HAM Radio License Levels

Jun 4, 2018
San Angelo, TX
I'm not sure if this is the correct place for this question, so if it needs to be moved then by all means.

So while thinking ahead a bit, I've been toying with the idea of entering into the ham radio world. Mostly for mobile storm spotting, but perhaps for fun on the side as well. While digging around the interwebs I found out there are actually 3 different levels of ham license. My question is, in yall's experience, which license is the minimum needed to effectively be used for storm spotting/ reporting.
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Randy Jennings

May 18, 2013
While I agree the Tech is all you need for storm spotting, you should take the General test too. It costs nothing extra to take more than one test in the same sitting and about half of the folks who take both the Tech and General in one sitting end up passing the General, especially if they have read thru the General question pool at least once after they think they are ready for the Tech. The General is very simular to the Tech but has more questions about band privileges. If you pass the General you can try the Extra at no cost, but it is a much harder test and requires a lot of study.
While having the ability to program your Baofeng HT is advisable, one must consider where you are going on a chase and have a 'Repeater Directory'. The newest copy can be purchased online or at your local Ham Radio supply store; cost is about $20. This will help you locate the repeaters in the chase area that may be of interest.

Some radios are easier to program on-the-fly/manually than others. While the Baofeng is a decent choice for the money spent, there are other HT radios that are much easier to manually program. Either the entry level Icom or Yaesu may prove to be easier to use but will cost a bit more.

In addition, your Baofeng will require a programming cable, which is not included in the box, so you will have to purchase that separately. I have/use the Baofeng. It is OK for repeater use; but for simplex use (eg - the 2m/146.520mhz national call freq) it is less than desirable since the receive has little to no adjacent freq rejection. IOW, you will most likely hear traffic light relays, bleed from any/all of the NWS warning channels (some 20mhz away from your center freq), and a plethora of other noise and signals. But when in repeater mode, this will not be an issue. The Yaesu or Icom will not have that issue in simplex mode. Baofengs are cheap; but not always the best choice for the above reasons.

Most definitely agree that an external mag mount 2m-70cm antenna will be needed, regardless of what radio you choose - anywhere from $45 to $80; the $45 antenna will be more than sufficient. You will also need an adapter between the HT and the antenna coax connector - about ~$10.
Just an FYI . . .
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John Craze

May 11, 2019
Flintstone, GA
Agreed. Technician level is adequate.

A decent cheap radio is the BAOFENG's, out of China. They are available on Amazon and don't cost all that much. Might want to upgrade the antenna. You'll also want to download CHIRP, which is a program used to program your radio.

You can study online for the test here:
HamStudy.org: Cutting edge amateur radio study tools
This is perfect information. Thanks. I came looking for this

Robert Wightman

Sep 6, 2018
East Leroy, Mi 49051
Agree get the technician license, as far as radios the Baofeng will work. If your out in the field a handheld radio at 5watts my not reach nearby repeaters. A mobile unit at 50 watts and a 5/8 wave antenna would be a huge improvement.
Jan 6, 2019
"Technician level is adequate."
Yes, it is adequate, but why not go up to at least a General?

I have a Baofeng, pretty useless in my opinion.

Don't carry around a book of repeaters, if you have an android install "RepeaterBook".
Whatever HT you get, learn to program repeaters through the keypad.
If the only focus is storm spotting, Tech will most likely do the trick. I have the Extra class and love it because I like working HF, but it certainly isn't necessary for those only interested in VHF comms. The good part is, you can get your Tech ticket and if you really get into it, you can always move up.
Oct 17, 2013
Warsaw, Indiana
Michael -
A technician class license is all you need for Skywarn spotting. Back in the day ( early 2000's ) Radio Shack sold Amateur Radio license manuals. That was how I started (my callsign is KC9AYT). That option is no longer available, however license manuals can still be bought at ARRL's website (arrl.org). When you earn that "golden ticket", I would suggest at minimum a good 2m mobile radio and a 5/8 wavelength mobile antenna.
Feb 20, 2018
Wilmington, NC

I studied for and earned my technician level license last January and I can happily say that it is easy to do. ARRL has their license manuals, which to me are good reference materials with some of the more technical aspects, but if you're looking for something that is a bit easier to study, I would highly recommend Gordon West's series of study guides, which have ALL of the questions in the current test pool - they discuss each of the questions in detail and explain the answers in a way that's easy to understand and remember, including the portions that require a little math.

I used the Technician Study guide to prepare for my technician's exam, and am doing the same for my General and eventually Extra so that I can be able to talk to relatives on HF. You can find these guides via DX engineering (link below for the Technician's Study Guide).

However far you go with ham radio, as a fellow new ham, I wish you the best of luck!