Introduction to Awards
One of the many aspects of ham radio is contesting. The larger contests can attract thousands or even tens of thousands of people to get on air and operate, making finding people to make contacts with easier. However, in order to be competitive, you often need considerable skill, a very robust station, and favorable propagation. You also need to spend a lot of time at your station (sometimes 24 hours or more depending on the contest). The time, skill, and expense involved can create perceived barriers for people to get involved with a contest.
In contrast, there are many awards programs which provide a great motivator for improving your station, skills, and understanding of radio at your own pace and budget. Over time, even very modest stations can gradually accumulate contacts to achieve success. You're competing against yourself, using a well established criteria, as part of a larger community of operators who may also chasing a particular award.
To help people who may not be aware of, or fully understand what the common awards programs are, and how to approach them, I've created a handy guide that get help get you started. You'll find that I participate with many of these programs and keep current stats up to date on my biography page. I highly encourage people to participate in at least one award program. They really are a great way to progress your understanding and capabilities in the hobby.