How to Get and Upgrade your Ham License

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Several years ago the Morse Code requirement to become a Ham was removed. However, many hams still use Morse Code (aka CW) and many are still learning the code — because it is never going to be out of date and is a lot of fun. Also sometimes Morse Code is the only way Hams can communicate since it can usually be heard even in the most horrendous conditions when voice just can’t get through.

Also during the past few years some licenses have been ‘grandfathered’ and are no longer offered (these are the Novice and the Advanced). There are still hams with these Licenses and you may hear them on the air.


At the present time there are only 3 Licenses for which one can test.

The entry license to be a Ham (Amateur Radio Operator) is the Technician.

After Technician, Hams can continue to study and upgrade to General and finally to Extra.

There are several books that Hams use to study to become a Technician, General, or Extra class operator.

Most hams study using either the ARRL textbooks and/or books such as those written by Gordon West and others.

Information about the popular Gordon West testing books can be found at the Gordon West website. Here is the clickable link:

There is also an excellent Free Technician Study Guide by Dan Romanchik KB6NU which you can download and print out. I personally found this to be very helpful and read it at least 6 times along with the huge ARRL Technician book (which I read 3 times) before taking my Technician exam. Here’s the clickable link so you can also download and study his free 50 page pdf. Technician book.

Indeed, there are many free practice testing sites. Try one or more and check how much you are learning. When you are consistently passing, then it is time to take the test for real.

Here are clickable links to a few of the many free practice test sites where you can check to see if you are ‘ready to test’

This practice test site is at the well known QRZ.COM website

Another well known website with practice tests

A practice test site located in Wisconsin but for everyone, of course

Another popular Ham Testing site

And still another popular testing site and the one I used the most is

There are also practice Apps (for phones) but I preferred the ones mentioned above because they are internet sites for laptops, computers, or tablets and are easier to see since they are bigger than the little size on the Phone. But whatever works for you is fine.

Of course there are often Classes available to help you — but usually the ARRL or Gordon West or other Study Guides and time alone spent reading and studying will be sufficient. So if there are no classes in your area, not to worry, you can still learn. I personally did everything just using books and the practice sites.
Also, if you know an ELMER (that’s the name for a Ham whether a YL or an OM who can answer your questions, explain things, loan you equipment, etc.) feel free to ask him or her for help, suggestions as to how to study, etc. Elmers LOVE to help newbies.