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ayoungblood2
Topic Author
Posts: 58
Joined: Mon Jun 12, 2017 8:48 pm

Prospective Air Traffic Controller

Wed Aug 23, 2017 9:15 pm

Hi all. I live in North Carolina and am currently going into my senior year of college and will be graduating in May as a marketing major with a minor in Spanish. I have always loved travel, flight, aerospace, and aircraft, and am seriously considering a change in my career path and becoming an air traffic controller. I was curious as to what steps I will need to take upon graduation in order to achieve this. I know I'll need to go to school for it and get certified by the FAA, but what other things will I need, and in what order do I need to complete things? Anything helps, as I only have a rough idea of the certification process but am very serious about this as a career option. Thanks!
 
KingOrGod
Posts: 193
Joined: Mon Jan 16, 2017 3:19 pm

Re: Prospective Air Traffic Controller

Thu Aug 24, 2017 7:25 am

ayoungblood2 wrote:
considering a change in my career path and becoming an air traffic controller.


What is your motivation for this?

I am an ATC and have been involved in ATC selection/recruitment and this is a question I always ask... Why do you want to be an ATC?
 
Calder
Posts: 204
Joined: Fri Apr 24, 2015 1:34 pm

Re: Prospective Air Traffic Controller

Thu Aug 24, 2017 1:21 pm

You could go the formal education route, the military route, or say screw it all, get your education in another or a related field, and just apply during the OTS bids the FAA puts up.

I put a packet in for the July '17 OTS hiring window, there's nothing wrong with throwing your hat into the ring!
 
ayoungblood2
Topic Author
Posts: 58
Joined: Mon Jun 12, 2017 8:48 pm

Re: Prospective Air Traffic Controller

Thu Aug 24, 2017 3:02 pm

KingOrGod wrote:
ayoungblood2 wrote:
considering a change in my career path and becoming an air traffic controller.


What is your motivation for this?

I am an ATC and have been involved in ATC selection/recruitment and this is a question I always ask... Why do you want to be an ATC?


I have a neighbor who recently retired from ATC and was talking to him about his job, what he liked/disliked, etc. I personally enjoy working in a fast paced environment and I get bored in environments where things move very slowly. I have a love for aviation as a whole and an interest in the sort of behind-the-scenes operations that keep airports running smoothly. Also, this is something kind of small but one of my favorite parts about flying in FS is communicating with the tower. More than everything, I always here people tell me that if you love what you do, than you'll never feel like you're working a day in your life.
 
KingOrGod
Posts: 193
Joined: Mon Jan 16, 2017 3:19 pm

Re: Prospective Air Traffic Controller

Fri Aug 25, 2017 5:26 pm

I have a neighbor who recently retired from ATC and was talking to him about his job, what he liked/disliked, etc. I personally enjoy working in a fast paced environment and I get bored in environments where things move very slowly. I have a love for aviation as a whole and an interest in the sort of behind-the-scenes operations that keep airports running smoothly. Also, this is something kind of small but one of my favorite parts about flying in FS is communicating with the tower. More than everything, I always here people tell me that if you love what you do, than you'll never feel like you're working a day in your life.[/quote]

What did your friend do as ATC? What fast paced job do you currently do?

It's always nice to see people interested in ATC. I have my first wands somewhere...

The last sentence you wrote is exactly what prompted me to ask your motivations...

For me this job is a labour of love. From the theory in the beginning through to training on the job through to the lifetime of shitty hours/shifts and working all night and soforth. Your friends will never understand why you can't stay late at night at a party because you have a 4.30am on scope shift the next morning etc. Your partner will never understand that when you are quiet/unresponsive you are likely just playing back your shift in your mind, not thinking of some other girl/guy. You will love the time off during the week when all the desk jockies at their daily grind. You will love the chance to miss peak rush hour vehicular traffic. But you'll have that on scope where they just keep on coming non-stop. Sometimes there is massive stress and sometimes it is a breeze. You may have nightmares of the CFIT accidents when the last voice that pilot heard was you screaming at him to pull up and climb. And get no response. And the transponder return disappears. People will not understand when you come home after that shift - it's nothing a run of the mill desk jockey can comprehend. You will ask yourself over and over again what you could have done to not let it happen. Half of people will automatically think you work in the tower if you are a controller even if it's a tracon. Then the other half will think you are the dude with the bats on the apron. You will smile.

