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Getting Started


Here's your invitation to a high-tech hobby that has fun for everyone. Amateur Radio operators are people from all walks of life--no matter what age, gender or physical ability. Getting started in Amateur Radio has never been easier! You can usually find an amateur radio class in your area sponsored by friendly volunteers who will help you learn the ropes.  And, knowledge of the Morse Code is NO LONGER required.

To the government, amateur radio is a Service. The official definition of the term "amateur radio service" is "a radio communication service in which radio apparatus are used for the purpose of self-training, intercommunication or technical investigation by individuals who are interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest.

Industry Canada is the government department responsible for administering amateur radio in Canada. The legislative authority under which amateur radio is administered in Canada includes the Radiocommunication Act and the Radiocommunication Regulations.


Effective April 1, 2000, Canadian radio amateurs are no longer issued a station licence on an annual basis nor are they charged an annual renewal fee. The new Amateur Radio Operator Certificate continues to be provided at no charge and now has three qualification levels, each of which has an associated frequency band, operating mode and transmitter power privileges. (If you live outside Canada, but wish to operate in Canada, click here).

The holder of a Canadian Basic Qualification (which requires no Morse Code examination) receives all amateur radio privileges, except high power transmitter operation, if he or she receives 80% or more on the examination. Operating privileges even extend outside Canada, always subject to the regulations of the host country.

A USA-Canada treaty allows Licensed Canadian radio amateurs to operate within the United States of America, without further US government permission. Operation in many other countries is extended to a Canadian amateur holding an International Amateur Radio Permit or CEPT Permit from RAC.

Morse Code is no longer required. With the Morse Code Qualification added to your Basic Qualification, you receive all privileges on all the Amateur Radio bands below 30 MHz, except high power transmitter operation.

However, either a Morse code qualification or a "Basic with Honours" qualification (awarded to persons who get 80% or higher on the exam), allows access to HF.  Passing a Morse Code test is no longer required in order to operate Amateur Radio equipment capable of world-wide communications.

With the Advanced Qualification added to your Basic Qualification you can build and operate your own transmitting equipment, sponsor a club station, run higher power and operate your own repeater station.


The Certificate of Proficiency in Amateur Radio is accompanied by a call sign used to identify the station.

Canadian call signs normally have a national prefix consisting of two letters and a number, followed by a two- or three-letter suffix e.g. VE1AB, VA3ABC, VO1ZZ or VY2ZZZ.

Call signs are allocated with different prefixes depending on the area of the country where the amateur lives when he/she applies for a call sign, or to recognize special events. See RBR-4 and RIC-9 below for call sign policy. To obtain a call sign with a new certificate, you require the Basic Qualification.


To earn your certificate with Basic Qualification, you'll need to pass a written exam. This is a 70% pass-grade, 100-question multiple-choice test, covering such topics as radio operating practices, basic electrical theory, and the Radiocommunication regulations that apply to amateur radio. A mark of 80% or more gives the candidate the additional privileges of Basic Qualification with honours.

Candidates for the Morse Code Qualification are required to demonstrate proficiency in Morse Code, by sending and receiving Morse Code at a speed of not less than 5 words per minute for three consecutive minutes. The examination is in plain language text and may include the 26 letters, 10 numerals, comma, period, question mark, dash, fraction bar, Q signals, and emergency signals. The examiner will allow candidates two minutes to review and correct their received copy before it is graded.

Candidates for the Advanced Qualification must pass a 70% pass-grade, 50-question multiple-choice examination covering electrical theory primarily related to the additional privileges granted to holders of the Advanced Qualification.

The examinations may be taken in any order but station operating privileges require a Basic Qualification. Candidates for the examination for Basic, Morse Code or Advanced qualifications are examined by an accredited examiner.

Persons With Disabilities

Examiners may not exempt any candidate for an amateur radio certificate qualification from the requirement for an examination. However, when a candidate has a severe disability that prevents that person from completing a written examination, the examiner may conduct an oral examination by reading each question to the candidate. The candidate must still obtain a pass mark of 70% for Basic Qualification.

In the case of a Morse Code examination, a candidate may have a disability that severely limits or prohibits the ability to either send or receive Morse Code. The sending portion of the Morse Code examination may be conducted by asking the candidate to recite the exam test. For the receiving portion, the examiner may send the required text manually and have the candidate verbalize the characters.

The exam is graded with respect to errors. Code speed is not taken into account in these cases. The examiner may request that a candidate provide medical evidence from a practicing medical physician before such an accommodated examination.

The examiner may request that a candidate provide medical evidence from a practicing medical physician before such an accommodated examination.

Details of the examination process, the Notice to Physicians Certifying to a Disability and the Physician's Certification of Disability form are to be found in RIC-1.

