What is Amateur Radio?

ARRL description of Amateur Radio

Amateur radio, also known as ham radio, is a hobby enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of Americans and millions around the world. They enjoy communicating with one another via two-way radios and experimenting with antennas, electronic circuits, computers, and software.

All kinds of people are amateur radio operators, also known as “hams.” Hams are young, old, men, women, boys, and girls. Kids as young as five years old have gotten amateur radio licenses, and many hams are active into their 80s and beyond. You never know who you’ll run into on the amateur radio bands: young and old, teachers and students, engineers and scientists, doctors and nurses, mechanics and technicians, kings and entertainers.

Amateur radio isn’t limited to a physical handheld or base radio like you might be used to seeing.  Amateur radio operators also use computers, software, wi-fi routers and satellites as ways to communicate on Amateur Radio frequencies.  The Amateur Radio field is limitless in the amount of things you can try.

Many ham radio operators volunteer their time and use ham radio primarily for local public service events such as races, parades, city festivals, etc. Skills learned helping with such things are useful in emergencies when regular local communications such as home telephones and cell phones are not available due to disasters such as terrorism, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc.

Some hams like to communicate across the country or the other side of the globe. There are some that like to use satellites or bounce their signal off of the moon and others have even spoken with astronauts on the International Space Station.

Ham radio will begin new friendships for you either through an amateur radio club that may be located in your town or over the air.

You must pass an FCC exam to be issued an Amateur Radio callsign and be allowed to use Amateur Radio.  Read the information below about studying for the exam and taking an exam.

Study for the exam

Use practice exams sites

There are many places on the internet where you can take practice Amateur Radio exams to familiarize yourself with the question pool and learn the material.  Some are free, some cost money.  Some track what you get right and wrong and can cater the questions to the material you don’t quite understand yet.  Try multiple sites and find the one that works best for you.  Keep taking practice exams until you are getting about 90% on several exams and then you should be ready to take the actual exam at a testing session.

  • On your smartphone




You can also search for the book titles listed above at your local library or book store.
You can also purchase the books from several online retailers like Amazon.

Find a local class
Find an Amateur Radio class in your area

Take exam

The FCC doesn’t allow for an online Amateur Radio exam.  You have to go to a testing session in person and pay the exam fee (usually $15) to take an Amateur Radio exam.  If you fail, you can pay another $15 to take it again.  If you pass, you can take the next license class exam for no additional fee.

Contact local club

Your local WØOEL club in Oelwein has several members that can administer an Amateur Radio exam session.  Come to one of their meetings to discuss the exam process.  Meeting times and locations can be viewed on the club calendar page.

Find a testing session in your area

You can also attend a scheduled testing session by other Amateur Radio operators in your area.  Use the link below to search for upcoming testing sessions and make sure you contact the event organizer to per-register if necessary.

Find an Amateur Radio testing session in your area

If you have read through this and would like more information about Amateur Radio or the W0OEL Club, please fill out this short form and someone will contact you.

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