Amateur Radio Licensing in The United States - Volunteer Examiners

Volunteer Examiners

Any individual regardless of citizenship who wishes to apply for a US amateur radio license must appear before Volunteer Examiners (VEs). VEs are licensed radio amateurs who conduct examination sessions, frequently through permanently established teams on a monthly or quarterly basis. VEs are governed by Volunteer Examinator Coordinators (VECs), organizations that "coordinate the efforts of Volunteer Examiners ... in preparing and administering amateur service operator license examinations." Although the FCC currently recognizes 14 VECs, the two largest VEC organizations are the one sponsored by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) and the one started by W5YI, now sold and operated by another party. The ARRL VEC coordinates about two-thirds of all U.S. license examinations.

Prior to 1984, many Novice exams were administered by volunteers, but all other exams were taken at FCC offices. Some of the exam times were not always convenient for candidates, so a few exceptions were allowed in cases where candidates were physically unable to get to the field offices (such as the Conditional license, discussed elsewhere in this article).

In the 1950s and 1960s, Novice, Technician and Conditional exams were given by licensees acting as volunteer examiners. No Advanced and very few Amateur Extra exams were administered during this period, leaving the General exam as the only exam class regularly administered by the FCC.

The government's use of licensed amateur radio operators as voluntary examiners dates back to the founding of the Amateur Radio Service as a government-regulated entity in 1912 (Amateur Second Class licenses).

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