Before you can operate Amateur Radio Transmitting Equipment you must obtain an Amateur Radio Transmitting Licence. The present system of Amateur Radio Licensing is intended to provide an inclusive, incentive based progression through levels of knowledge obtained practically through the use of radio.

The current levels of Amateur Radio Licence are:

  1. Foundation,
  2. Intermediate, and
  3. Full

At present it is a requirement that you progress through each of the stages in turn, there are no exceptions and no short cuts irrespective of the amount of theoretical or practical knowledge you may have. A “Direct to Full” licence syllabus has been developed and should become available from 2023, this is discussed further down the page.

The following sections describe very briefly and in general terms the privileges granted at each level of licence and the course content. The full Syllabi for the courses can be accessed via the RSGB website.

What To Do Next

If you are interested in one of the courses that we have indicated is available below, please contact the training team by email. One of the Training Team will usually respond within a couple of days unless we have to coordinate amongst ourselves in which case it might take up to a week to compose a response.

Course Type Instructor(s) Start Date and Details Anticipated Exam Date
Tier 1 of 3
  We currently have no plans to hold a Foundation Course at this time.  
Tier 2 of 3
  We currently have no plans to hold an Intermediate Course at this time.  
Tier 3 of 3
  Our Full training programme has not been updated to the latest syllabus and the work involved with our currently reduced Training Team is too great to make the effort expended to update this section worthwhile. We have no plans to run any further Full Licence Courses.  
Direct to Full   We have no plans to introduce specific training notes or presentations for this syllabus and no plans to provide any Direct to Full courses.  

If our training programme doesn’t fit with your personal timetable or availability, there are a range of on-line courses available from a variety of providers. The RSGB maintain a list of these on-line resources on their website where you can find links to on-line teaching.

“Official” textbooks are available from the RSGB and Amazon amongst other places:

Foundation Licence ManualIntermediate Licence ManualFull Licence Manual

Practical Assessment and Exam Availability

Pre COVID-19

Prior to the societal changes that have been brought about by the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic the Foundation and Intermediate Courses included Practical Assessments in addition to a multiple choice exam, which is the only assessment component at the Full Licence level, that had to be taken at a registered exam centre.

The exams were, pre-COVID, available either as a traditional written multiple choice exam or as an on-line computer based exam and both formats had to be sat at a Registered Exam Centre such as the Novers Park Community Centre in Bristol where exams have been run by the South Bristol Amateur Radio Club.

During COVID-19

The introduction of restrictions and limitations on the number of people who can gather at communal venues resulting from the spread of the Coronavirus led to a stop in examinations and practical assessments. Very shortly after it became apparent that exams and practical assessments were not going to be possible for a considerable period and that Amateur Radio had the potential to reduce the isolation people were experiencing (see the RSGB/NHS “Get on the Air to Care” campaign). The RSGB altered the requirements for practical assessments and examination availability as follows:

  1. The requirements for Foundation Practical Assessments were temporarily suspended and Remote Invigilated Exams were introduced from 6 April 2020, see this RSGB announcement. There will be no requirement for successful students earning their licence during the period that Practical Assessments were suspended to retrospectively undertake the Practical Assessments if and when they are reintroduced;
  2. The requirements for Intermediate Practical Assessments were suspended and Remote Invigilated Exams were introduced from 13 July 2020;
  3. The suspension of Practical Assessments for the Intermediate Exam was confirmed as a permanent change to the syllabus with the release of Intermediate Syllabus 1.4 on 31 July 2020;
  4. Remotely Invigilated Full Licence Exams were introduced from 21 October 2020.
  5. In an announcement on 1 October 2021 the RSGB announced that the Foundation Practical Assessments had also been completely removed from the syllabus

Students are now able to book their exam on-line on the RSGB website.

Information to assist with the exam process and the practicalities of an on-line exam can be found at:

Post COVID-19

With the relaxations of COVID measures, Clubs are once again able to hold in person meetings and resume both in person training and in person examinations at a registered exam centre either on paper or on computer.

The option for a remotely invigilated examination remains available and given the success of this system during the various lockdowns and the ability for those in poorly served areas to have ready access to examinations it is unlikely to be withdrawn. However, it is now possible to book an exam through a Club to be taken at a registered exam centre using either paper examinations or on-line exams invigilated at the exam centre. This will be an asset for those needing assistance with an exam.

The practical assessments at Intermediate level remain withdrawn and the practical assessments at Foundation are supposedly also permanently withdrawn. However, the same announcement that confirmed the permanent withdrawal of the Foundation Practical Assessment also noted that they may be re-introduced at Foundation level in Syllabus 2.0 but in a form that is compatible with remote assessments, what this will entail remains unknown at this time.

