With the number of amateur radio licenses reaching an all time high with nearly every passing year, it may be hard to see why I’d be pitching for still more licenses and better yet, higher classes of licenses.
My biggest reason is that I love the hobby. As a hobby alone it’s a great way to get involved with technology, make friends around the world, and serve your local community. It has nearly everything to offer in the way of entertainment and challenges – with more being added every day.
I’d also like to see more people on the air, using Icom radios, of course.
I feel that the VEC program has been a real boon to the hobby. It makes it so much easier to get out and take the exam. Plus, it’s fellow hams running the show and doing so in a very professional manner. I can just imagine how intimidating it was to make a trip to the FCC Field Office back in the day.
For me, I passed the General exam in 1989 (KB5KCL) and upgraded to Advanced in 1999 (KC7JPA). I passed the Extra exam in 2003, and snagged N9JA. Getting that 1×2 call sign was a big motivator for me to upgrade.
There are quite a few study guides available to help you with your preparation for the exam. ARRL Gordon West at W5YI, and Ham Radio School. have excellent study materials, as well as the Ham Study website, powered by Icom. Consider, too, working with local amateur radio clubs and take advantage of their license classes.
I also recommend AmateurLogic.TV and the Ham College videos that George Thomas, W5JDX, and Tommy Martin, N5ZNO, have started producing. They bring the technical content to life and they always have fun. This is a great way to get yet one more perspective on the technical content. Plus, there’s 100 Watts and a Wire Podcasts and the online Amateur Radio Club with live Elmers a full 24/7.
BENEFITS OF UPGRADING
The big jump is from Technician to General. You gain so many additional frequencies for operation on the HF bands. Plus, you get to use phone on all the bands that allow phone operation.
For me, much of the magic of amateur radio happens on the HF bands. As you may know, I’ve been on a number of DXpeditions to places like Mozambique and Bhutan, worked lots of contests and get on for Field Day. That’s where so much action is taking place and it’s a blast to communicate literally around the world.
It’s just great to move up from repeaters and get on the air to so many distance places. Plus, it doesn’t take that much more in terms of equipment. Simple antennas can work quite a few distant stations. And, of course, we have some fabulous HF transceivers that make it easy get on the air and put out a perfect signal.
You can find more resources in our Amateur Tool Kit, including the frequency charts that clearly show the new frequencies you’ll be operating on just as soon as you’ve passed the exam. I’ve duplicated the 10 meter band segment below. The diagonal lines show the Technician segment, the other lines show General, Advanced, and Extra. Now that’s a big difference!
THERE’S NO TIME LIKE NOW
My wife Cindy, NN9JA, is no stranger to my coaching about upgrading, or should I say her practicing and asking me the questions to see if I could pass the new exams. She feels I should have to take the ham exams every 5 years since I am the “Ham Guy” at Icom! Now Cindy is an ARRL and W5YI certified VEC. This, plus her upgrade experience, is a great example of the VEC program in action offering convenient exam locations. She passed her Technician exam at the Dayton Hamvention, her General exam at the SeaPac Hamfest, and her Extra at the Huntsville Hamfest. This was a path from Technician to Extra in a matter of about 90-days!
As you can tell, I’m a big proponent of upgrading, taking advantage of the process myself back at the turn of the century.
Check out the infographic below that shows all the latest numbers up to June 2015. It’s a steady climb of new licensees, but I’d like to see quite a few more Generals and Extras. It’s time for you to study up and take that exam! Let me know how you do.
Ray Novak, N9JA
Lifetime Amateur Radio Enthusiast