How Much Will a Ham Radio License Cost Me?

One of the very best things you can do to ensure continuity of communication in the aftermath of a major disaster or a society-toppling event is to learn ham radio.

Baofeng HAM radio, walkie-talkies, flashlight and two chemlights
communication devices inside bug out bag: a Baofeng HAM radio, walkie-talkies, flashlight and two chemlights

Ham radio is completely self-contained and provides everything you need, with the right skills and equipment, to talk to people across the state, across the country, or even around the world. Amazing stuff!

Unfortunately, the government has seen fit to mandate licensing for anyone who wants to partake. So, what’s the bottom line? How much will a ham radio license cost you?

A ham radio license will run you anywhere from $45 to $50 depending on the cost of the exam. The license itself is only $35 for technician grade, but testing costs a little extra, and most people buy study guides, which can increase the cost.

As far as I’m concerned, any form of licensing is an odious transgression against the rights of a free people, but it is what it is.

Luckily, the fee is very minimal; the hard part is actually studying and passing the test, and if you haven’t studied, you aren’t going to pass it. Keep reading, and I’ll tell you more about getting your ham radio license.

Is There a Fee to Take the Test?

Yes, typically. Most institutions, instructors, or agencies that issue the tests tend to charge a small convenience fee for doing so, anywhere from $10 to $15 on average, though I’ve seen a few that charge significantly more.

Note that the tests are standardized, and as long as you know what you are doing and can pass the test, there’s no real reason to pay more testing fees than you have to.

Also, when you upgrade your license, you’ll have to pay testing fees over again, so some organizations like the ARRL will waive the additional testing fees if you are taking your upgrade tests on the same day.

Do You Have to Take the Test in Person?

No, you don’t. Online testing is available, but you’ll still have to pay a testing fee as a rule.

The FCC Charges a Licensing Fee Since 2022

I want to point out that it didn’t always used to be this way when it came to getting this type of license…

The FCC started charging a $35 fee for all applications and license upgrades on April 19, 2022. This was thanks to a mandate from Congress.

Most Aspiring Ham Ops Will Spend a Bit on Study Materials

If you were already a maestro when it comes to radio operation, or if you were in the military and had a communications billet, you probably know enough to pass the test without studying.

For the rest of us, though, we’ll need to study, and if you want to do a good job of it and get a leg up on the questions that the test will ask you, you’ll need study materials.

Most aspiring ham people will buy study guides, flashcards, and other materials that will set them back anywhere from $20 to $50.

Although not strictly necessary to pass the test or get your license, they definitely help, so make sure you account for that if you want to stand the best chance of passing it on the first try.

Do I Have to Pay Again if I Fail the Test?

Yes, you do. Note that you won’t be out the $35 fee for licensing; you only pay that when you actually obtain the license, but you will have to pay another fee for retesting. If your institution charges a higher fee, this can get painful quickly, so make sure you study up.

How Much Does it Cost to Upgrade My License?

Upgrading your license costs $35, the same as getting a license in the first place at technician grade.

Note that this is $35 per upgrade, so if you want that extra class license, you’ll be shelling out another $70 to the government, making the total cost of getting there $105: that’s $35 for technician, $35 for the general upgrade, and $35 for the extra upgrade.

Do License Renewals Cost Money?

Yes, they sure do, as you probably anticipated! Once again, the federal government charges $35 to renew your amateur radio license at any level.

This, at least, is a flat fee: general and extra class licensees will not get double or triple tapped just because they have a higher grade of license.

Any Other Fees I Need to Know About?

Of course! If you want to change your call sign, you’ll have to pay a $35 fee. If you want a vanity call sign, basically one that you select for whatever reason, you’ll have to pay an additional $35.

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