I am not writing these things to scare you, these are just some of the things that I have encountered in my 20 years on scope or in the cab. It's most definitely not sunshine and roses all the time, and I have experienced a lot in my career from clearance delivery, ground, tower, approach radar, upper UAC, oceanic, FIS, to military fighter control. I am really blessed as many ATC's in today's cost conscious world will never see more than a few of these disciplines in their lives. I am currently in a big centre of around 600 ATC with around 90 to 100 on scope at a time. I wish I could turn back time and do some the others one more time.

I am not from the USA so I cannot give much advice as to how you should proceed. But really I recommend you go get a cab/centre/tracon tour and see the inside of the beast. And if you do go for it, put in 100%. There's no such thing as 110%. But give it your best and make us all proud if you do give it a go.

Hope that helps. :)
 
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thewizbizman
Posts: 163
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Re: Prospective Air Traffic Controller

Fri Aug 25, 2017 9:04 pm

 
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atcsundevil
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Joined: Sat Mar 20, 2010 12:22 pm

Re: Prospective Air Traffic Controller

Sat Aug 26, 2017 8:24 pm

ayoungblood2 wrote:
Hi all. I live in North Carolina and am currently going into my senior year of college and will be graduating in May as a marketing major with a minor in Spanish. I have always loved travel, flight, aerospace, and aircraft, and am seriously considering a change in my career path and becoming an air traffic controller. I was curious as to what steps I will need to take upon graduation in order to achieve this. I know I'll need to go to school for it and get certified by the FAA, but what other things will I need, and in what order do I need to complete things? Anything helps, as I only have a rough idea of the certification process but am very serious about this as a career option. Thanks!

I am a controller at a busy Enroute facility, and was CTI at ASU. I previously worked as a paramedic, so I've always been suited to high stress environments. My advice would be to consider skipping CTI. It really won't give you much benefit at the academy or in your career. Things are taught from a zero knowledge basis, so any advantage over OTS hires from a knowledge standpoint is lost relatively quickly. It's a good familiarization, but after you complete the AT Basics course (the first five weeks), prior experience doesn't count for much unless you were formerly a controller.

Some CTI schools like Embry-Riddle (which is a colossal waste of money, in my opinion) even teach using the same sectors as the academy — Academy Tower for those chosen for the terminal option, and Jackson Low (a real sector in Memphis Center) for the enroute option. However, this seemed to be a detriment to many in my class who had previously learned Jackson Low. The rules and procedures constantly change at the academy and aren't kept up with at CTI schools, so you'll simply spend a couple of years and a ton of money learning the wrong things, and likely develop bad habits with phraseology.

Unfortunately you just missed an OTS (off the street) bid a few weeks ago, and they only generally do one a year. I think they've gone back to giving CTI preferential hire again, but by the time you complete a CTI program and go through the application process, it'll probably take longer than just waiting for the next OTS bid. Be prepared for a lengthy process though — my application submission to day one at the academy took 21 months.

However, I will say that in my class at the academy, most of us who passed were either CTI or military. I think the major benefit of CTI simply comes with having a better idea of what to expect. I was astounded by the ignorance from a few OTS hires thinking they'd easily walk into a cushy, well-paying career at the facility of their choosing. My facility was my first choice from the start, but that's incredibly rare. Managing the coursework isn't that difficult if you've already gone to college and you're reasonably smart. The tricky part is managing the stress, and being able to memorize huge quantities of information in a short timeframe. They purposely induce a high degree of stress for several weeks at a time to separate the strong from the weak. They still subject enroute candidates to the misery of nonradar training just to see who really wants to be there. Our best performer academically completely collapsed during radar evals and finished lowest in the class, but one of our weakest academic performers managed to keep his cool and eek it out at the very end. Managing stress is everything.

