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How to Become a Licensed Radio Amateur

Are you considering the possibility of becoming a licensed radio amateur?

It’s easier than you think! All it takes are the following three steps:

a) Study for the test.

The first test all potential amateurs have to pass is called the “BASIC”. The test is a simple multiple choice format with a pass mark of 70%. The syllabus consists of regulations and some radio theory. It is not difficult and many children have become amateurs by taking this test.

You can study for these tests by taking a course offered by one of the many radio clubs in the lower mainland. While most courses take several evenings, some will offer 2-day intensive cramming sessions. Alternatively, if you have a technical background, you may prefer to study at home. Books and teaching aids are available from the RAC (Radio Amateurs of Canada: www.rac.ca) web site and from your local amateur radio retailer. You can even self-test by using a free Industry Canada test generator software. Links and contacts are located at the end of this page.

b) Take the test:

Tests are administered by local volunteer examiners. Contact your local club to make arrangements for taking a test. Tests can take place at a local community centre, the examiners home or any other mutually convenient location. Your test will be scored on the spot and within a few minutes you will know if you passed. Alternatively, tests can be taken at a local Industry Canada facility. Volunteer examiners will generally administer a test at minimal or no cost.

Following your pass, you will be asked to submit your preferred callsign that will remain with you for life. Available callsigns can be checked at the RAC web site (see links below). Licenses will take a few weeks to arrive from Industry Canada. There are no license fees involved in this process.

c) Get a radio and operate:

The first radio nearly every new amateur obtains is a VHF handheld. This will enable you to talk with local amateurs using repeaters and take part as a radio operator in the many community events (Sun Run, Fireworks, Marathon, etc) that take place throughout the lower mainland. You can even access some of the local IRLP repeaters and talk with hams throughout the world! Many amateurs belong to a local Emergency Social Services (ESS) and offer their skills as a volunteer radio operator during a crisis or emergency.

Handheld radios can range from a little over $150 to $500 depending on size, features and manufacturer. If your budget limits your options, consider buying a used unit from a fellow amateur or obtain one from one of the numerous ham radio flea markets that take place throughout the lower mainland and Vancouver Island. If you are prepared to take the risk, you can always get one from eBay.

VHF/UHF desktop base station radios and mobiles for cars are also available, but can cost considerably more to purchase.

That’s all there is to the process! We hope that you will consider joining the ranks of radio amateurs in Canada and participate in this exciting hobby.

If you have any questions, please feel free to join us at one of our meetings or send us an email.


The Basic qualification allows you to operate in amateur bands from 30Mhz up to several gigahertz. In order to operate below 30Mhz, you have a passing grade of 80% or higher, or pass a 5 words per minute Morse code test.

Some links of interest:

Radio Amateurs of Canada: (Beginner's Info) http://www.rac.ca/regulatory/begin.htm

(Youth Education Program) http://www.rac.ca/YEP/index.htm

(Study guides) https://www.rac.ca/store/catalogue.htm

(Available callsigns) http://apc-cap.ic.gc.ca/pls/apc_anon/query_avail_cs$.startup

Vancouver amateur radio stores:

Burnaby Radio Communications:

4257 East Hastings Street, Burnaby, BC V5C 2J5

Tel: (604) 298-5444

Web page: http://www.burnabyradio.com