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Amateur radio and the VEC program

February 9, 2011

Since spring 1984, candidates for a ham radio exam have been able to take advantage of a very convenient testing program. Instead of visiting an FCC field office, sometimes a great distance away offering tests only infrequently, candidates avail themselves of test sessions closer to home held various times throughout the month.

Volunteer Examiner Coordinators, or VECs, now oversee the testing process, and it is through their efforts that amateur radio exams are available in communities all across the country. With the stroke of a pen, Pres. Ronald Reagan in September 1982 signed into law legislation that created the VEC program. Subsequent FCC rule making made the act official, and the VEC program went live in December 1983. Soon afterward individuals from around the country applied to be certified as VECs.

At its peak there were more than three dozen VECs in the United States. That number has since dropped to 14, but that hasn’t affected amateur radio testing. Each VEC is authorized to sponsor volunteer examiner teams anywhere in the country. These VE teams administer and grade the written exams, then forward the materials to their sponsoring VEC for review and filing. (Until Feb. 23, 2007, the VE teams also administered a Morse code exam when required.)

VEs are ordinary ham radio operators who graciously donate their time to help others get into the hobby or upgrade their licenses. Exam dates vary; Saturday mornings are quite popular, but some teams offer evening sessions during the week as well. The law provides for a test fee to help cover costs incurred in preparing and administering the exams. Each VEC sets its own fee; the average is around $10.

By 1985 the VECs realized a need to coordinate their efforts across the country. They formed an organization, the National Conference of Volunteer Examiner Coordinators, and agreed to meet in person or by phone on an annual basis. Through its Question Pool Committee, the NCVEC also maintains the question pools that are used to create the amateur radio exams. Since inception of the VEC program, hundreds of thousands of US citizens have become amateur radio operators. By successfully administering thousands of exams each month, volunteer examiners have proven that amateur radio operators can be entrusted with this important function.

The result is a program that has helped enrich the amateur radio service and provide an opportunity for many people to participate in this wonderful hobby. Perhaps I’ll “see you” on the air someday!

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From → Amateur radio

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