Ten Year Trends in US Ham Licenses

In November 2005, I took a look at some statistics on FCC amateur radio licenses. At that time, I compared the number of ham licenses to such things as the US population, number of cell phones in use and the number of birdwatchers in the US. Interesting stuff.

Ten years later, we can take a look at the how the composition of FCC licenses has changed. The total number of licenses has grown to over 733k, increasing 11% over 10 years. This is a small growth rate, only 1% Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR).

Nov 2005107,17774,351135,023317,83926,882661,272
Nov 2015139,51548,272172,239362,58010,988733,594
% Change30%-35%28%14%-59%11%

Source: www.ah0a.org

No surprise that the number of Advanced and Novice licenses has decreased because the FCC stopped issuing those licenses. Technicians represent about half of the licenses, a proportion that has remained steady over the decade, increasing 1 point.  The percent of Generals increased by 3 points, to 23%. Similarly, Extra Class licenses increased by 3 points to 19%.

I reported the ARRL membership as approximately 152k in 2005. The 2014 ARRL Annual Report shows 165,663 members resulting in a growth rate of about 9% over 9 years (not ten). I’ll go ahead and “spot them” another point of growth in the tenth year and call it 10% over ten years. So it seems that ARRL membership is roughly keeping pace with the growth in amateur radio licenses, put probably not gaining on it.

Another question is how are amateur radio licenses keeping pace with US population growth? During the period of 2005 to 2015, the US population grew about 9%, which means that the number of FCC licenses is actually growing slightly faster than the overall population. Source: http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/us-population/

At this point, many of us will ask how many of those FCC license holders are actually active in ham radio. Hard to say…perhaps a topic for another post.

73, Bob K0NR

The post Ten Year Trends in US Ham Licenses appeared first on The KØNR Radio Site.

Bob Witte, KØNR, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Colorado, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

4 Responses to “Ten Year Trends in US Ham Licenses”

  • Ernest Gregoire AA1IK:

    Good article. It’s always nice to see how the hobby is going. Ham radio is like an old dog. No matter how long you are away, ignoring it, it’s always glad to see you when you get home. My activity waxes and wanes but I’ve always thought of myself as a ham, never as having given it up for good.
    I got my first license when they first introduced No Code Techs. I became a ham to do CW specifically.

    Funny though, now a days, I run into ‘no code extras!

    De AA1IK

    Ernest Gregoire


  • jeff n1kdo:

    Thanks for putting the numbers together.

    I wonder why only 22.5% of hams are league members… I would expect that most league members are active hams, but I expect (based on the numbers) that most active hams are not league members. I personally think that ARRL membership is a good investment, it’s not just a magazine subscription, I support them for the lobbying they do at the state and federal level. ARRL protects our hobby.


  • namtd:

    i would like to know when my ham license is due for renewal

  • Daughter of Lifelong Ham Radio operator:

    We have Daddy’s tower, etc. Looking for anyone who maybe interested. Stuff indoors is new 2009. We are in southern NH.

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