Number of Ham Radio Licenses to Reach 750,000 by 2017

The number of unexpired amateur radio licenses in the United States was 733,594 in November 2015, an annual growth rate of 1.05% and five year growth rate of 4.52%.

If this growth trend continues, the number of licensed amateur radio operators in the United States will reach 750,000 by 2017.

License Forecast (2016-2017)

Nearly half of all US licensees hold the Technician license (49.4%), followed by General (23.5%), Amateur Extra (19.0%), Advanced (6.6%), and Novice (1.5%). Despite the large number of Technician licensees, the Amateur Extra class license continues to have the fastest growth rate at a average of 2.54% per year since 2011. The number of Amateur Extra licenses increased 10.5% since 2011 to 139,515.

Extra Class Forecast (2016-2017

The FCC’s restructuring of license classes in 2000 continues to affect the number of Advanced and Novice class licenses.

Since 2011, Advanced class licenses dropped 16.7% to 48,272 from 57,989.

Novice class licenses have dropped 25.2% since 2011, down to 10,988 at the end of 2015. If the number of Novice licenses continues to drop at this rate, the number of unexpired Novice licenses will dip below 10,000 for the first time in late 2016 or early 2017.

Novice Class Licenses Annual Growth/(Decline)
2011 14,687
2012 13,850 (5.70 %)
2013 13,116 (5.30 %)
2014 12,112 (7.65 %)
2015 10,988 (9.28 %)
2016 (Predicted) 10,221 (6.98 %)
2017 (Predicted) 9,507 (6.98%)

Growth in amateur radio licenses remains strong since the elimination of the Morse code requirement in February 2007. Coupled with significant changes to the General class question pool that same year, the number of US licenses has increased 11.8% from its post-2000 low of 655,842 at the end of 2006.

Why Preppers Should Have a General Class Ham License

A trend among Preppers and Survivalists is to use amateur radio to communicate during a crisis. Given ham radio’s rich history of service during disasters, it’s a natural place for people to go when they want to prepare for the unexpected.

There are lots of articles encouraging people to get their license. And that is great. I think that the Prepper movement, and the proliferation of inexpensive Chinese hand-held radios, has contributed to the growth of licensees in the United States, especially with the entry-level Technician Class license being the most common.

If you’re studying for your Technician, go on and earn the General Class license.

Here’s why.

When you search for “Prepper Radio Frequency List,” you’ll run into this list that covers GMRS, CB, Ham, and even Marine Maritime and Search and Rescue.  This list is meant to be a standardized “watering hole” for Preppers during a crisis.  (I hope that you have licenses for all these services and can transmit legally, but that is a different topic.)


The ham radio section includes four HF frequencies used by the American Preparedness Radio Network (TAPRN), a group of preppers who meet on the air regularly to communicate and share information. But there is a problem.

If you don’t have a General Class Ham License, you can’t participate.

TAPRN frequencies are in the voice section of the HF band.  You must have a General Class license or above to transmit there and participate.

  • 3.818 MHz
  • 5.357 MHz
  • 7.242 MHz
  • 14.242 MHz

Also, every state has a state-wide communication net for emergencies. Most are located in the voice section of the 80-meter or 40-meter band. Again, you must have a General Class license to transmit and participate.

If all you want to do is communicate locally, the Technician is fine. You have local repeater coverage until a storm knocks out power. At that point, you’re no better off than if you had a bubble pack FRS radio from Wal-Mart.

With a General Class license, you can communicate locally or across the world. International Relief Agencies, the military, and ships at sea use shortwave to keep in touch. If it’s good enough for them during a disaster, it’s probably good enough for most Prepper scenarios.