WEST HOLLYWOOD, California — The number of Americans obtaining their ham radio licenses is soaring as the country comes to grips with the coronavirus pandemic. Just as shoppers are hoarding necessities and food in panic buying, more people have quickly studied to become amateur radio operators to ensure they can maintain communications with others in case internet or cell phone communication is disrupted. 

More than 765,000 in the United States already have their amateur radio licenses from the Federal Communications Commission, however, data from the FCC indicates a recent uptick in the number of new hams, especially since the outbreak of COVID-19 worldwide. In addition, we at HamRadioPrep.com have experienced a huge surge in new students in the past two weeks as news continues to evolve about the pandemic and we have taken any and all measures to increase the speed and accessibility of our online courses due to the influx, including scholarships for those in financial trouble due to the recent econmic turmoil.

In a comparison of the time period from March 5-13, 2020, to the same days in 2019, the number of persons signing up for the amateur radio license courses has soared more than 706% since news of the coronavirus outbreak dominated headlines. At the same time, the FCC shows a 7.1% percent uptick in new amateur licensees in the first week of March in 2020 vs the same week in 2019. In the coming weeks, we expect to see the actual license numbers continue to increase rapidly from the FCC. 

Americans are able to take tests to obtain amateur radio licenses from the Federal Communications Commission, allowing them to talk on a variety of frequencies and radio bands to other licensed hams for personal, not-for-profit communications and technical training. Communications can be around your city, around your state, around the country, around the world — and even into space. Many get their ham radio licenses just so they are prepared for emergencies and disasters and can provide communications for themselves and their families and friends when other communications networks are impacted.

Amateur radio clubs around the United States conduct FCC testing for most seeking ham licenses, while Ham Radio Prep prepares persons with a unique online study system that includes videos, lessons, practice exams, and interactive content. Unfortunately, many in-person ham radio events have been impacted by COVID-19. The Dayton Hamvention was just cancelled for the first time in it’s 68-year history due to coronavirus concerns. For this reason, access to online study materials is more important than ever.

In addition, Ham Radio Prep commends the Anchorage (Alaska) Amateur Radio Club Volunteer Examiner Coordinator program, which conducts test sessions for those wishing to become newly licensed ham radio operators. That organization’s board of directors recently voted to expand its unique and innovative remote testing program to areas outside of Alaska, including anywhere in the United States or Canada. This will bring easier access to those seeking to obtain ham radio licensing and who live in remote areas or have various abilities that preclude them from attending scheduled test sessions conducted by accredited local ham radio clubs that offer test services.

The owners of Ham Radio Prep hope many who want to be prepared with emergency communications backup and even those now out of work or working from home because of the COVID-19 outbreak are able to become licensed hams.

To learn more on how you can get your ham radio license, check out our guide on How To Get Your Ham Radio License