In the United States, amateur radio licensing is governed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under strict federal regulations. Licenses to operate amateur stations for personal use are granted to individuals of any age once they demonstrate an understanding of both pertinent FCC regulations and knowledge of radio station operation and safety considerations. Operator licenses are divided into different classes, each of which correlates to an increasing degree of knowledge and corresponding privileges. Over the years, the details of the classes have changed significantly, leading to the current system of three open classes and two grandfathered (but closed to new applicants) classes.
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Current license classes
Amateur radio licenses in the United States are issued and renewed without charge, although the private individuals who administer the examinations may recoup their expenses by charging a fee. Licenses currently remain valid for 10 years from the date of issuance.
- The entry-level license, known as Technician Class, is awarded after an applicant successfully completes a 35-question multiple choice written examination. The license grants full operating privileges on all amateur bands above 30 MHz and limited privileges in portions of the high frequency (HF) bands.
- The next level, known as General Class, requires passage of the Technician test, as well as a 35-question multiple-choice General exam. General class licensees are granted privileges on portions of all amateur bands, and have access to over 83% of all amateur HF bandwidth, however the DX windows on most bands are not included.
- The top US license class is Amateur Extra Class. This license requires the same tests as General plus a 50-question multiple-choice theory exam. Those with Amateur Extra licenses are granted all privileges on all US amateur bands.
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|Group A||Amateur Extra Class||Four characters||1-by-2||K, N, or W plus two letters||W1AW|
|2-by-1||AA-AL, KA-KZ, NA-NZ, or WA-WZ plus one letter||AB0C|
|Five characters||2-by-2||AA-AL plus two letters||AB2MH|
|Group B||Advanced Class||Five characters||2-by-2||KA-KZ, NA-NZ, or WA-WZ plus two letters||NZ9WA|
|Group C||Technician or General Classes||Five characters||1-by-3||K, N, or W plus three letters||K9DOG|
|KL, NL, or WL; NP or WP; KH, NH, or WH, plus two letters||KL5CD|
|Group D||Novice, Club, and Military Recreations Stations; and sequentially to Technician or General||Six characters||2-by-3|
(Novice or Club)
|KA-KZ, WA-WZ plus three letters||KA2DOG|
|KA-KZ plus three letters||KN0WCW|
|Source: FCC Callsign information|