How Do I Become a Professional Ham Radio Operator?

By definition, a ham radio operator is an amateur radio enthusiast. But this hobby can be a significant help in the case of natural disasters or other emergencies. What's more, those with a background in ham radio operation might go on to pursue careers in radio operations. Learn more about turning ham radio operation into a profession. Schools offering Radio Broadcasting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Ham Radio Operator Do?

Amateur radio users, also known as ham radio operators or hams, use special radio equipment and radio frequencies to communicate with other users all over the world. According to the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), a national amateur radio organization, during times of crisis, ham radio operators are often able to keep their communication going when other methods have failed (www.arrl.org). Using special equipment and AM radio frequencies reserved for them, ham radio operators can turn this hobby into a service profession.

Education Required High school diploma or GED
Training On-the-job training
Key Responsibilities Adjust, modify and repair radio signals and transmitting equipment
Licensure Optional licensure from the FCC
Job Outlook (2014-2024) -1% (for radio operators)
Median Salary (2015) $50,040 (for radio operators)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

How Does This Work Help People?

Ham radio operators serve as reliable communication vehicles during huge disasters and emergencies, the ARRL said. For example, following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, amateur radio kept emergency workers in touch with each other after the command center was destroyed. Ham radio also provided a mode of communication after major storms, such as Hurricane Katrina, knocked out other technology.

What Kind of Training Do I Need?

If you are interested in learning more about amateur radio, you might look for a local ham radio club. Most ham radio operators get their informal training from using the equipment and from other users, according to the ARRL. Local clubs and the ARRL often offer educational seminars and reading material, or even workshops, for people who want to learn more. The Federal Communications Commission, which regulates ham radio frequencies and use, issues licenses to operators. There are different levels of licensing, and all require successful passage of an exam.

If you are interested in pursuing a degree, associate's degree or bachelor's degree programs in electronics technology or engineering may include information related to ham radio equipment. Some bachelor's degree programs in engineering include ham radio coursework.

How Can I Turn This into a Profession?

You could find paying work as a radio operator, who uses a variety of equipment and tools to transmit information, and also repairs radio equipment, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Radio operators typically undergo on-the-job training and do not need formal education beyond high school (www.bls.gov).

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Police, fire and ambulance dispatchers communicate with first responders during emergencies, directing them over radio frequencies towards accidents and people in need. Power distributors and dispatchers direct workers in power plants to respond to accidents, repair and maintain the integrity of the power production, and regulate the distribution and production of energy from raw material. Air traffic controllers communicate with pilots and ground crew to coordinate between different groups, ensuring safe landings and take-offs. All of these careers will require a minimum of a high school diploma.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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