Well, the start of your Amateur Radio Journey at least.
You might be wondering how hard it is to obtain your Foundation licence. The real answer, particularly if you locate your local Amateur Radio Club and participate in their Foundation Course and Examination (which is normally over a weekend), is not very hard. The Foundation Licence is exactly that, a starting point. If I remember correctly, every question you have in the exam is covered in the “Your Entry into Amateur Radio” book (see further in this article), and if it isn’t it’s covered by the foundation course (which basically follows the book). So if you have not come from an Electronics background, take the time to read the book a few weeks before the course (e.g. don’t skim the book, the night before).
Just so you know what to expect, you will be performing the following as part of the exam
- Answering 25 Questions covering Foundation Theory & Regulations over 30 minutes – 18 correct answers are required to pass
- Performing a practical exam, which, where possible will be carried out under actual Operating Conditions (this is taught as part of course)
It is highly recommended that you look at the AMC Website https://www.amc.edu.au/industry/amateur-radio and obtain a copy of the syllabus which will clarify matters further including clarification on what Electronics symbols may be used.
Without belittling the Foundation Course, if you have a good memory, and some basic comprehension of what you are reading, you will pass.
The Course and Exam does what it is intended to do, which is to make you aware of basic theory, a simple practical and importantly the regulations around the hobby.
If you want to see the level of questions asked in the foundation exam, look at this site https://www.wia.org.au/licenses/foundation/onlineexams/foundation.php, but you could probably look at other sites offering free trial exams as well.
There are some costs (e.g. the course and exams) and you should be guided by your local club performing the course, on what the costs will be, but as a guide, you can find them on the AMC website
https://www.amc.edu.au/industry/amateur-radio under Fees and Charges
What’s interesting about Amateur Radio is the range of people, the range of professions, and the many varied paths that lead to people becoming interested in Amateur Radio.
Whilst a reasonable majority of people are from a few main professions, which include
- Broadcast Radio Engineers
- Military Radio Engineers
- Electronics & RF Engineers
- Civil/Marine Radio operators
there are also many other areas which include
- Electronics Hobbyists
- Farmers / Homesteads Owners
- CB Radio operators
Whatever background you have come from, you have decided that you want to become involved in Amateur Radio (or Ham Radio as it is also known) and you probably started enquiring, or quietly reviewing Websites to understand the process. The only issue us that you are now confused, as each website or forum tells you something different. The Internet is strewn with Website’s or forums that are contain out of date information.
Contributing to this confusion is that there has been a major change in the preferred provider for the delivery of Australian Amateur Radio Examinations. So that you can understand what you are reading in older posts/websites :
- The Wireless Institute of Australia (WIA) had a deed in place from February 2009 to Feb 2019.
- After this date the Australian Maritime College (AMC) took over that role.
- This is the institution that produces the exams and questions and via their Volunteer Examiners (generally Amateur Operators) run the exams on the day.
- After the Exam, these examiners collate all the paperwork after the exam to send to the AMC.
- The AMC then marks the exams and informs the Examinee of the result and and passes to the ACMA if the Candidate was successful and eligible to be issued a Licence.
Just so you are aware, the general time it takes is about 30 real days. Under normal operations, it is understood as part of their contract they are required to process these exams in 15 working days (unless they have requested and extension like they did during the height of Covid19). The reason why it generally takes 30 days are for the following reasons:
- Exams normally take place on the weekend and the examiners need a couple of days to complete their process (remember most have full time jobs as well)
- AMC will receive it after a few days (as it goes by post)
- AMC have 15 work days to process it, remember you have weekends which are not counted, so 15 days is actually 21 days)
- And as mentioned a few more days for ACMA to process and sent you your licence if successful.
UPDATE! – June 2023 : AMC will no longer be renewing its arrangements from February 2024. ACMA will take back management of Amateur Radio Examinations and Callsign Administrations Services and existing AMC Authorised Examiners will transfer across to the ACMA. For you, the process is no different, as a Foundation prospect, just useful to know who is managing it, especially with the changes over the years.
Hopefully in the future, they might take the steps to streamline this process like the U.S., but for the moment it is what it is.
So what is your first step?
Well you can look around, obtain the “Your Entry into Amateur Radio” which is a WIA publication. You can obtain this from your local club or purchase directly online from the WIA from the following link https://www.wia.org.au/licenses/foundation/foundationmanual/
Then when you are ready to take the exam, you will need to contact an examiner to organise to sit the exam. You can find an examiner here https://www.amc.edu.au/industry/amateur-radio/assessors
Or you can make your life simple and contact your local Amateur Radio club. In many cases they have supplies of the book available to purchase and send out to you and they normally hold regular exams and classes, and that’s the difference. You will find it easier going to a club organised weekend class and exam, get it all over and done with and meet other hams from the club, in some cases see a demonstration, and even if you read the book, you can ask questions if there some parts you are not confident in.
Once you have completed the exam, hopefully within the month, you will be notified of your result, and hopefully have your licence in your hand.
First of all, take some time to learn what you can do within the bounds of your foundation licence. There are so many facets of Amateur radio, so many directions you can go, so many interests and spurs that anyone who says there was nothing for them, really didn’t look or didn’t get involved.
When your ready, then you can start studying for the Standard and Advanced Licence.