My recent post on the $40 dual-band handheld radio seems to have prompted a few folks into getting into ham radio. To do that, you need a license.
The present entry-level license is the "Tech" and there is a test -- but it's multiple-choice, not very difficult and you only need a "C" to pass.
You can either start out by taking practice tests or by using a study guide and either way, a good place to begin is at AA9PW's site.
Once you're consistently getting passing scores on the practice exams (and there's a pool of questions much larger than the number of questions on any individual tests, so do take the practice exam lots!), you'll want to take the test for real. This is done by "Volunteer Examiners," and the ARRL*, the national ham club in the U.S., has a search page that will quickly find the exam sessions close to you; I have had best luck with ZIP-code based searches.
* The American Radio Relay League is the biggest, oldest ham radio club in North America and one of the oldest in the world. Their name dates back to the days when a table-top spark-gap transmitter and simple "crystal set" type receiver had a range of a hundred miles or so and messages had to be "relayed" from one station to another to travel any distance. It's still apt now that handheld VHF/UHF radios have, with a repeater, about the same range. You can use other bands and cover the whole planet but emergency comms remains an up-close, short-range art.
YANKEE RADIO TOOL KIT, #106
5 weeks ago