Air Traffic Controller

Last Updated:
September 19, 2023

Job Description Overview

If you're looking for a high-stress, high-reward job in the transportation industry, becoming an Air Traffic Controller might be right for you. As an Air Traffic Controller, your primary responsibility is to manage the safe and efficient flow of air traffic in and out of airports. This requires an incredible attention to detail, as you'll be monitoring and directing dozens of planes at once. You'll also need great communication skills, as you'll be in constant contact with pilots, ground crew, and other air traffic controllers. Lastly, you'll need to have quick reflexes and good decision-making abilities, as you'll be responsible for making split-second decisions that can have a big impact on the safety of the people on the planes that you're guiding. With a median salary of over $120,000 per year, this is a highly compensated job that requires a lot of training and skill. If you're up for the challenge, an Air Traffic Controller job description might be the perfect fit for you.

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Job Duties and Responsibilities

  • Manage the safe and efficient movement of aircraft in the airspace they are responsible for
  • Communicate with pilots to provide instructions for takeoff, landing, and in-flight maneuvers
  • Monitor aircraft radar screens and other equipment to track planes and identify any potential conflicts
  • Alert pilots of any potential dangers or obstacles in their path, such as other planes, mountains, or severe weather
  • Coordinate flights with other air traffic controllers in adjacent airspace to ensure smooth transitions
  • Provide support to pilots in emergency situations or in difficult weather conditions
  • Update and maintain records of flight plans, weather reports, and other information used in air traffic control
  • Ensure all procedures and regulations are followed to maintain safety and efficiency in the airspace under their control
  • Continuously monitor and evaluate the overall safety and effectiveness of the airspace under their responsibility
  • Stay up to date with the latest technology and procedures in air traffic control to ensure efficient and effective management of airspace.

Experience and Education Requirements

To become an Air Traffic Controller in the Transportation industry, you need a combination of education and experience. Typically, this requires a degree or some college courses in air traffic control, aviation, or a related field. Additionally, you need to pass a rigorous training program that includes classroom instruction and on-the-job experience. This program teaches you how to manage and coordinate the flow of aircraft in the sky and on the ground, communicate with pilots and other professionals, and monitor equipment and systems. You also need to meet specific age, citizenship, and medical requirements, and pass a background check. Becoming an Air Traffic Controller requires hard work, dedication, and attention to detail, but it can be a rewarding and fulfilling career.

Salary Range

Air Traffic Controllers are responsible for directing the movement of airplanes to ensure their safe and efficient flight. The expected salary range for an Air Traffic Controller varies greatly depending on experience, location, and other factors. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for Air Traffic Controllers was $130,420 in May 2020. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $77,510, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $186,780.

In other countries, such as Canada and the United Kingdom, Air Traffic Controllers can also earn high salaries. In Canada, the median salary for Air Traffic Controllers is around CAD $142,000. In the United Kingdom, the median salary is around £84,000.


  • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:
  • PayScale:
  • Air Traffic Controller Jobs:

Career Outlook

The career outlook for Air Traffic Controllers in the Transportation industry over the next 5 years is expected to stay the same. The job market is expected to be competitive, with a potential for long working hours and high-pressure work environments. Although there have been some concerns about the automation of the industry, the demand for skilled and experienced controllers remains high. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts modest growth of 1% for air traffic controllers between 2019 and 2029. Additional information can be found at the Federal Aviation Administration's website. Becoming an air traffic controller requires specialized training and certification through the Federal Aviation Administration.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: What does an air traffic controller do?

A: Air traffic controllers ensure that planes safely take off, land, and fly through airspace, communicating with pilots and providing instructions.

Q: How do I become an air traffic controller?

A: In the United States, you need to complete an Air Traffic-Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI) program or have relevant military experience. There is also a rigorous selection process that includes aptitude tests, medical evaluations, and training.

Q: What skills do I need to have to be successful as an air traffic controller?

A: Air traffic controllers need to have excellent communication skills, be able to work under pressure and have good judgment. They also need to have a strong grasp of math and be able to think critically.

Q: How much do air traffic controllers make?

A: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for air traffic controllers in the United States is $122,990.

Q: Is being an air traffic controller a dangerous job?

A: There are certainly risks associated with being an air traffic controller, including stress, fatigue, and the potential for accidents. However, numerous safety protocols are in place to keep both air traffic controllers and pilots safe.

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