The Src, Syk, and Tec family kinases are three of the most well characterized tyrosine kinase families found in the human genome. Members of these kinase families function downstream of antigen and F(c) receptors in hematopoietic cells and transduce signals leading to calcium mobilization, altered gene expression, cytokine production, and cell proliferation. Over the last several years, structural and biochemical studies have begun to uncover the molecular mechanisms regulating activation of these kinases. It appears that each kinase family functions as a distinct type of molecular switch. This review discusses the activation of the Src, Syk, and Tec kinases from the perspective of structure, phosphorylation, allosteric regulation, and kinetics. The multiple factors that regulate the Src, Syk, and Tec families illustrate the important role played by each of these kinases in immune cell signaling.