I will say that it's a great job if you think you've got the aptitude for it. I can't speak for the terminal side, but the maps alone at my center are enough to scare off most people! You need to have a thick skin, a good sense of humor, and a willingness to do a relatively thankless job. No one notices or cares when you're great, because that's just your job. Everyone definitely notices when you suck though.

Feel free to PM me if you've got any specific questions. I can help you arrange a tour as well, if you're interested. I highly recommend you see a facility and talk with some controllers before you proceed. The biggest step for you is to decide if you're willing and capable to go all in, and look beyond the paycheck. If you're at a level 12 facility like I am, it's a $5 million job over the course of your career. Many of my coworkers are retiring with well over a million in the bank. But, if you don't love it, it isn't worth it. Many of those same coworkers are paying off their first (and sometimes second) divorces and child support, but also own two or more properties and cars to make anyone envious. It takes a huge toll on your personal life and your health...but it's a hell of a lot of fun.

KingOrGod wrote:
It's always nice to see people interested in ATC. I have my first wands somewhere...

Image

KingOrGod wrote:
For me this job is a labour of love.

It has to be. When I went through the academy, four of the 18 in my class made it fairly clear they were attracted to the job because of the paycheck. There are guys at New York TRACON right now making over $300k per year — who wouldn't want that, right? All four resigned in the first week of nonradar scenarios. It doesn't matter how smart you are or how hard you work if you don't love it enough to make it your life. Most people don't need to be completely dedicated to their jobs, but ATC demands it. That's a mistake a lot of ATC candidates make is thinking that is just a job.
 
ayoungblood2
Topic Author
Posts: 58
Joined: Mon Jun 12, 2017 8:48 pm

Re: Prospective Air Traffic Controller

Mon Aug 28, 2017 7:23 pm

atcsundevil wrote:
ayoungblood2 wrote:
Hi all. I live in North Carolina and am currently going into my senior year of college and will be graduating in May as a marketing major with a minor in Spanish. I have always loved travel, flight, aerospace, and aircraft, and am seriously considering a change in my career path and becoming an air traffic controller. I was curious as to what steps I will need to take upon graduation in order to achieve this. I know I'll need to go to school for it and get certified by the FAA, but what other things will I need, and in what order do I need to complete things? Anything helps, as I only have a rough idea of the certification process but am very serious about this as a career option. Thanks!

I am a controller at a busy Enroute facility, and was CTI at ASU. I previously worked as a paramedic, so I've always been suited to high stress environments. My advice would be to consider skipping CTI. It really won't give you much benefit at the academy or in your career. Things are taught from a zero knowledge basis, so any advantage over OTS hires from a knowledge standpoint is lost relatively quickly. It's a good familiarization, but after you complete the AT Basics course (the first five weeks), prior experience doesn't count for much unless you were formerly a controller.

Some CTI schools like Embry-Riddle (which is a colossal waste of money, in my opinion) even teach using the same sectors as the academy — Academy Tower for those chosen for the terminal option, and Jackson Low (a real sector in Memphis Center) for the enroute option. However, this seemed to be a detriment to many in my class who had previously learned Jackson Low. The rules and procedures constantly change at the academy and aren't kept up with at CTI schools, so you'll simply spend a couple of years and a ton of money learning the wrong things, and likely develop bad habits with phraseology.

Unfortunately you just missed an OTS (off the street) bid a few weeks ago, and they only generally do one a year. I think they've gone back to giving CTI preferential hire again, but by the time you complete a CTI program and go through the application process, it'll probably take longer than just waiting for the next OTS bid. Be prepared for a lengthy process though — my application submission to day one at the academy took 21 months.

However, I will say that in my class at the academy, most of us who passed were either CTI or military. I think the major benefit of CTI simply comes with having a better idea of what to expect. I was astounded by the ignorance from a few OTS hires thinking they'd easily walk into a cushy, well-paying career at the facility of their choosing. My facility was my first choice from the start, but that's incredibly rare. Managing the coursework isn't that difficult if you've already gone to college and you're reasonably smart. The tricky part is managing the stress, and being able to memorize huge quantities of information in a short timeframe. They purposely induce a high degree of stress for several weeks at a time to separate the strong from the weak. They still subject enroute candidates to the misery of nonradar training just to see who really wants to be there. Our best performer academically completely collapsed during radar evals and finished lowest in the class, but one of our weakest academic performers managed to keep his cool and eek it out at the very end. Managing stress is everything.

