you decide, find you someone at a club that can “show you the ropes”. Someone that can answer your questions or show you how to do things.
One thing that I have learned about this hobby in my 20+ years as a ham is that other hams are often very helpful when you need help with something.
Continuing your education
It is said that in life you learn something everyday. The same should be said about amateur radio. Learn everything you can! There are so many aspects of the hobby that are available to you that no matter what your interests are, you will find something out there to keep you interest for years and years to come.
I have said before that I have been a ham now for better than 20 years now and I still learn new stuff on a regular occasion, especially since I started my blog/podcast.
There are a lot of places on the internet where you will find all kinds of information about different aspects of the hobby, below you will find just a few
Check out my links page for more links to some great websites!