How Much Does Ham Radio License Cost

An amateur radio, otherwise known as the ham radio, is a popular past time among people from all walks of life. Be it a lawyer, doctor, fisherman, or even your neighborhood handyman. It is used to communicate anywhere you want in the world and even into space without the aid of internet.

What is nice about a ham radio is that you can setup the station anywhere you want. These radio stations operate on radio frequencies known as amateur bands allocated by the Federal Communication Commission or the FCC.

Ham radio is often compared to General Mobile Radio Service or GMRS as the ham radio typically operates through voice communication on a hand-held radio. It can also be through computerized messages that are transmitted via satellite to reach out to anywhere you want.

But unlike GMRS license where you only need a minimal fee for the license, in the case of operating a ham radio station, having an extensive knowledge or even just the basic ones in terms of radio technology and operating principles is not enough. You need to get licensed in order to start operating one.

So how much is the ham radio license fee?

Average Cost of Ham Radio License

How Much Does Ham Radio License Cost

Ham radio license is a gauge that a ham knows the rules in operating legally in the US.

The American Radio Relay League or ARLL offers various license manuals in order to pass the Federal Communication Commission or FCC test. These study materials range from $7.95 up to $39.95.

The ham radio license fee is $0. Yes, the license itself is absolutely free. You just need to pass the test to get the license. And since the examination is administered by the ARRL, they charge around $15 for the service.

After obtaining your initial license, simple start up equipment usually cost less than $200. You could find a lot of flea markets for these radio paraphernalia so you could start communicating with other hams.

Ham radio starter packs may cost around $27.09 to less than $400 at Amazon to be considered as part of the cost of ham radio license.

You may also want to allocate a budget of around $150 for the power supply.

What is Included in the Cost of Ham Radio License?

Ham radio license is valid for 10 years in the USA.

Where to Obtain Ham Radio License

You may want to prepare for the examination prior to taking it. The ARRL offers an Amateur Radio License Class locator for your convenience. But there are also classes for license preparation that are offered online if you have issues with proximity with areas offering these classes.

To apply for a ham radio license, visit the FCC website.

To familiarize yourself with anything about amateur radio, it is always wise to talk to hams personally as they are usually more than willing to share their knowledge about this hobby. Or better yet, find yourself an Amateur Radio Club in your area that you can join and mingle with.

Types of Ham Licenses

There are three license classes in the country. These are the Technician, General, and Extra.

The Technician license class is the first license that new operators should get as this is the entry level license. This requires you to pass an examination of 35 questions covering radio theory, operating practices, and general radio regulations. Once passed, you will be given access to all amateur radio frequencies above 30 megahertz which will allow you to communicate locally and within the North America and some limited privileges on the shortwave or HF bands that are used in international communications.

Below are the frequencies available under the Technician license:

BandFrequencies (In MHz)ModeNotes
80 Meters
3.525 – 3.600CW200-watt limit
40 Meters7.025 – 7.125CW200-watt limit
15 Meters21.025 – 21.200CW200-watt limit
10 Meters28.100 – 28.300CW, RTTY, Data200-watt limit
10 Meters28.300 – 28.500CW, Phone, Image200-watt limit
Above 50 MHzAll amateur privileges

The General license class gives you some of the operating privileges on all amateur bands and operating modes, giving you access to worldwide communication and not just limited to North America coverage that the technician license offers.

Below are the frequencies available under the General license:

BandFrequencies (In MHz)Mode
160, 60, 30 MetersAll amateur privileges
80 Meters3.525 – 3.600CW, RTTY, Data
3.800 – 4.000CW, Phone, Image
40 Meters7.025 – 7.125CW, RTTY, Data
7.175 – 7.300CW, Phone, Image
20 Meters14.025 – 14.150CW, RTTY, Data
14.225 – 14.350CW, Phone, Image
15 Meters
21.025 – 21.200
CW, RTTY, Data
21.275 – 21.450CW, Phone, Image
17, 12, 10 MetersAll amateur privileges
Above 50 MHzAll amateur privileges

To earn this license, you need to pass the examination for this particular license and the prerequisite written examination for the technician.

The Amateur Extra license is the mother of all ham radio licenses as this allows you unlimited privileges available for US Amateur Radio operation on all bands and all modes. To get this, you must pass the Extra licensing examination consisting of 50 questions and must have passed the previous two licensing examinations.

Additional Information

  • It is said that Ham Radio got its name from some commercial operators referring to amateur operators as “Hams” to mean poor operator that jams the signals.
  • The basic difference between Ham Radio and the GMRS is that the latter operates under a single band at very low power. While in ham radio, you get lots of bands and with lots of power. That is why it is stricter to get licensed in amateur radio than the GMRS where you only have to pay a minimal fee in contrast to the ham radio license fee which is free of charge but you need to pass a test.
  • The American Radio Relay League or the ARRL is the largest and considered the national association for amateur radio in the United States. They are a non-profit organization offering support, information, license manuals, and continuing education and even holding special operating events for its members.
  • Use of Morse code may be preferred my many hams but it is actually not required in acquiring a license.

The FCC conceptualized this licensing service to create a pool of experts who can provide backup to the government in terms of emergencies and calamities when the lines of communications are down like landline and mobile phones as well as the internet.

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