2012 Marks All-Time High for Amateur Radio Licenses


As 2012 came to a close, ARRL VEC Manager Maria Somma, AB1FM, had a good reason to cheer: The number of radio amateurs in the US reached an all-time high of almost 710,000. “2012 was definitely a banner year for the number of Amateur Radio operators here in the US,” she said. “It is amazing to see these new numbers and to know that Amateur Radio is experiencing such a healthy trend.”

In looking at new and upgraded licenses, as well as licensees per ARRL Division (see the charts below), Somma also crunched the numbers looking for growth within each license class -- and all of Amateur Radio -- over the last 40 years. “This is an all-time high for Technician, General and Amateur Extra class licensees,” she said. “When looking at the three current license classes, the number of Technicians, Generals and Amateur Extras peaked in December at 345,369, 163,370 and 130,736, respectively.”

Somma explained that the total number of US amateurs in the FCC database also continues to grow each year: “As of December 31, 2012, the number of licensees reached an all-time high of 709,575; year-end totals were 702,056 for 2011 and 696,041 for 2010. The number of licensees increased at an average rate of 21 per day, while the number of US licensees has increased by 7 percent since 2008!” More than 3000 new licenses were issued in 2012 than in 2011, while upgraded license activity remained steady in 2012.

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
  • December 2012: 709,500

Source: 1971, 1981, 1991: print editions of Radio Amateur Callbook. 2001, 2012: 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While the number of licensees has grown considerably over the years, we realize that these numbers include some who are no longer active in Amateur Radio.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.

ARRL VEC Program Statistics

The ARRL VEC is by far the largest of the 14 Volunteer Examiner Coordinator (VEC) groups in the country, coordinating approximately 70 percent of all Amateur Radio exams. “When looking at the statistics over the last year, the ARRL VEC sponsored exam sessions and exam elements taken were up in 2012, which is a good sign for Amateur Radio overall,” Somma said. “Compared with 2011, ARRL VEC exam sessions in 2012 were up by 8 percent. A total of 6831 exam sessions were administered in 2012, compared to 6352 in 2011. Exam elements were slightly up from 41,096 last year, to 42,473 this year. The total number of accredited ARRL Volunteer Examiners (VEs) has reached an all-time high of 36,682. The ARRL VEC has been busy meeting the needs of the Amateur Radio community by helping people become radio amateurs or upgrade their existing licenses. 2012 was a very good year for Amateur Radio -- I can’t wait to see what 2013 brings!