As a service to future ham radio operators the Amateur Radio Caravan Club offers a list of the three steps to be taken to become a licensed amateur (ham) radio operator. 

In order to operate on assigned amateur (ham) radio frequencies, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires that the operator be licensed for those frequencies. They, through volunteer examiners, administer tests to determine if each student has enough knowledge to properly operate on those frequencies in the U.S. The beginning level license for a ham operator is the Technician level and the test has 35 questions pulled randomly from a question pool of 426 questions. This level allows you to operate on high frequencies that typically can reach other hams statewide…or worldwide using Internet programs. The General and Amateur Extra levels come next which affords you the authority to talk over the air worldwide.

[Note: In the spirit of amateur radio the Caravan Club wants it known that it receives no financial benefit from the organizations and websites below nor does it make any recommendations.  This list, in alphabetic order, is solely a public service.]



In the Albuquerque area Jim Hunter NM5JH and his team offer ham radio licensing classes  periodically when  enough students sign up.   They are the only local classes that we  are aware of.   They teach the theory behind each of the possible test questions so you will know why an answer is correct.  Their classes for the Technician level license typically begin on Friday evening, run all day Saturday and most of  Sunday.  At 4 PM, three volunteer examiners will administer your test while the information is fresh in your mind. You can contact Jim Hunter at 505-897-2939 (home); 505-259-3551 (cell) or for more details on upcoming classes.


You can self-study using a training manual such as the Amateur Radio Relay League’s “ARRL Ham Radio License Manual 3rd Edition” ($29.95). This manual contains all of the radio theory for the Technician license as well as all of the test questions (which are valid thru June 30, 2018. After that date, a new pool of questions come into effect). You can also take practice tests (below) to see how your studies are progressing.



Amateur radio is blessed with many helpful practice test websites to choose from. Online practice tests are used to assist students in passing their FCC test. Once you are able to consistently answer 85 to 90 percent of the questions correctly, you are ready to take the actual test. Good Luck!


AA9PW FCC Practice Exams (Free)

This site helps you practice for the any of the three written examinations required to obtain a US Amateur Radio license. Questions are randomly selected for each test.


ARRL Exam Review for Ham Radio (Free)

Offers practice exams for all 3 levels (technician, general & amateur extra)


Copasetic Flows Practice Exam (Free)

Include practice exams for the U.S., New Zealand & Canada Ham Exams (Free)

Offers practice exams for all 3 levels (technician, general & amateur extra)


Ham Academy (Free)

Part of the amateur radio education website. Also teach other skills. Amateur Radio Practice Exams (Free)

Includes online flash cards, practice exams and question pool for technician, general & extra. (Free)

Free ham radio flash cards, practice tests, and question pools


Ham Test Online ($24.95 for Technician)

“Top-rated on — 97% of reviewers give us 5 stars!”

$24.95 for a Technician 2 year subscription; General & Amateur Extra slightly more.

“Better than practice exams — we teach the materials, so you learn, not memorize.”


Ham Testing (Free)

Our tests are different. They are created dynamically from the entire question pool each time. This ensures that no two practice test that you take on our site are ever the same. Practice Amateur Radio Exams (Free)

Has practice exams for all 3 levels (technician, general & amateur extra)



Once you consistently score in the 85 to 90 percentile on your practice exams you are ready to take the FCC’s actual test. The FCC administers its tests through teams called “Volunteer Examiner Coordinators” (VEC) which are composed of local hams called “Volunteer Examiners” (VE’s) who, after some training, administer tests to others. A minimum of three VE’s are required to witness each testing session. They receive no pay but the FCC charges each student a $15 fee of which $1 can be kept for administrative costs by the VEC. You also need to bring your photo ID and your Social Security Number or FCC Registration Number (FRN) to the testing.

Below are two local VE teams that administer the FCC tests:

El Malpais Volunteer Examination Coordinator (VEC)

Jim Hunter,  505-897-2939 (home); 505-259-3551 (cell) or  can set up your test “anytime, anywhere” but prefer about 3 days notice in order to find the FCC-required 3 VE’s to administer the test.  They test using a laptop so you know immediately after you hit the “Enter” key if you are a ham operator or not.

High Desert Amateur Radio Club

The High Desert club tests on the third Saturday of every month at 12:30 PM…after their monthly club meeting starting at 10:00 AM.  They meet in the community room of the Albuquerque Police Department’s Northwest Area Command Station, 10401 Cibola Loop NW, located on Ellison Dr NW one block west of Coors Bypass…or just north of Cibola High School.  Contact Jim Kajder AF5FH at for details and the required preregistration.  They use paper tests.


That’s It! Once you have passed your test and found your assigned call sign on the FCC Universal Licensing System website about a week later, you are a ham radio operator.


Once licensed most new hams choose a portable hand-held radio, called a "handi-talkie" or "HT" for their first radio.  They are readily available online, some as low as around $30.  To find your first radio perhaps a good first step would be to join the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) which publishes its "QST" magazine.   QST includes an impressive advertising section that includes just about every ham radio-related company in the US.  A great source for learning more about ham radio and selecting your first radio.