By Dan Romanchik, KB6NU
The Amateur Extra Class license is the highest class of license in the United States, and perhaps the world. Many hams—even hams that live outside the U.S.—aspire to pass the test and be awarded one.
There wasn’t always an Amateur Extra Class license. The Extra class license, as we know it today, was created as part of the 1951 license restructuring, that also created the Novice and Technician Class licenses. (In 1951, the Novice license was the “beginner’s license.” To get a Technician Class license, you had to pass the written test that General Class operators had to pass.)
Although it gave an operator no additional privileges, to get an Extra Class license, one had to:
* Pass a 20 wpm code test (Generals had to pass only a 13 wpm code test).
* Pass a longer and more difficult written examination than the General Class exam.
* Have at least two years of experience as a licensed radio amateur.
Today, without the code test and the experience requirement, many hams upgrade to Extra Class as soon as they can. Some even pass the Technician Class, General Class, and the Amateur Extra Class exams in a single test session.
So, what’s the attraction? Why should you upgrade to Extra?
One of the reasons that you should upgrade to Extra is that you get use of the entire 80 m, 40 m, 20 m, and 15 m bands. Portions of those bands, such as 3.6 – 3.7 MHz in the 75m band and 14.150 – 14.175 Mhz in the 20m phone band, are reserved exclusively for Extra Class licensees. Extra Class operators also have exclusive privileges in the CW portions of the 80 m, 40 m, 20 m, and 15 m bands. These are the frequencies where the DX stations hang out.
Another reason to get your Extra Class license is that only Extra Class licensees can administer General Class and Extra Class license exams. General Class operators can become Volunteer Examiners (VEs), but they are only allowed to administer Technician Class exams.
Another reason you might want to get an Extra Class license is to get a fancy vanity callsign. Only Extra Class operators can apply for 1×2 or 2×1 callsigns, such as W8RP or KT8K. A short, snappy callsign can help you work more DX or improve your contest scores.
Whatever your reason, studying for the Extra Class exam will open your eyes to many aspects of the hobby that you may not be familiar with. And, as you work your way through the material, you’ll learn things that make you a better amateur radio operator and enable you to enjoy the hobby more. It’s not easy, but in the end, an Extra Class license will help you have more fun with amateur radio.
Dan, KB6NU is the author of the “No Nonsense” line of amateur radio license study guides, a prolific blogger (www.kb6nu.com), and an active CW operator in the Extra Class portion of the HF bands. If you have any comments, questions, compliments, or complaints, email him at email@example.com.