Why you Should Upgrade to the Extra Class Amateur Radio License – Ham Radio Q&A

In my article I talked about why you should, and shouldn’t upgrade to your General Class Amateur Radio license. That video generated a fair amount of comments and discussion, and I what I saw for the most part was really positive. Like I mentioned previously, the exams are nothing more than a framework and are nothing more than a vehicle to a better understanding of the art and science of amateur radio. So upgrading your license can be very fulfilling and rewarding endeavor.

So what’s my extra license path? One of the first things I did after getting my general ticket was to purchase a copy of the ARRL Extra Class license manual. I knew I wanted to get my Extra, but I didn’t know how long it was going to take. Initially I didn’t set a deadline or limit. So I started reading the manual. It was dense and packed with information. I think I spent months, off and on, going through it. After a year and a half, I wasn’t sure if I would ever make the jump. Fortunately I had some help. In January of 2002, at a local hamfest, two other friends and I split the cost of the Gordon West amateur extra tapes. We then set a deadline to get our extra by the end of February when a testing session would be held. I listened to those tapes just about every day. I took sample exams and saw my score improve. I reread the license manual and started understanding the information. By the end of February I felt confident, the three of us took the exam, and passed it on the first try.

I guess the moral of that story is that getting your Extra is not an easy process. The exam is tough and the information is challenging. But it is rewarding to reach the summit. So with all that work needed to get the Extra, why would you want to upgrade.

Upgrading to Extra gives you more HF frequencies

There are significant chunks of additional frequency privilege on the 15, 20, 40, and 80 meter bands that are just for Extras. As one commenter said “there is some prime real estate for DXing  at the lower ends of the bands.” Not only  do you get more elbow room for calling CQ and rag chewing, you’ll often find that DX stations like to congregate in the Extra portion of the band.

Upgrading gives you the opportunity to help as a Volunteer Examiner

Yes you can be a VE with your general class license, but you will only be able to administer Technician exams. Being an Extra lets you administer all three levels. Being a VE isn’t difficult and it is extremely rewarding to give back to the amateur radio community. Want to get more people involved in amateur radio? Become a VE so prospective hams have easy access to testing sessions.

Upgrading to Extra makes it easier to operate amateur radio overseas

With an extra class license you have full reciprocal operating privileges in most European countries. No additional licensing or permits are required. With other foreign countries you will have to apply for a license, but being granted the highest license class in the US makes receiving equivalent privileges in a foreign country easier. This is a simplification, so please refer to the ARRL for more information.

Other reasons include: Getting a 1×2 or 2×1 vanity callsign, being a callsign trustee for your local club, and not having to worry where the general class band limits are. Plus you get some bragging rights of passing the test and never have to take another license exam again.

But like I said in my previous video, this is something to need to do for yourself. Don’t feel pressure or obligation to upgrade. If you are comfortable with your current license class, make the most of it.

Do you have your Extra? What was your reason for upgrading? Let’s keep the conversation going by leaving a comment below.