Air Traffic Controller: what they do, how to become one, and where to study

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Air Traffic Controller: what they do, how to become one, and where to study

An air traffic controller is a professional responsible for ensuring the safe and efficient movement of aircraft in the sky and on the ground. They play a crucial role in maintaining order and safety in the airspace, working around the clock to coordinate the movements of thousands of flights every day. In this article, we'll explore the various aspects of this exciting profession, from specializations and tasks to demand and salary ranges in different countries. By the way, recently the ProfGuide career guidance center has developed a precise career orientation test, which will tell you which professions are suitable for you, provide a conclusion about your personality type and intelligence.



There are three main types of air traffic controllers:

  1. Tower Controllers: They work in control towers at airports, overseeing aircraft takeoffs, landings, and ground traffic.
  2. En Route Controllers: They manage aircraft as they travel through controlled airspace, ensuring safe and efficient routing between departure and destination airports.
  3. Terminal Area Controllers: They handle the transition between en route and tower-controlled airspace, managing aircraft as they approach or depart from airports.

Tasks and Responsibilities

Some key tasks and responsibilities of air traffic controllers include:

  • Coordinating aircraft movements on the ground and in the air
  • Issuing clearances for takeoffs, landings, and route changes
  • Monitoring weather conditions and providing information to pilots
  • Managing airspace to prevent collisions and ensure safety
  • Communicating with pilots and other controllers effectively

Pros and Cons


  • High-paying, rewarding career
  • Opportunity to work in a fast-paced, dynamic environment
  • Making a significant impact on aviation safety


  • High-stress job with significant responsibility
  • Shift work, including nights, weekends, and holidays
  • Extensive training and certification requirements

Demand (in USA, Canada, GB, Australia)

Demand for air traffic controllers is expected to remain steady or grow slightly in the coming years. In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) projects a need for new controllers to replace those retiring and to maintain current staffing levels. Similar trends are expected in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia, as air travel continues to grow globally.

Salary Ranges (in USA, Canada, GB, Australia)

Salaries for air traffic controllers vary depending on experience, location, and specialization. Here are approximate salary ranges for each country:

  • USA: $70,000 - $180,000
  • Canada: CAD$60,000 - CAD$150,000
  • United Kingdom: £30,000 - £100,000
  • Australia: AUD$70,000 - AUD$170,000

Where do Air Traffic Controllers Work?

Air traffic controllers work in control towers at airports, en route centers that manage high-altitude traffic, and terminal radar approach control facilities that handle aircraft approaching and departing airports. They are essential for maintaining safety and efficiency in the aviation industry.

Important Qualities of a Successful Air Traffic Controller

Key qualities of a successful air traffic controller include:

  • Strong communication skills
  • Ability to multitask and prioritize tasks effectively
  • Excellent problem-solving skills
  • High stress tolerance and resilience
  • Attention to detail

Step-by-step Career Path

  1. Obtain the necessary education and qualifications
  2. Complete the required training program (e.g., FAA Academy in the USA)
  3. Obtain an air traffic control certification
  4. Gain experience and advance through various positions (e.g., trainee, developmental, and certified professional controller)
  5. Pursue further specialization, if desired

How to Become an Air Traffic Controller

In the United States, air traffic controllers typically need an associate's or bachelor's degree, as well as completion of a specialized training program such as the FAA Academy. Higher education is often necessary, but requirements may vary by country. In some cases, a residency or graduate program may be required.

Where to Become an Air Traffic Controller (in USA, Canada, GB, Australia)

Here are five examples of institutions for each country with hyperlinks to their websites:


  1. FAA Academy
  2. Community College of Beaver County
  3. University of North Dakota
  4. Daniel Webster College
  5. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University


  1. Nav Canada Training Institute
  2. Sault College
  3. Seneca College
  4. Mount Royal University
  5. Georgian College

United Kingdom:

  1. NATS Training
  2. Global ATS
  3. City of Bristol College
  4. Airways Aviation Academy
  5. Cranfield University


  1. Airservices Australia
  2. Box Hill Institute
  3. University of South Australia
  4. Aviation Australia
  5. University of New South Wales

Can You Enter the Profession with a Different Degree?

In some cases, you may be able to enter the profession with a different degree, depending on the country and specific requirements. For example, in the United States, the FAA may consider applicants with a bachelor's degree in any field if they have a minimum of three years of progressive work experience. However, it is generally recommended to pursue a degree in a relevant field, such as aviation management, to gain the necessary knowledge and skills for the profession.

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