I will say that it's a great job if you think you've got the aptitude for it. I can't speak for the terminal side, but the maps alone at my center are enough to scare off most people! You need to have a thick skin, a good sense of humor, and a willingness to do a relatively thankless job. No one notices or cares when you're great, because that's just your job. Everyone definitely notices when you suck though.

Feel free to PM me if you've got any specific questions. I can help you arrange a tour as well, if you're interested. I highly recommend you see a facility and talk with some controllers before you proceed. The biggest step for you is to decide if you're willing and capable to go all in, and look beyond the paycheck. If you're at a level 12 facility like I am, it's a $5 million job over the course of your career. Many of my coworkers are retiring with well over a million in the bank. But, if you don't love it, it isn't worth it. Many of those same coworkers are paying off their first (and sometimes second) divorces and child support, but also own two or more properties and cars to make anyone envious. It takes a huge toll on your personal life and your health...but it's a hell of a lot of fun.

KingOrGod wrote:
It's always nice to see people interested in ATC. I have my first wands somewhere...

Image

KingOrGod wrote:
For me this job is a labour of love.

It has to be. When I went through the academy, four of the 18 in my class made it fairly clear they were attracted to the job because of the paycheck. There are guys at New York TRACON right now making over $300k per year — who wouldn't want that, right? All four resigned in the first week of nonradar scenarios. It doesn't matter how smart you are or how hard you work if you don't love it enough to make it your life. Most people don't need to be completely dedicated to their jobs, but ATC demands it. That's a mistake a lot of ATC candidates make is thinking that is just a job.


Thank you for all of this information and your input. There is a lot of great stuff in here that I think will be helpful to me. Although the paycheck is good and the salary is enough to live comfortably, I'm really just interested in this career option because of my passion for flight. But just to be clear, what steps in what order would you recommend that I take after graduating from college in May and getting a 4 year degree? Should I do CTI or no? It sounds like I would learn some beneficial things, but you also stated that you didn't recommend it. Would not doing CTI severely hinder my chances in comparison to other applicants? Should I just wait for the next OTS? Sorry to bombard you with more questions that you've already addressed, I'm just still kind of confused on what I should do. It seems like there's a lot of different ways and programs that people can do before applying and it's just a ton of information to take in and figure out what my optimal education route would be. So, if you could make an ordered list of steps I need to take after I graduate in May that would be fantastic. Once again, thanks so much for your help.
 
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atcsundevil
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Joined: Sat Mar 20, 2010 12:22 pm

Re: Prospective Air Traffic Controller

Mon Aug 28, 2017 9:23 pm

ayoungblood2 wrote:
Thank you for all of this information and your input. There is a lot of great stuff in here that I think will be helpful to me. Although the paycheck is good and the salary is enough to live comfortably, I'm really just interested in this career option because of my passion for flight. But just to be clear, what steps in what order would you recommend that I take after graduating from college in May and getting a 4 year degree? Should I do CTI or no? It sounds like I would learn some beneficial things, but you also stated that you didn't recommend it. Would not doing CTI severely hinder my chances in comparison to other applicants? Should I just wait for the next OTS? Sorry to bombard you with more questions that you've already addressed, I'm just still kind of confused on what I should do. It seems like there's a lot of different ways and programs that people can do before applying and it's just a ton of information to take in and figure out what my optimal education route would be. So, if you could make an ordered list of steps I need to take after I graduate in May that would be fantastic. Once again, thanks so much for your help.

