Ham Radio Awards: Amateur Radio Awards

One of the challenges many people like within amateur radio or ham radio is completing various operating challenges are gain award certificates.

Ham radio operating awards includes:
Introduction to ham radio operating awards     DXCC - DX Century Club     WAC, Worked All Continents     WAS, Worked All States     IOTA - Islands On The Air     SOTA - Summits On The Air    

Amateur radio is full of interesting challenges and one of these is associated with operating challenges and looking to make contacts with a variety of other stations.

To stimulate the operating challenges and generally encourage operation on the various amateur radio bands, there are a number of operating awards that are available.

These awards are for a variety of radio communications operating challenges and they can give a goal to work towards and once they have been achieved, they can provide a great deal of satisfaction.

What are amateur radio operating awards

The various ham radio communications operating awards can be gained by meeting a number of requirements - different for each different award.

They can be awarded by a variety of organisations from national societies to international amateur radio organisations as well as local clubs and organisations.

The different awards have different sets of criteria that need to be met for them to be gain. It could be for making two way contact with a certain number of countries, for contacting different areas of the globe, different islands, a certain number of special event stations and the like.

Normally it is necessary to provide proof of the contacts made in the form of physical QSL cards or electronically through the Logbook of the World, LOTW.

There is also often a cost associated with them as the organisation needs to cover its administration costs for the awards and sometimes also make a small contribution to its funds.

Most popular awards

There are many different ham radio operating awards that are available. They cover a wide variety of operating challenges, and the more difficult ones not only provide the greater challenge, but the greater sense of achievement once they have been gained.

There are naturally many awards, but there is a good number of better known awards that many people try to gain, working towards them over many months or sometimes years.

  •   DXCC

DXCC or DX Century Club is administered and awarded by the ARRL (the national society for the USA), and it is probably the most famous operating award. It is awarded for having confirmed contacts with over 100 different countries. Once gained, the certificate can be proudly displayed in the wall of the radio shack or elsewhere.

Once the award has been gained there are endorsements for increased numbers of countries. It is also possible to have the award for different bands as well as different modes, such is the success of DXCC.

In addition to this, it is possible to gain what is called 5BDXCC for having over 100 confirmed countries of each of five primary HF amateur radio bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, & 10 metres.

There is also a DXCC honour roll for those stations that have the largest number of confirmed countries - some have over 300 countries, with a select few having contacted all available countries. 5BDXCC represents a major challenge and proves that the owner of the station has a really good understanding of the various elements needed to set up and run a radio communications station.

Read more about . . . . DXCC - DX Century Club.

  •   WAC - Worked All Continents

As the name indicates, WAC is awarded from contacting all six continents. As Antarctica has very few amateur radio stations, this continent is not required, and instead the award is given for contacting six continents, namely, North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania.

This ham radio operating award is administered by International Amateur Radio Union and there is a fee for its issuance.

The applications for awards are often managed by the local IARU member societies such as the ARRL in the USA, or the RSGB in the UK. These organisations certify the claim and to IARU headquarters which is located within the ARRL.

Read more about . . . . WAC - Worked All Continents.

  •   WAS - Worked All States

The most popular operating award issued by the ARRL is the Worked All States award. This award is issued for having written conformation of two way contacts with 50 states within the USA.

it is interesting to note that there are 48 contiguous states within the USA and then Alaska and Hawaii are the final two.

The award is open to all amateur radio stations around the globe, although if located within the USA, the operator must be a member of the ARRL.

The written confirmation of contacts should be preferably int he form of a QSL card which can be a physical card or a confirmation electronically within Logbook of The World, LoTW.

Read more about . . . . WAS - Worked All States.

  •   Worked CQ Zones Award

The Worked CQ Zones award is issued by CQ Magazine based in the USA for submitting evidence of contacting other amateur radio stations in all 40 of the zones defined by CQ Magazine. These zones are those used within the CW WPX contests held each year, and they are defined on the CQ website and many other publications.

The award is available in a variety of different categories: mode; band; and by technology.

The Worked CQ Zones award may be claimed by producing evidence ideally in the form of paper or LoTW QSL cards of having contacted land based amateur radio stations in at least 70 of the 75 broadcasting zones.

The award can be obtained by traditional application or electronically, and there are fees for the application.s

  •   Islands On The Air, IOTA award

The Islands On The Air, IOTA is an award that is given for making confirmed contacts with a given number of islands around the globe.

Many radio amateurs or radio hams travel to islands and set temporary stations on the islands, and these stations gain quite a lot of interest. Accordingly this award is given for making contact with a certain number of island groups around the world - it was realised that there were far too many individual islands, so the IOTA directory lists the different sets of islands around the world and each group is given a reference.

