As the third quarter of 2011 came to a close, ARRL VEC Manager Maria Somma, AB1FM, began calculating the number of licensed Amateur Radio operators in the US, as well as the number of new licensees. “At the end of September, I saw that the number of hams in the US was high,” she said. “When I started comparing that number with other years, I found that it was an all-time high.” For the first time, there are more than 700,000 radio amateurs in the US.
“When looking at the three current license classes — Technician, General and Amateur Extra — these numbers are impressive,” Somma explained. “The number of Technicians peaked in March 2011 at 342,572, while in September 2011, we saw both Generals and Extras peak at 159,861 and 125,661, respectively. As new Technicians earn their Amateur Radio licenses, and current Technician licensees move on to General and Generals upgrade to Extra, this can cause up-and-down fluctuations for these totals.”
Somma said these high numbers mean that hams are upgrading and renewing in larger numbers and staying interested in hobby: “These are compelling statistics and I am thrilled to see the highest number of amateur radio licensees ever! When I began working at the ARRL back in the mid 1980s, there were approximately 450,000 amateurs in the US. Our VEC program conducted an average of 55 sessions a week. Today, we administer approximately 150 exam sessions each week, and our total number of licensees across all three license classes continues to grow each year.”
In the past 40 years, the number of Amateur Radio operators in the US has grown at a remarkable rate:
December 1971: 285,000
December 1981: 433,000
December 1991: 494,000
December 2001: 683,000
September 2011: 700,221
Source: 1971, 1981, 1991: print editions of Radio Amateur Callbook. 2001, 2011: www.ah0a.org/FCC/Graphs.html. Please note: While the number of licensees has grown considerably over the years, we realize that these numbers include some who are no longer active in Amateur Radio. A recent survey of ARRL members, however, indicates that more than 80 percent of those responding are active.
“As technology changes and advances, it is especially vital to keep up or be at the forefront,” Somma said. “I believe that Amateur Radio has done just that! The measurable results are our indisputable license numbers. It amazes me after all these years how important and relevant Amateur Radio remains. I am proud to be one of the 700,221 licensees and to see this historic and important milestone.”
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