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Getting an FCC License to Operate a GMDSS Radio

Updated on January 25, 2012

The Federal Communications Commission requires a license to operate certain classes of radios. A Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) radio operator's license requires an exam and other miscellaneous qualifications.

This license is for both operating and making adjustments to a GMDSS radio. As such, it requires all applicants to be able to speak and understand English for radio communication purposes. In addition, all GMDSS license holders must either be a citizen or resident of the United States or have a U.S. visa for working in the country.

FCC radio operator licenses also typically have exam requirements. For GMDSS radio operators, there are two written exams: Elements 1 and 7.

Element 1 covers basic radio law and maritime practices for radio operations. Element 7 specifically assesses knowledge of GMDSS radio operator tasks. This includes both the operation of the radio plus its parts and sub-systems. The areas covered by Element 7 include the following: INMARSAT, NAVTEX, survival craft, digital selective calling, narrow band direct printing, and general information.

For both exams, applicants must answer 75% of the questions correctly. That is 18 out of 24 for Element 1 and 75 out of 100 for Element 7.

Other than taking GMDSS courses (which you may or may not need to pass), you should be using the FCC's own study materials for the GMDSS radio operator license exam. Look at the "Examination Question Pools" page to find sample questions for this test.

As of October 2011, there are nine companies that administer FCC exams for a GMDSS radio operators. You can find them plus related exam fees by using the link below.

Note: As a side benefit, a GMDSS radio operator also has the same authority as a Marine Radio Operator. Licensees who do not yet have a Marine Radio Operator license and are ready for the GMDSS exam can take this one first to save time and money.


Federal Communications Commission: Examination Question Pools

FCC: GMDSS License Qualifications


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