Foundation Licence

In simplistic terms this is the “entry level” licence, it is currently the minimum you require to transmit legally on the Amateur Radio bands. The course represents an introduction to radio operation and radio theory and can be completed by anyone with an interest in radio and a desire to learn. There is no requirement to have any prior understanding or use of radio.

The course content is covered in about 10 sessions each lasting around 45 minutes – 1 hour and introduces you very gently to:

  • Content and structure of the licence,
  • Rules and regulations governing use of the Amateur Radio spectrum,
  • Basic electrical theory: application of Ohms Law (V=IxR and P=IxV) to simple circuits,
  • Simple propagation theory – how radio waves travel, why some bands are worldwide and others are 10 miles in range, and
  • An introduction to antennas and feeders (the wire from your transceiver to the antenna).

In addition to the theoretical work there are also a number of simple practical exercises (which are suspended during the Coronavirus pandemic) designed to introduce you to the use of Amateur Radio, the types of contacts you may have and some of the operating practices and procedures to ensure that you are comfortable with operating equipment once you obtain your licence.

Once you have obtained your Foundation Licence you will be able to do the following:

  • Transmit legally on the following Amateur Radio Bands: 2200m, all bands from 160m – 70cm (excluding 60m) and the 3cm band from the United Kingdom,
  • Use amateur radio transmitting equipment with a maximum output of 10W (some bands have additional restrictions),
  • Use FM, AM, SSB, CW and data modes in any of the above Amateur Radio Bands as set out in the UK Band Plans,
  • Operate via Amateur Radio Satellites,
  • Contact other licensed amateurs throughout the world or just around the corner, and
  • Take part in Amateur Radio competitions and contests.

Some limitations are imposed on the operation of the Foundation licence, a few are set out below:

  • Maximum power of 10W out of the transceiver (some bands have additional restrictions),
  • Not permitted to construct from scratch or convert your own transmitting equipment, and
  • May not operate in countries outside of the UK without an appropriate licence from the local authorities. The Foundation Licence will not automatically qualify you for a foreign licence in any country outside of the UK.

Intermediate Licence

The next step on the ladder, the Intermediate Licence takes you deeper into the theory of radio and electronics and confers additional bands, power and other privileges compared to the Foundation Licence. In order to sit the Intermediate Exam you must have passed the Foundation Exam.

The Intermediate Course builds on the Foundation and the practical experience you will have gained as a Foundation operator. The course is longer, taking around 30 sessions compared to the 10 sessions required to complete the Foundation and goes deeper into the theories of:

  • A deeper understanding of the Licence Conditions,
  • Electronics – introduction of additional components, tuned circuits, AC,
  • Transmitters and receivers – expanded block diagrams for different types of modulation, and
  • Propagation – increased description of the Ionosphere.

As a result of passing the Intermediate Exam you will gain the following privileges over and above the Foundation Licence:

  • Access to the following Amateur Bands: 2200m, 160m – 1.2mm (excluding 60m) from within the United Kingdom,
  • Maximum output power of 50W on all allocated Amateur Bands (some bands have additional restrictions),
  • Ability to construct and convert transmitting equipment, and
  • Ability to operate a RF wireless controlled remote station.

There are still restrictions imposed upon you an Intermediate Licence holder, some of the main ones are:

  • Limit of 50W maximum power from the transceiver (some bands have additional restrictions), and
  • May not operate in countries outside of the UK without an appropriate licence from the local authorities. The Intermediate Licence will not automatically qualify you for a foreign licence in any country outside of the UK.

Full Licence

The Advanced Exam is the final step on the incentive based licensing system and naturally provides the highest level of privileges and requires the highest level of knowledge. There are no practical exercises involved in the Advanced Exam, the additional knowledge is all related to theory of radio or electronics.

Once you have passed this exam you will have the following additional privileges over and above the Intermediate Licence:

  • Access to all Amateur Radio bands from 2200m – 1.2mm,
  • Limit of 400W maximum power (some bands have additional restrictions),
  • Ability to operate “Maritime Mobile” in International Waters with the permission of the vessels master,
  • Ability to apply for a “Notice of Variation” (NoV) to alter licence conditions for experimental purposes or to operate Special Event Stations,
  • Ability to operate an internet linked remote station for personal use, and
  • Reciprocal Licensing Agreements with many other countries allowing operation from foreign countries.

Direct to Full

Enrolments for the Direct to Full examinations opened in January 2023, six months after the publication of the new syllabus.

The examination is specifically aimed at aspiring amateurs who are already competent in related technical subjects. However, it will be open to all, and Foundation and Intermediate amateurs are free to enrol for the Direct to Full examination or continue along the three-tier route as they wish. No credit transfer between the two routes will be possible.

For further information on this emerging route please refer to the RSGB website.