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How To Become An Air Traffic Controller?

Fri May 25, 2001 11:27 am

For years I've thought taking the career path to become a air traffic controller and I was wondering if any of you fine gentlemen and ladies could help me out. Is college required, could I do this through the military?, is there jobs needed out there?
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RE: How To Become An Air Traffic Controller?

Fri May 25, 2001 12:07 pm


You can do it with either the military or civilian. If you take the civilian route, your best bet will be to enroll in a good aviation tech school, i.e. Spartan, Embry Riddle, Colorado Aero Tech, Greenville Aero Tech, etc, etc. The easiest way will be the military. Right now there is a SEVERE shortage of DOD ATC personell. However, to be a DOD controller, you need to pass a Class 1 Flight Physical and score in the high 80s as a minimum on your ASVAB test, but once your in, you get paid to learn, and you can move directly into the FAA if you decide to get out. Go to and have a look.

"Never trust a clean Crew Chief"
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RE: How To Become An Air Traffic Controller?

Fri May 25, 2001 12:45 pm

I have been considering a career in the air traffic control field for some time. My career interests fluxuate from time to time, but for some reason, I always come back to ATC as my career of choice. I'm not sure what I find so enticing and cool about it.
Air traffic controller trainees are selected through the competitive Federal Civil Service system. Applicants must pass a written test that measures their ability to learn the controller's duties. Applicants with experience as a pilot, navigator, or military controller can improve their rating by scoring well on the occupational knowledge portion of the examination. Abstract reasoning and three-dimensional spatial visualization are among the aptitudes the exam measures. In addition, applicants generally must have 3 years of general work experience or 4 years of college, or a combination of both. Applicants also must survive a week screening at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City which includes aptitude tests using computer simulators and physical and psychological examinations. Successful applicants receive drug screening tests. For airport tower and enroute center positions, applicants must be less than 31 years old. Those 31 years old and over are eligible for positions at flight service stations.

Trainees learn their craft through a combination of formal and on-the-job training. They receive 7 months of intensive training at the FAA academy, where they learn the fundamentals of the airway system, FAA regulations, controller equipment, aircraft performance characteristics, as well as more specialized tasks. To receive a job offer, trainees must successfully complete the training and pass a series of examinations, including a controller skills test that measures speed and accuracy in recognizing and correctly solving air traffic control problems. Based on aptitude and test scores, trainees are selected to work at either an enroute center or a tower.

Competition for air traffic controller jobs is expected to remain extremely keen because the occupation attracts many more qualified applicants than the small number of job openings stemming from growth of the occupation and replacement needs. Turnover is very low; because of the relatively high pay and liberal retirement benefits, controllers have a very strong attachment to the occupation. Most of the current work force was hired as a result of the controller's strike during the 1980's, so the average age of current controllers is fairly young. Most controllers will not be eligible to retire until 2006 or later.

Air traffic controllers who started with the FAA in 1997 earned about $29,500 a year. Controllers at higher Federal pay grade levels earned 5 percent more than other Federal workers in an equivalent grade. A controller's pay is determined by both the worker's job responsibilities and the complexity of the particular facility. Earnings are higher at facilities where traffic patterns are more complex. In 1997, controllers averaged about $46,000 a year.

Employment of air traffic controllers is expected to show little or no change through the year 2006. Employment growth is not expected to keep pace with growth in the number of aircraft flying because of the implementation of a new air traffic control system over the next 10 years. This computerized system will assist the controller by automatically making many of the routine decisions. Automation will allow controllers to handle more traffic, thus increasing their productivity.

Air traffic controllers who continue to meet the proficiency and medical requirements enjoy more job security than most workers. The demand for air travel and the workloads of air traffic controllers decline during recessions, but controllers seldom are laid off.

Check it out for more info.

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RE: How To Become An Air Traffic Controller?

Fri May 25, 2001 12:51 pm

A couple questions.

1. What happens when a person hired for tower eventually turns 31? Is he booted from the tower?

2. How are enroute and towers seperated? Is one group inferior than the other?
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RE: How To Become An Air Traffic Controller?

Fri May 25, 2001 12:54 pm

Watewate, don't shoot me, I'm just the messenger Big grin. That's straight from the page, hence the reference at the bottom.
I can't imagine how that would be right, though
Get your patchouli stink outta my store!

RE: How To Become An Air Traffic Controller?

Fri May 25, 2001 1:38 pm

Ok to try and answer everyone's questions:
The best way to become a controller now is to go through an FAA certified CTI program. This basically trains you to work as an ATC for the FAA. The other route is to try and wait till the FAA offers the civil service test, which they haven't offered in like 7 years.
But first, you must be under 31, when you ARE HIRED. The FAA will tell you "yes we have a job for you, but you need to wait for an opening" if during this waiting period you turn 31, it's ok, you've already been hired. But they will not accept applications from anyone over 31. Unless you're a DoD controller, or former PATCO.
To answer some of the other questions, the under 31 rule only applies to new hires. Controllers, once hired, are required to retire by age 56.
Tower and TRACON controllers on average make less than controllers in Centers. But that is just an average. Because there are 181 TRACONS in the US and 24 Centers, the numbers are going to be like that. Controllers in Center start at a GS-12 pay scale. Which is the government schedule pay system. Whereas TRACON or Tower controllers start at GS-10, i believe.
I'm an air traffic controller at Boston Center, so if you've got any questions let me know @, hope this all helps,

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RE: How To Become An Air Traffic Controller?

Fri May 25, 2001 1:39 pm

Theres a a Degree at Massey University, Bachelor of Aviation (BAv) in Auckland, New Zealand, with a major in ATC. You spend 18 months in NZ, and the other 18 months in Singapore, at there flight school, with all accommodation and such paid for. Its rather pricey though. Im doing the Management Major, in the BAv, and it good fun!!

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RE: How To Become An Air Traffic Controller?

Fri May 25, 2001 2:08 pm

Hi all,

I am an ATC in South Africa. Our criteria for selection and training is much the same as the rest of the world but we have a restriction that new applicants for ab-intio training should not be more than 25 years old.

For more info check out our company site: Our training academy also has its own site:

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