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Career Readiness

Air Traffic Controllers 

What Air Traffic Controllers Do

Air traffic controllers coordinate the movement of aircraft to maintain safe distances between them.

Work Environment

Air traffic controllers work in control towers, approach control facilities, or route centers. Their work can be stressful because maximum concentration is required at all times. Night, weekend, and rotating shifts are common.

How to Become an Air Traffic Controller

There are several paths to becoming an air traffic controller. Candidates typically need an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree from the Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative program. Other applicants must have 3 years of progressively responsible work experience, have completed 4 years of college, or have a combination of both. One must also be a U.S. citizen, submit to medical and background checks, and take exams and courses at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) academy.


The median annual wage for air traffic controllers was $124,540 in May 2017.

Job Outlook Employment of air traffic controllers is projected to grow 3 percent from 2016 to 2016, slower than the average for all occupations. Competition for air traffic controller jobs is expected to be very strong, with many people applying for a relatively small number of jobs.