The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates the operation of all equipment that uses radio waves to communicate. This includes amateur radios (ham radios), AM and FM radios, televisions, cell phones, cordless phones, police and fire department radios, etc. In order to operate a radio in the Amateur Radio Service you have to take and pass a test to show that you understand something about how radios work and what the rules are to operate a ham radio.
The test for the entry level license is not hard. People as young as 5 years old have become licensed ham radio operators. The most popular license for beginners, is the Technician Class license, which requires only a 35 question multiple-choice test. The test covers basic regulations, operating practices, and simple electronics theory. It is written with the beginner in mind. Morse code is no longer a requirement for any class of Ham Radio license. A good way to learn the material needed for the exam is to go to a series of classes held by a local ham radio club. Usually the classes are free or at a nominal cost except for the cost of a study book. Go to the American Radio Relay League (arrl.org) to find a club in your area. Then contact the club to see when they are running the next beginners class.
Some people have been able to pass the test just by reading a book about ham radio, or studying a published license manual, or even going online and reading sample questions and answers. Books about ham radio and license manuals are often sold at stores like Radio Shack, or your local book store. Stop in and ask. Books are also available at the ARRL website and Amazon.com. Another place to get a good study book for your first license is the w5yi.org. Make sure any book you buy is the current version (not more than a year old). If you decide to take a class, sign up for that first because you will need to use the book they are using.
Last, if you know of any ham radio operators in your town, call them or find out where they live and knock on their door. Ask them if they know of any local classes coming up or if they would have the time to help you learn what you need to know to pass the test. You might be surprised…hams are usually very friendly people.