Personally, I don't think CTI is necessary. Too many schools that offer it are honestly a waste of money — either it's cheaper, but you learn nothing, or it's expensive, and you learn a little. CTI spends 2-4 years teaching you what's taught at the academy in five weeks, and you're just going to go learn it again in Basics. A trained monkey could pass the Basics course. It's intended more to ease you into the academy and to take you from a point of zero knowledge to slightly more than zero. I've only heard of two people ever failing the End of Course Exam. CTI or no CTI after that point is somewhat meaningless, and it comes down more to your ability to learn and do the job.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with CTI, after all, I did it myself. I can't say that it improved my chances of being hired (it didn't), and I'm not entirely convinced I would have been any more or less successful without it. I think they've gone back to open up a CTI specific bid again, but your quickest way would be to wait for the next OTS bid. That will probably be sometime in the next 8-12 months, but you'll just have to keep checking on it. Add NATCA on Facebook, because they usually post info about announcements.

When the bid comes out, just follow the process. You'll submit everything, then a week or two after it closes, you'll have to do the Biographical Questionnaire. The BQ is by far the dumbest thing I've ever done in my life, but just be honest and hopefully it'll clear you. I'm not aware of any way to "trick" it to submit the answers they're apparently looking for. Then you'll take the ATSA (used to be the AT-SAT). I don't know anything about the new test, but with the old test, it really comes down to ability. A lot of people study for it (I never did, and I scored well), but generally it's one of those things where either you can do it or you can't.

If you pass those first two hurdles, you're basically in as long as you continue with the process. You'll need to take the MMPI, get an FAA class II medical, get a drug screen, do your security clearance, etc. For terminal, you'll only need a public trust clearance, which is pretty quick and simple. In Enroute, we require a secret clearance, which can take upwards of 6-12 months and requires a security interview, references, background check, financial check, etc. The reason for the difference is because there are a lot of sensitive activities that occur in an ARTCC.

Then you'll get your academy date. Some people try to study beforehand, but it's really not necessary. Everything is taught from a point of zero knowledge. You just need to keep up. Enjoy Basics — it's easy, so use that time to get to know classmates, go drink a little, have fun. Class cohesion makes a HUGE difference in overall success. Once you start Initial (11 weeks for Terminal, 15 weeks for Enroute), that's when you need to get serious. Some people keep partying, and it usually doesn't work out for them.

If I were you, I would be weary of trying to study or learn too much before going to the academy. It increases your chances of learning incorrect information and bad habits. Stay away from Stuck Mic, too. Most people who post there have either never been to the academy, or they failed. It's a trove of bad information.

If you don't make it on the first OTS, just keep trying. Maybe then consider CTI. It takes a lot of people multiple tries because the process has always been flawed. It took me two OTS bids and one CTI bid to get through. It wasn't any fault of my own, it just took a few tries to get lucky (don't even get me started on the BQ). Just keep at it, and don't give up.

One sneaky way to better your chances would be to apply for an RPO job with SAIC at the academy. It sucks to live in OKC, but you'd be immersed in your future training. I'm aware of two former RPOs who finished top of their class. I'm also aware of others who failed, but taking things seriously plays a big factor. RPO jobs pay decently, but it's one way to pay your dues and get a definite advantage.
 
ayoungblood2
Topic Author
Posts: 58
Joined: Mon Jun 12, 2017 8:48 pm

Re: Prospective Air Traffic Controller

Tue Aug 29, 2017 6:20 pm

atcsundevil wrote:
ayoungblood2 wrote:
Thank you for all of this information and your input. There is a lot of great stuff in here that I think will be helpful to me. Although the paycheck is good and the salary is enough to live comfortably, I'm really just interested in this career option because of my passion for flight. But just to be clear, what steps in what order would you recommend that I take after graduating from college in May and getting a 4 year degree? Should I do CTI or no? It sounds like I would learn some beneficial things, but you also stated that you didn't recommend it. Would not doing CTI severely hinder my chances in comparison to other applicants? Should I just wait for the next OTS? Sorry to bombard you with more questions that you've already addressed, I'm just still kind of confused on what I should do. It seems like there's a lot of different ways and programs that people can do before applying and it's just a ton of information to take in and figure out what my optimal education route would be. So, if you could make an ordered list of steps I need to take after I graduate in May that would be fantastic. Once again, thanks so much for your help.

