Becoming an Air Traffic Controller

An air traffic controller communicates with pilots on board aircraft by way of radio transmissions. They are responsible for issuing instructions for a safe take-off and landing.

While the aircraft are in flight, the air traffic controller’s main responsibility is to maintain a safe distance between aircraft using radar equipment to keep track of all air traffic in the area they are assigned to monitor.

These trained professionals plot the locations of different kinds of aircraft on maps and charts. They calculate the speed, direction, and altitude of the aircraft they are monitoring. This information must be kept up to date in air traffic control logs.

The job of an air traffic controller is not for the faint of heart. To be successful, a person must be able to remain calm under pressure, since their primary concern is the safety of everyone on board by ensuring that there is a safe distance between planes that are in flight. The air traffic controller must also have a normal level of hearing and normal vision. A physical exam is required as well. A person interested in this type of work should be prepared to work shifts, with a normal work week of 40 hours. (Some overtime may be required.)

Air Traffic Controller Education

All air traffic controllers must be certified by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and are employed by this organization. All applicants to Air Traffic Controller School must be under the age of 31 and have either worked for a minimum of three years and/or have completed four years of study at a college or university. To get into the program, you will need to pass an eight-hour test. The course runs for 12 weeks.

Once the course is completed, all air traffic controllers must pass a re-test every six months and submit to an annual physical to stay certified. Drug tests are administered on a regular basis to all working air traffic controllers.

Once the training has been completed, a new graduate is given an airport assignment as a development controller. It will take between two and four years of practical experience before being a fully-certified air traffic controller.

Salary Information

The median salary for an air traffic controller comes in at $107,780. Bonuses and benefits are not included in this figure.

Employment Trends for Air Traffic Controllers

Getting into the training program is not easy, but once the course has been completed, job prospects are good.


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