Air Traffic Controller Career

By | July 14, 2023
Air Traffic Controller Career
The air traffic controller career can lead to job positions like supervisor, chief controller, and superintendent.

This post presents detailed information on the air traffic controller career, including how to get into it, the various career opportunities available, and the benefits of being an air traffic controller.

How to Become an Air Traffic Controller

Here are the fundamental steps you can take to become an air traffic controller:

  1. Continue your education

While not required, an Associate or Bachelor’s degree from an Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI) program might be beneficial for aspiring air traffic controllers.

Also considered is having a Bachelor’s degree and working for three years in a related position to air traffic control.

2. Comply with the standards of the Federal Aviation Administration

You must meet the following criteria to become an air traffic controller:

  • You must be a US citizen
  • Must pass a medical examination and drug test
  • You must pass a background check
  • Before the age of 31, complete a training course at the FAA Academy
  • Pass the FAA pre-employment air traffic control test
  • Ability to communicate clearly in English
  • Having the ability to relocate to an FAA facility.

3. Pass the FAA training program qualification tests

Students who have completed the AT-CTI program and have received a reference letter from their institution are qualified to take the Air Traffic Selection and Training exam.

Students typically take this exam prior to graduation, but in order to earn the recommendation, they must have satisfied the standards of their school.

They must also complete the FAA pre-employment test, which evaluates personality and fitness.

They can apply for air traffic controller positions after passing the examinations.

Graduates are entitled to enroll in the FAA Academy training course once they have accepted a job offer.

Candidates who have not completed the AT-CTI program may apply during one of the FAA’s enrollment periods; however recruiting teams frequently give preference to graduates of the AT-CTI program and veterans with aviation experience.

To be considered for FAA Academy training, entry-level civilian candidates must also pass the pre-employment test.

More on How to Become an Air Traffic Controller

4. Finish an FAA training program

It is important to finish the training program at the FAA Academy after qualifying for it.

FAA Academy training takes place in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. It normally lasts two to five months, depending on your past and the position you’ve been employed for.

5. Acquire experience

Trainees are assigned to an air traffic control site as developmental controllers after graduating from the FAA Academy.

They provide basic airport and flight information to pilots in this capacity. As they gain experience, they rise to positions of increasing responsibility in the control function.

6. Get your certification

The FAA requires air traffic controllers to be certified. You can obtain certification by passing a knowledge examination, a practical exam, and gaining the necessary experience through on-the-job training.

The training that leads to final certification normally takes two to four years to complete.

Air Traffic Controller Career Opportunities

Here are various career opportunities an air traffic controller can explore:

  1. Supervisor

A Supervisor is a group of air traffic controllers that directly supervises other air traffic controllers.

Their title is usually “Assistant Chief” or “Chief”, depending on the size of the airport they work in.

They are usually higher ranked than the typical air traffic controller, and make sure all things are up to date, such as equipment and planes.

Supervisors have direct control over other controllers and make sure they have everything they need to work efficiently.

2. Chief Controller

A Chief Controller has a big role in the Air Traffic Control tower, and is usually higher ranked than even the supervisor.

They are in charge of controlling weather condition for pilots and other controllers, keeping information updated.

3. Superintendent

A Superintendent works under a Chief Controller, making sure everything’s running as it should be, even if the Chief is not around.

A Superintendent is higher ranked than the typical air traffic controller.

4. Operations Superintendent

An Operations Superintendent is a person who has a big role in the Air Traffic Control Tower, as they fill in for any loss of jobs due to vacation or sick leave.

They also have some control over the weather and what’s going on with the planes in their area.

They are higher ranked than a normal air traffic controller.

5. Chief Of Operations

The Chief of Operations works under the Operations Superintendent and fills all the jobs that may be missing due to vacation or sick leave.

The Chief of Operations is usually a higher ranked than the normal air traffic controller.

More Air Traffic Controller Career Opportunities

6. Chief of Planning

The Chief of Planning works under the Chief of Operations, and takes on the jobs that are missing, like sick or vacation time.

The Chief of Planning is usually higher ranked than a normal air traffic controller.

7. Operations Officer

An Operations Officer is an employee who controls certain things in an airport “if” needed, such as directing planes around during flight delays or work stoppages in an airport.

8. Branch Chief

A Branch Chief is a person who helps the aviation industry. They can either be in air traffic control or flight safety.

A Branch Chief monitors the staff and make sure they work efficiently, as well as have all their equipment in order.

This job is highly needed for a success in the aviation industry.

9. Division Chief

A Division Chief helps with flight safety in an airport and making sure everything runs smoothly.

He/she also monitors their staff to make sure they are doing their jobs correctly. Aviation is a very high-stress job, and having a Division Chief helps in making it much easier to run.

10. Intelligence Chief

An Intelligence Chief helps the aviation industry and some employers with their jobs. They work under the Division Chief, making sure everything runs as smoothly as possible in an airport.

They also keep track of security in the airport and make sure nothing goes wrong.

Challenges faced by Air Traffic Controller on the Job

Some of the challenges faced by air traffic controllers on the job include:

  1. Mental stress

The rise in mental stress comes from the constant pressure of knowing that you need to keep everything running as smoothly as possible, especially with the increase of planes and size of airports.

Some controllers may be affected by stress due to:

2. Long work hours

Especially during busy seasons such as summer months, air traffic controllers may have long work hours during night shifts, which is when it gets the most difficult on them mentally and physically.

3. Inconsistent work load

When air traffic controllers are having a busy day at work, it can be very difficult to make sure everything is running smoothly and keep their stress levels down.

With many people at the airport, it makes their job much harder than it needs to be.

Major Benefits of Air Traffic Controller Career

There are many benefits in becoming an air traffic controller and working in a career related to it.

Some of these benefits include:

  1. Steady income

Air traffic controllers always know how much money they will earn every month. Their income is steady and predictable, and they do not have to worry about having no work.

2. New skills

Being an air traffic controller requires you to have skills in a variety of areas, including:

  • Communication skills
  • Time management skills
  • Problem solving
  • Physical fitness.

3. Meaningful work

Air traffic controllers enjoy work that is meaningful because they help to ensure the safety of thousands of people.

They also have the opportunity to progress in a career path and continue doing meaningful work throughout their career.

4. Progressing in a career path

Air traffic controllers are always working towards something. They start at one position and move up throughout their careers as they gain experience.

Being an air traffic controller is an excellent way to benefit your community and raise your family, but you must be willing to put in the effort required for success.

5. Celebrity status

Many people admire air traffic controllers because they know that their job can be hard.

They know that the work is important and necessary for the success of an airport and the safety of thousands of passengers.

Many people also admire air traffic controllers because they are very intelligent.

They have to remember all of the information about each flight, and have to think about it very quickly in order to make sure that everything is running smoothly.

More Benefits of Air Traffic Controller Career

6. Income growth

The average air traffic controller can make more as they progress in their career.

Air traffic controllers also have the opportunity to earn overtime, which can make a significant impact on their salary.

This makes being an air traffic controller an excellent career choice for many people.

7. Benefits of overtime

Overtime is one of the many benefits of being an air traffic controller.

Air traffic controllers can earn extra money while they’re working; some air traffic controllers even choose to work overtime because they enjoy their job so much.

Some air traffic controllers actually prefer to work overtime because it allows them to get more done.


Being an air traffic controller is an excellent caree for many people. Air traffic controllers have the opportunity to make a difference in their community and spend their day helping others.

They also enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that they have helped to keep thousands of passengers safe, and they are paid well for their hard work.