How To Become an Air Traffic Controller. Consider becoming an air traffic controller if you’re looking to start a job that pays well without needing a four-year degree. Finding out how much an air traffic controller makes will help you determine if the position will support your needs financially. Finding out what these people do and how to become one can also help you decide if this is the correct job for you.
In this post, we go over the main responsibilities of air traffic controllers, reveal their typical national pay, and outline the application process.
What does an air traffic controller do?
Planes are guided by air traffic controllers both in the air and on the ground. They use technology to track all air traffic in a specific area, and it is their job to organize it so that every flight can take off, land, or pass by without incident. When advising pilots when to take off and land and warning them of problems with the weather and on the ground at the airport, air traffic controllers interact with them. They also oversee ground-based airport staff members’ operations.
Different types of air traffic controllers work in various environments and have different sets of responsibilities. People who work at airport control towers may be in charge of overseeing runway activities or ensuring that aircraft in the sky maintain a safe separation from one another. Others oversee and direct the traffic passing through their airspace in air traffic control centers located between airports.
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What sort of education is necessary to work as an air traffic controller?
Training for air traffic controllers consists of two stages. Typically, the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI) curriculum is used to complete the first phase. For those interested in becoming air traffic controllers, 36 institutions across the US have received approval from AT-CTI to offer associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree programs.
Make sure you can meet the FAA requirements for hiring air traffic controllers if you’re interested in enrolling in an AT-CTI program. When they are first hired, air traffic controllers must be citizens of the United States, be under the age of 31, and successfully complete a medical examination that includes tests for eyesight, color vision, hearing, psychological health, substance misuse, cardiovascular health, and neurological health.
However, bachelor’s and master’s degree programs broaden their concentration to include aeronautics, aviation management, or aviation technology. Associate degree-level AT-CTI programs normally have a strong emphasis on air traffic control. Aviation weather, aviation legislation, fundamental navigation and flight operations, air traffic control technology, radar, and human factors are just a few of the subjects covered in associate degree programs. In addition to taking these courses, students in bachelor’s and master’s degree programs also delve more thoroughly into aviation science and take courses in computer science, management, or research.
To proceed to the next stage of the training procedure, AT-CTI program graduates must gain approval from their university, pass the FAA’s bio-data evaluation, and the Air Traffic Selection and Training Test. The FAA selects a group of graduates to continue their education at the FAA Academy based on the results of these assessments. Air traffic controllers undertake extensive training at the FAA Academy, which consists of both classroom instruction and practice using air traffic control simulators. After completing this training program, students are placed at a job site where they continue their education while working.
Air traffic controller types
- Controller teams in towers keep an eye on all planes in the area around the terminal. In addition to ensuring safe separations between aircraft and informing pilots of critical weather information, they assist in maintaining the flow of traffic into and out of the airport.
- En route controllers: En route controllers keep a safe distance between planes by using surveillance equipment. As the pilots fly through the airspace between airports, they also give traffic updates and weather warnings to the aircraft under their command.
Average salary of an air traffic controller
Air traffic controller wages can range from $14,000 to $130,000 year, depending on the facility’s location, the complexity of the flight path, and other considerations. The average yearly pay for an air traffic controller in the United States is $57,197. Typically, earnings rise as an air traffic controller advances through the training levels.
How to become an air traffic controller
1. Continue your education
A bachelor’s or associate’s degree from an Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI) school is often advantageous for aspiring air traffic controllers, however it is not a necessity. Candidates who have a bachelor’s degree, three years of steadily increasing responsibility, or a mix of the two may also be taken into consideration. However, a two- or four-year degree from an AT-CTI institution will qualify you for a future in air traffic control and give you priority consideration because these jobs frequently have fierce competition.
Candidates for these programs study classes that are centered on aviation-related fundamentals. Students learn about subjects including airspace, aviation, weather, reading maps, clearances, and other related subjects. For those interested in becoming air traffic controllers, 36 institutions across the US have received approval from AT-CTI to offer associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree programs.
2. Fulfill the demands of the Federal Aviation Administration
You must fulfill the following qualifications in order to become an air traffic controller:
- Be a citizen of the United States.
- Pass a drug test and medical evaluation.
- Pass a background investigation.
- Before turning 31 complete a training program at the FAA Academy.
- Pass the FAA air traffic pre-employment test.
- Have a clear command of English
- Possess the ability to move to an FAA facility
3. Succeed in the requirements tests for an FAA training course
Students who have received a letter of recommendation from their institution and have successfully completed the AT-CTI program are qualified to sit for the Air Traffic Selection and Training exam. Prior to graduation, students typically take this exam, but in order to earn the recommendation, they must have satisfied the standards of their school. In addition, they must succeed on the FAA pre-employment fitness and personality test. They are qualified to apply for positions as air traffic controllers after passing the exams. Graduates can enroll in the FAA Academy training program once they’ve accepted a job offer.
However, hiring committees frequently give preference to AT-CTI program graduates and veterans with aviation experience. Candidates who have not completed the AT-CTI program may also apply during one of the FAA’s enrollment periods. To be eligible for FAA Academy training, entry-level civilian candidates must also pass the pre-employment test.
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4. Finish an FAA training course
The training course must be finished at the FAA Academy after being accepted. The FAA Academy is a training facility near Oklahoma City. Depending on your past and the role for which you’ve been hired, it often lasts between two and five months.
5. Acquire expertise
Trainees are placed in an air traffic control facility as developmental controllers after graduating from the FAA Academy. They serve as a basic source of airport and flight information for pilots in this capacity. As they have more work experience, they move up to control roles with more responsibility.
6. Acquire a certificate
FAA certification is required for air traffic controllers. By passing a knowledge test, a practical exam, and obtaining the necessary experience through on-the-job training, you can become certified. The training leading to final certification usually takes two to four years to complete.
FAQs on How To Become an Air Traffic Controller
How can I find a job as an air traffic controller?
All air traffic controllers are employed by the FAA and all openings are posted on the USAJOBS website. Prospective controllers are expected to complete their education, pre-training, and testing, and then wait for an opening to apply.
How long does it take to become an air traffic controller?
FAA academy generally takes two to five months to complete, depending on your experience. It then takes another two to four years of on-the-job training to become fully certified. Air traffic controllers may become fully certified in as little as five years, or as many as eight.
What does an air traffic controller earn?
The median yearly pay for air traffic controllers in the United States was $122,530 in 2012. Air traffic controllers are paid $17,803 while training, and $37,070 when they are first placed in a job, so it can take years of additional training and experience to reach the median salary.
What are the long term career prospects for air traffic controllers?
Air traffic controllers who gain experience and additional training can earn ratings that allow them to work in more complex roles and in busier control towers and traffic control centers. Those with significant experience can train the next generation of air traffic controllers.
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