Personally, I don't think CTI is necessary. Too many schools that offer it are honestly a waste of money — either it's cheaper, but you learn nothing, or it's expensive, and you learn a little. CTI spends 2-4 years teaching you what's taught at the academy in five weeks, and you're just going to go learn it again in Basics. A trained monkey could pass the Basics course. It's intended more to ease you into the academy and to take you from a point of zero knowledge to slightly more than zero. I've only heard of two people ever failing the End of Course Exam. CTI or no CTI after that point is somewhat meaningless, and it comes down more to your ability to learn and do the job.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with CTI, after all, I did it myself. I can't say that it improved my chances of being hired (it didn't), and I'm not entirely convinced I would have been any more or less successful without it. I think they've gone back to open up a CTI specific bid again, but your quickest way would be to wait for the next OTS bid. That will probably be sometime in the next 8-12 months, but you'll just have to keep checking on it. Add NATCA on Facebook, because they usually post info about announcements.

When the bid comes out, just follow the process. You'll submit everything, then a week or two after it closes, you'll have to do the Biographical Questionnaire. The BQ is by far the dumbest thing I've ever done in my life, but just be honest and hopefully it'll clear you. I'm not aware of any way to "trick" it to submit the answers they're apparently looking for. Then you'll take the ATSA (used to be the AT-SAT). I don't know anything about the new test, but with the old test, it really comes down to ability. A lot of people study for it (I never did, and I scored well), but generally it's one of those things where either you can do it or you can't.

If you pass those first two hurdles, you're basically in as long as you continue with the process. You'll need to take the MMPI, get an FAA class II medical, get a drug screen, do your security clearance, etc. For terminal, you'll only need a public trust clearance, which is pretty quick and simple. In Enroute, we require a secret clearance, which can take upwards of 6-12 months and requires a security interview, references, background check, financial check, etc. The reason for the difference is because there are a lot of sensitive activities that occur in an ARTCC.

Then you'll get your academy date. Some people try to study beforehand, but it's really not necessary. Everything is taught from a point of zero knowledge. You just need to keep up. Enjoy Basics — it's easy, so use that time to get to know classmates, go drink a little, have fun. Class cohesion makes a HUGE difference in overall success. Once you start Initial (11 weeks for Terminal, 15 weeks for Enroute), that's when you need to get serious. Some people keep partying, and it usually doesn't work out for them.

If I were you, I would be weary of trying to study or learn too much before going to the academy. It increases your chances of learning incorrect information and bad habits. Stay away from Stuck Mic, too. Most people who post there have either never been to the academy, or they failed. It's a trove of bad information.

If you don't make it on the first OTS, just keep trying. Maybe then consider CTI. It takes a lot of people multiple tries because the process has always been flawed. It took me two OTS bids and one CTI bid to get through. It wasn't any fault of my own, it just took a few tries to get lucky (don't even get me started on the BQ). Just keep at it, and don't give up.

One sneaky way to better your chances would be to apply for an RPO job with SAIC at the academy. It sucks to live in OKC, but you'd be immersed in your future training. I'm aware of two former RPOs who finished top of their class. I'm also aware of others who failed, but taking things seriously plays a big factor. RPO jobs pay decently, but it's one way to pay your dues and get a definite advantage.


I know I already said this but all of this is extremely helpful. I greatly appreciate all of this advice and am feeling confident about my choice to change career direction and work in ATC after I graduate this May.
 
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atcsundevil
Moderator
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Re: Prospective Air Traffic Controller

Tue Aug 29, 2017 6:41 pm

ayoungblood2 wrote:
atcsundevil wrote:
ayoungblood2 wrote:
Thank you for all of this information and your input. There is a lot of great stuff in here that I think will be helpful to me. Although the paycheck is good and the salary is enough to live comfortably, I'm really just interested in this career option because of my passion for flight. But just to be clear, what steps in what order would you recommend that I take after graduating from college in May and getting a 4 year degree? Should I do CTI or no? It sounds like I would learn some beneficial things, but you also stated that you didn't recommend it. Would not doing CTI severely hinder my chances in comparison to other applicants? Should I just wait for the next OTS? Sorry to bombard you with more questions that you've already addressed, I'm just still kind of confused on what I should do. It seems like there's a lot of different ways and programs that people can do before applying and it's just a ton of information to take in and figure out what my optimal education route would be. So, if you could make an ordered list of steps I need to take after I graduate in May that would be fantastic. Once again, thanks so much for your help.

