There are three levels that a radio operator can achieve with each step giving greater freedom, but also requiring greater knowledge. The steps are:
1. Foundation Licence Holder - Within the foundation course you will learn the basics of the transmitters and receivers, the theory of the antennas and propagation (the radio waves are emitted from a transmitter), The licence conditions and how to make that all important first contact and how to safely assemble and use a simple radio 'shack'. This does require a very basic amount of electronics and radio theory, however at this level it is nothing to worry about. Foundation licence training is available in a number of ways and should normally take around 10 to 12 hours of study time followed by a short exam to check your knowledge. Once complete and successfully passed you are able to apply to OFCOM for an M7 callsign, this will officially get you 'on the air' transmitting on 10 Watts of power and your fabulous journey can properly begin.
2. Intermediate Licence Holder - The next step on the ladder is the Intermediate licence. Although the contents of this course are very similar and you will cover a great deal of the same topics you are now building on your knowledge so can expect to have to take this to a deeper level of understanding whilst also learning new concepts. Due to the advanced nature the course the Intermediate training will normally be done over weeks and not hours. Again this has a short exam at the end and with your successful pass you are able to apply to OFCOM for a new 2E0 callsign, the callsign comes with the permission to move to 50 Watts and also you will have access to the more advanced frequencies such as Microwaves.
3. Full Licence Holder - This is the final part of the licence journey and will allow you to operate with the full 400 Watts of power as well as a host of other permissions such as operating on a vessel at sea, operating in other countries, remote control operation etc. With the extra permissions come the need for a more advanced course, the electronics and theory are more in depth and there will be new topics such as Electro Magnetic Compatibility (EMC) and antenna design. The increase in output power means there is also the need for extra care and vigilance within the shack, this comes with the need for extra safety, as such this topic is also covered in greater detail.
The full course will normally need around 12-14 weeks to complete (if learning one night of the week with homework for the others), it again allows you, after successful passing of an exam, to apply for a new callsign for the full level.
Links to training course providers can be found on the 'Amateur Radio' tab by clicking General links in the task bar above or click on the underlined section headings for hyperlink to the RSGB