The award is managed by IOTA Ltd in conjuction with the RSGB, and each year there is also an IOTA contest at the end of July that encourages interest in the award and the activation of new islands.

Read more about . . . . IOTA - Islands On The Air.

  •   Summits on the Air, SOTA

The SOTA award was one that was inaugurated in the UK in 2002. Its aim is to encourage a combination of hiking and amateur radio portable operation.

This award is rather different from many others in that points are awarded to those who operate from a summit, or "activate" and are known as activators as well as home based stations who want to contact those ont he summits.

The number of points awarded for each contact varies and increases according to the height of the summit.

This is a rather interesting award because it encourages hiking, portable amateur radio operation and also the general operating skills associated with chasing the various stations activating the summits.

Read more about . . . . SOTA - Summits On The Air.

In addition to these awards there is a huge number of other awards that can be gained. These may be organised by national or local societies or they may be appropriate to a particular country or a particular time, celebration, etc.

Details of these awards can often be picked up in the DX news sections of many ham radio publications.

VHF / UHF and microwave awards

Although the concept of VHF awards is very much the same as those more commonly seen on the HF bands, the awards for VHF and UHF operation tends to be more localised because of the distances that can normally be achieved for contacts - they tend to be more national or within a given continent rather than global, although it is possible to make global contacts under a variety of conditions.

Nevertheless the awards tend to be more focussed int he radio communications challenges for countries rather than being international.The RSGB (UK) and the ARRL (USA) and many others offer awards that tend to be focussed on their countries and aspects appropriate for them.

However, it should not be forgotten that some of the awards that are more focussed on HF operation may also be applicable for VHF / UHF operation in some instances.

In order to show the sorts of awards that are available, a few examples from the ARRL and RSGB have been included here.

  •   RSGB 4-2-70 Squares and Countries Award

This operating award is given for contacting stations in the different traditional locator squares as well as a a number of different countries.

For example the 144MHz 40/10 award is given for confirmed contacts with stations in 40 locator squares and 10 countries.

There are different categories for the award dependent upon the band used. With greater options for 144MHz and 430MHz bands as more countries have access to these allocations.

  •   VHF/UHF Century Club

The VHF / UHF Century Club, VUCC award is given for stations that can prove they have made contact with a particular number of Maidenhead grid locators per band.

The number of locator squares that are required depends upon the band, etc, but from the name it can be gathered that the aim on some bands is to have confirmed contacts with 100 squares. Higher frequency bands and those where fewer countries have access to them, the number of "credits" required is reduced.

The VUCC certificate and endorsements are available to amateurs worldwide; however, ARRL membership is required for radio amateurs in the USA, its possessions and Puerto Rico.

There are also charges for the awards to cover the cost of administering the award.

Other ham radio operating awards

There are so many other ham radio operating awards that it is impossible to detail them all. There are very many other awards that can be included but not described in any detail.

Summary of Additional Noteworthy Ham Radio Awards
Title Description Bands Link
Worked All Britain, WAB Contacting stations is different Ordnance Survey map squares in the UK All WAB

General hints and tips

When looking to chase the various operating awards that are available, there are a few hints, tips, and guidelines that can help. Following these guidelines can help in making it easier to gain awards, and make attaining them more interesting.

  • Confirmed contacts can be used towards several awards:   It is worth remembering that contacts made over the air may be applicable towards gaining a variety of different awards - the same confirmed contact can be used for the different awards.

  • Keep good records:   In view of the fact that it is possible to work towards gaining a number of different awards simultaneously, it is very helpful if records can be crated that enable the contacts to be sorted and viewed for their eligibility, etc. Computer records can be very helpful in this respect because ongoing records can be kept and running total of points or credits, etc towards an award can be kept. It is also possible to see what may still be needed to gain a particular award and this can help focus the type of operating and searching needed.

  • Keep old records & QSLs:   It is sometimes convenient to tidy up the radio shack and ditch some of the very old QSL cards and records. For some awards, any contacts dating from 1945 are valid, so it is worth including any old contacts that may help gain a particular award or a higher level of an award. Keeping old records and searching through them, even adding them to the electronic databases and spreadsheets may enable more awards to be gained.

These and a variety of other tips that can be learned along the way will help in gaining the awards that are wanted, increasing the fun and interest in gaining them.

Operating awards for radio amateurs provide a god way to hone radio operating skills. They can help with gaining a better understanding of radio propagation, they can help with focusing improvements to the station to make it more effective. In these and many other ways they have many side benefits. But most of all they can be an enjoyable aim to work towards, and a great sense of satisfaction once they have been gained, the application submitted and the certificate received.

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