To most people, being an air traffic controller looks a complicated and stressful career. They are responsible for the safety of all commercial flights by directing them and making sure aircraft don’t collide or have any other incidents in the air.
It’s an incredibly important role within the aviation field and requires the utmost training and skill from the professionals that perform the job.
If you are interested in becoming an air traffic controller you might be curious what the requirements are. This is a common question that many people have since it seems like a job that most people would not be able to get.
What are the requirements to become an air traffic controller?
In order to become an air traffic controller you must meet specific qualifications, educational requirements, training requirements, and be certified by the FAA.
In this article we will break down all the requirements you would need to meet to become an air traffic controller.
In order to become an Air Traffic Controller (ATC) you’ll first need to meet certain requirements in order to be eligible for the position. Here is a list of those qualifications according to the FAA:
- Be a United States Citizen
- Be no older than 30 years old at the time the application period closes
- Pass FAA Medical Exam
- Pass Security Investigation/background check
- Pass the FAA air traffic pre-employment test
- Speak English well enough to communicate effectively through communications equipment
- Have 3 years of progressively responsible work experience, or a Bachelor’s degree, or combination of college experience and work experience that adds up to 3 years
- Be willing to relocate to an FAA facility based on agency staffing needs
One thing to note about being an air traffic controller is that you will be employed by the FAA as all air traffic controllers in the United States are. Since the FAA is the only employer you won’t have to worry about employer specific hiring guidelines or requirements.
Air Traffic Control Training
There are two phases of training you’ll need to complete in order to become an air traffic controller. Here is a breakdown of these two phases.
Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI)
The first phase is to complete training at one of the 36 FAA recognized programs across the country that are part of the Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative.
If you meet all of the requirements listed above and are accepted into one of these programs, you’ll study topics relevant to the aviation industry while earning your associates, bachelor’s or masters degree. If you complete this training and pass the FAA’s selection process you’ll then move onto the next phase
If you complete the above training and meet the FAA selection criteria you can be hired by the FAA. At this point you would go to the FAA Academy for specific training from them on being an air traffic controller. This is a very intensive training program that includes classroom training and the use of advanced air traffic simulators.
Upon graduating from FAA Academy you would be hired by the FAA to work as an air traffic controller. You would then be placed at a location to work as an air traffic controller while you continue to train.
The educational requirement to be an air traffic controller is to have an associates degree (also known as a 2-year college degree).
A common misconception is that a bachelor’s degree is required to be an air traffic controller. While a bachelor’s degree is not required, if you don’t have one you’ll also need to have at least a year of relevant work experience.
In order to work as an air traffic controller you will need to be certified by the FAA.
To become certified you will need to meet all of the above mentioned requirements (including completing FAA training) and then pass knowledge and practical exams administered by the FAA.
Becoming an air traffic controller is not easy and definitely isn’t for everyone. It requires you meet some pretty strict requirements and training due to how sensitive the role is in the safety of the aviation industry. In addition to meeting those requirements, you’ll have to undergo extensive training and become certified by the FAA.
While this is not an easy path, once you are working as an air traffic controller you will play a major role in keeping passengers safe while also earning a great salary.
If you are interested in potentially becoming an air traffic controller and would like to learn more, you should refer to the FAA’s website on the topic here.