Air Traffic Controllers


Air traffic controllers are the people who coordinate the movement of airplanes. Their job is to be sure that planes stay a safe distance apart. They also direct planes to keep flying schedules on time. Some control traffic at airports. Other air traffic controllers handle planes between airports. Every plane that is taking off or landing is handled by an air traffic controller.

Working Conditions

Air traffic controllers usually work forty-hour weeks. They often work night and weekend shifts. It can be a very stressful occupation.


Salary ranges from $36,000 to $87,000, with the average being $48,000 for the Federal Government. Air traffic controllers receive 13 to 26 days of paid vacation and 13 days of paid sick leave each year. They are eligible to retire at age 50 with 20 years of service as an active air traffic controller or after 25 years of active service at any age. There is a mandatory retirement age of 56 for controllers who manage air traffic.

Helpful Skills and Subjects to Study

English, speech communication, mathematics, science, foreign languages, and electronics courses are helpful for this career.

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Education & Training

Air traffic controller trainees must pass a written test. Experience as a pilot or navigator can improve their rating. Applicants must have three years of work experience or four years of college. There is a week of screening at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City. Trainees learn their jobs through a combination of formal and on-the-job training. It takes several years of work experience and classroom instruction to become a fully qualified controller. job.

Job Outlook

A lot of competition is expected. The Federal Government employs 86 percent of the air traffic controllers.

Sources for Additional Information

Office of Personnel Management (OPM)
(912) 757-3000
TDD (912) 744-2299