Personally, I don't think CTI is necessary. Too many schools that offer it are honestly a waste of money — either it's cheaper, but you learn nothing, or it's expensive, and you learn a little. CTI spends 2-4 years teaching you what's taught at the academy in five weeks, and you're just going to go learn it again in Basics. A trained monkey could pass the Basics course. It's intended more to ease you into the academy and to take you from a point of zero knowledge to slightly more than zero. I've only heard of two people ever failing the End of Course Exam. CTI or no CTI after that point is somewhat meaningless, and it comes down more to your ability to learn and do the job.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with CTI, after all, I did it myself. I can't say that it improved my chances of being hired (it didn't), and I'm not entirely convinced I would have been any more or less successful without it. I think they've gone back to open up a CTI specific bid again, but your quickest way would be to wait for the next OTS bid. That will probably be sometime in the next 8-12 months, but you'll just have to keep checking on it. Add NATCA on Facebook, because they usually post info about announcements.

When the bid comes out, just follow the process. You'll submit everything, then a week or two after it closes, you'll have to do the Biographical Questionnaire. The BQ is by far the dumbest thing I've ever done in my life, but just be honest and hopefully it'll clear you. I'm not aware of any way to "trick" it to submit the answers they're apparently looking for. Then you'll take the ATSA (used to be the AT-SAT). I don't know anything about the new test, but with the old test, it really comes down to ability. A lot of people study for it (I never did, and I scored well), but generally it's one of those things where either you can do it or you can't.

If you pass those first two hurdles, you're basically in as long as you continue with the process. You'll need to take the MMPI, get an FAA class II medical, get a drug screen, do your security clearance, etc. For terminal, you'll only need a public trust clearance, which is pretty quick and simple. In Enroute, we require a secret clearance, which can take upwards of 6-12 months and requires a security interview, references, background check, financial check, etc. The reason for the difference is because there are a lot of sensitive activities that occur in an ARTCC.

Then you'll get your academy date. Some people try to study beforehand, but it's really not necessary. Everything is taught from a point of zero knowledge. You just need to keep up. Enjoy Basics — it's easy, so use that time to get to know classmates, go drink a little, have fun. Class cohesion makes a HUGE difference in overall success. Once you start Initial (11 weeks for Terminal, 15 weeks for Enroute), that's when you need to get serious. Some people keep partying, and it usually doesn't work out for them.

If I were you, I would be weary of trying to study or learn too much before going to the academy. It increases your chances of learning incorrect information and bad habits. Stay away from Stuck Mic, too. Most people who post there have either never been to the academy, or they failed. It's a trove of bad information.

If you don't make it on the first OTS, just keep trying. Maybe then consider CTI. It takes a lot of people multiple tries because the process has always been flawed. It took me two OTS bids and one CTI bid to get through. It wasn't any fault of my own, it just took a few tries to get lucky (don't even get me started on the BQ). Just keep at it, and don't give up.

One sneaky way to better your chances would be to apply for an RPO job with SAIC at the academy. It sucks to live in OKC, but you'd be immersed in your future training. I'm aware of two former RPOs who finished top of their class. I'm also aware of others who failed, but taking things seriously plays a big factor. RPO jobs pay decently, but it's one way to pay your dues and get a definite advantage.


I know I already said this but all of this is extremely helpful. I greatly appreciate all of this advice and am feeling confident about my choice to change career direction and work in ATC after I graduate this May.

Absolutely. Like I said, I highly recommend you go visit one or two facilities to help you make up your mind. If you PM me, I'm happy to help you arrange it. It's a great career provided you can handle the stress and shift work, and it's hard to be upset with being the highest paid civil servants in the government!

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