Studying to Pass the Examination

Radio Amateurs of Canada publishes the following study guides to help you learn the things you'll need to pass your exam and have fun with amateur radio:

RAC Logo Ham Study Basic (book)
RAC Logo Study Guide for the Advanced Qualification (CD-ROM)

Both of these study guides reflect the major changes in the examination content in 2001.

Industry Canada also offers a software examination generator for amateur radio student practice. The new generator software and instructions can be downloaded from their web site.

Morse Code may be learned in a class or by self-study using a number of methods. A popular way is to download a software program that teaches the Morse Code and provides drills at progressively higher speeds until the student is ready for the examination.

It should be noted that, while Morse Code is almost extinct in the commercial radio services, it still has wide usage in amateur radio. As proficiency speeds beyond the five words per minute is desirable, it is important to learn and practice the Morse Code so as not to inhibit your own future speed development. Accepted practice is to use what is known as the Farnsworth Method whereby character speed is faster than the word speed, allowing longer timing spaces for comprehension.

One of the most popular Morse Code learning and practice programs is called Morse Academy.

Though you won't be able to fully apply the information until you start operating your station, you will find the information in the following desk reference book of considerable value:

RAC Logo RAC Operating Manual

Like the RAC study guides, this book reflects the latest changes in the Canadian amateur radio regulations. You may purchase RAC publications at major amateur radio retailers or on-line here.

Amateur Radio Classes

Many amateur radio clubs offer classes. Check the list of clubs for one near you.

In most cases the RAC Ham Study Basic is the approved course textbook. As the availability of courses depends upon demand it is wise to contact the course provider to confirm course scheduling.

Courses for the Advanced Qualification are not so common as it is suitable for self-study using the RAC interactive CD-ROM.

Regulatory Documents

All candidates for an amateur radio certificate qualification are required to pass an examination. Since examination questions are based partially on these documents, those studying for the examinations should obtain and retain copies of the following:

RBR-4 - Standards for the Operation of Radio Stations in the Amateur Radio Service

RIC-1 - Guide for Examiners Accredited to Conduct Examinations for the Amateur Radio Operator Certificate

RIC-3 - Information on the Amateur Radio Service

RIC-9 - Call Sign Policy and Special Event Prefixes

Since the study objective should not be to merely pass the exam, RAC recommends against simply memorizing the answers to exam questions. However, the complete question banks may be reviewed to confirm your understanding of the study guide material:

RIC-7 - Basic Qualification Question Bank for Amateur Radio Operator Certificate Examinations

RIC-8 - Advanced Qualification Question Bank for Amateur Radio Operator Certificate

The above regulatory documents may be downloaded and printed from the Beginner's Page. Printed copies of these documents may be purchased from Tyrell Press Ltd at 1-800-267 4862 (toll free) or from Canadian Communications Group, Inc at 1-888-562 5661 (toll free).

Amateur Radio Clubs

A list of Canadian amateur radio clubs, with mailing addresses, and where applicable telephone numbers, e-mail and web site addresses, may be read or downloaded and printed here.


If you can't find an answer to your question about certificates and call signs on the Frequently Asked Questions Page

Industry Canada
Amateur Radio Service Centre
PO Box 9654
Postal Station T
Ottawa, ON
K1G 6K9


Telephone: 1-888-780-3333 (toll free)
Fax: 1-613-991-5575

Code Practice

The following sites offer some assistance in learning the Morse code.

RAC Logo W1AW RealAudio Code Practice
RAC Logo RAC Morse Proficiency Certificate
RAC Logo Simple Morse (Free Windows program for random practice and user-supplied ASCII text files)
RAC Logo Telegraphy Abbreviations
RAC Logo The RAC Morse Page
RAC Logo Beginners Guide to CW Contacts
RAC Logo Morse Code and Radio Guide for Beginners

If you have other questions, here are some links to web sites which you may find helpful:

RAC Logo Beginner's Guide to Amateur Radio
RAC Logo Hamstudy.com
RAC Logo Hamtestonline.com
RAC Logo ExHAMiner Basic/Advanced Self-Test (Written for RAC by François Daigneault VE2AAY, in both English and French versions)
RAC Logo An Introduction to Ham Radio by Wayne Barrey VE3JV
RAC Logo VK3YE's Guide to Australian Amateur Radio
RAC Logo VK3YE's Novice Notes Online - information resource for newcomers to amateur radio
RAC Logo ARRLWeb W1AW Schedule
RAC Logo Morse Code and Phonetic Alphabet Page
RAC Logo Phonetic Alphabet
RAC Logo ICAO Phonetic alphabet trainer - app
RAC Logo The Canadian Amateur Radio Bands
RAC Logo Questions About our Amateur Radio Bands
RAC Logo Brian's Circuit Diagrams for the Advanced Exam
RAC Logo VE7EJE's BBS version of the Canadian Call Sign Database (Suitable for the VE3RD server)
RAC Logo Industry Canada Amateur Radio Service - Index
RAC Logo Industry Canada Amateur Licensing - Fact Sheet