Individuals who operate a ham radio must possess one of three licenses: a Technician Class license, a General Class license, or an Amateur Extra Class license. The Technician Class provides the operator the fewest privileges and the Amateur Extra Class the most. To become licensed, operators must pass an exam approved by the Federal Communications Commission and administered by an accredited Volunteer-Examiner. After they are licensed, operators need only a transceiver, antenna and power supply to get on the air.
Operators do not need to acquire each class of license sequentially, but most begin with the basic Technician Class license, according the FCC. To acquire the Technician Class license, individuals must correctly answer at least 26 of 35 questions on an accredited exam testing radio theory, regulations and operating practices. This license allows individuals to operate on amateur frequencies above 30 megahertz and to communicate locally.
To obtain the General Class license, operators must correctly answer 26 out of 30 questions on an additional written exam, as well as have passed the Technician Class exam. This license allows operators access to amateur frequencies under 30 megahertz, to some High Frequency radio bands, and to international communication. The Amateur Extra Class license authorizes operators to use all frequency bands allocated for amateur use. It requires that the individual answer at least 37 of 50 questions on a written exam testing advanced operating practices, electronics theory and radio design. Individuals may take all three exams in one sitting.