Be a Ham!

Not a ham? This is the perfect place to start! (By the way, if you are a new ham or just wanting to refresh your knowledge, this page is for you too!)  You'll find several resources and articles below, grouped into related sections.

Amateur radio operators come from thousands of different backgrounds. Men and women, young and old, business people or farmers, and everyone in between. The only thing they have in common is an interest in learning new skills!

People become hams for a lots of reasons. Some want to be prepared for emergencies while some want to help others in disasters or community programs. Other people want to learn electronics, engineering or digital programming and some just want to talk to the International Space Station or apply for a college scholarship. There are so many ways to enjoy amateur radio that the possibilities are endless.

Getting a license or Upgrading

  • The first step is getting your "Technician" License. There are three levels of licenses issued by the Federal Communications Commission. Each one gives you access to more privileges (more frequencies) and requires a more difficult test. The Technician is the entry level and easiest to earn. The best place to begin is by reading a study guide (many free ones are available) and taking online "practice" tests ( offers them for free). Many clubs, including us, also offer classes every now and then to help you study or ask questions. Visiting club meetings (every 4th Thursday evening in Henderson) can also give you an opportunity to ask questions.

Taking a Test

  • Ready? Once you're ready to take a real test, send us and email ( Tests are given by volunteer examiners authorized by the FCC. We have a team in Rusk County that is ready and willing to organize a testing session for you within a few days. 
  • Cost: The only cost is a federally required fee around $15. Unfortunately, the fee must be charged regardless of whether you pass or fail. But don't worry, if you don't pass, you can take the test again as soon as you are ready. 
  • Passed? GreatYour information will be sent to the FCC and they will issue a license within a few days. As soon as it shows up in their online database, you're LEGAL!

ARRL - Should you join?
  • The ARRL is the American Radio Relay League and serves as the national organization for amateur radio in the United States. As an affiliated club, the RCARC receives a variety support services and resources from the ARRL and its staff. Individual membership is voluntary, although at least 50% of our club's members must be members of the ARRL to maintain our affiliation. Most hams join the ARRL to receive QST, the monthly magazine devoted to amateur radio. But the ARRL also offers many additional benefits. That's why we strongly encourage every ham to have a voice and join the ARRL. 

Your First Radio
  • Many hams start with a low-power, handheld VHF/UHF (dual band) radio. Browse the ham store websites to see the variety. If money is a concern (and even if not!) we suggest starting with a very inexpensive dual-band from Baofeng or something similar. They work well but are a PAIN to program. However, an inexpensive programming cable (such as this one) and a free program called CHiRP (available for Windows, Mac and Linux), programming becomes super simple!
  • Here's a more extensive discussion of choosing your first radio.
  • When in doubt, ask around--EVENRYONE has an opinion!

Your First Antenna
  • Assuming you've moved beyond handheld radios and got (probably) earned your General License, now you own or are about to buy an HF radio. But what about an antenna? Traditionally, most hams start with a dipole. Here's a good article on putting up a dipole.
  • The ARRL's take on the humble dipole.
  • Our own KN5G has a great article on the SkyWave antenna which can be tuned on several bands and gets great results.