So You Want to be an Air Traffic Controller?

Nature of Work
Employment with the FAA
Veterans Readjustment Act (VRA) appointments
Phoenix 20
Employment with the DOD
Non FAA Firms Offering ATC Employment
Military Air Traffic Control
Links of particular interest
Schools Offering FAA Certified ATC Programs

Nature of Work

Nearly all air traffic controllers are employed and trained by the federal government. The majority of controllers work for the FAA, actively controlling air traffic, working at flight service stations, and staffing administrative positions. Some professional controllers conduct research at the FAA's national experimental center in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Others serve as instructors at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. A small number of civilian controllers work for the Department of Defense. In addition to controllers employed by the federal government, some work for private air traffic control companies providing service to non-FAA towers. There are also military air traffic controllers in each branch of the armed services.

Flight Service Station Controllers may join the National Association of Air Traffic Specialists, while the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) serves Airport Tower and En Route Controllers.

Air Traffic Control Specialist at FAA Airport Traffic Control Tower

The air traffic control specialists at FAA airport traffic control towers direct air traffic so it flows smoothly and efficiently. The controllers give pilots taxiing and takeoff instructions, air traffic clearances, and advice based on information received from the National Weather Service, air route traffic control centers, aircraft pilots, and other sources. They transfer control of aircraft on instrument flights to the Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) controller when the aircraft leaves their airspace and receives from the ARTCC control of aircraft on instrument flights flying their airspace. They must be able to recall quickly registration numbers of aircraft under their control, the aircraft types and speeds, positions in the air, and also the location of navigational aids in the area.

FAA employs over 20,000 controllers at Air Route Traffic Control Centers and airport control towers and flight service stations located throughout the nation. Some jobs are located outside the contiguous United States in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and American Samoa.

Air Traffic Control Specialist at FAA Air Route Traffic Control Center

The air traffic control specialists at FAA air route traffic control centers give pilots instructions, air traffic clearances, and advice regarding flight conditions along the flight path, while the pilot is flying the federal airways or operating into airports without towers. The controllers use flight plans and keep track of progress of all instrument flights within the center's airspace. She or he transfers control of aircraft on instrument flights to the controller in the adjacent center when the aircraft enters that center's airspace. The controllers also receive control of flights entering his or her area of responsibility from adjacent centers. She or he monitors the time of each aircraft's arrival over navigation fixes and maintains records of flights under his or her control. FAA employs about 6,800 controllers at 22 air route traffic control centers located throughout the US plus one each in Guam, and Puerto Rico.

Air Traffic Control Specialists at FAA Flight Service Stations

The air traffic control specialists at FAA flight service stations render preflight, in-flight and emergency assistance to all pilots on request. They give information about actual weather conditions and forecasts for airports and flight paths; relay air traffic control instructions between controllers and pilots; assist pilots in emergency situations; and initiate searches for missing or overdue aircraft. FAA flight service stations are found at approximately 317 locations throughout the United States, Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. About 4,300 flight service specialistsare employed.

Check the Bureau of Labor Statistics web site for additional information from the Occupational Outlook Handbook, including:

  • Nature of the Work;
  • Working Conditions;
  • Employment;
  • Training,
  • Other Qualifications,
  • Advancement;
  • Job Outlook;
  • Earnings;
  • Related Occupations; and
  • Sources of Additional Information.

More Job Info from the DOL

29010 Air Traffic Control Specialist, Center 2/ Minimum Hourly Wage $23.88

Controls traffic of aircraft operating within a designated sector of airspace between centers and beyond airport terminal areas while enroute along airways and over certain oceanic routes. Utilizes constant radar surveillance to issue speed, altitude and directional instructions to pilots for purpose of keeping aircraft properly separated. Also provides approach control service to aircraft going into certain airports within a center's assigned area. The type of control exercised, the procedures and techniques employed and the equipment utilized in the air traffic control centers are similar to those used in the terminals (see Air Traffic Control Specialist, Terminal).

29011 Air Traffic Control Specialist, Station 2/ Minimum Hourly Wage$16.46

Receives and transmits flight plans, meteorological, navigational, and other information in air traffic control station to perform preflight and emergency service for airplane pilots: Accepts flight plans from pilots in person or by telephone and reviews them for completeness. Routes plans for operating under instrument flight rules to control center and for operating under visual flight rules to station in vicinity of destination airport, using radio, teletype, radiotelephone, radiotelegraph, telephone, or interphone. Provides meteorological, navigational, and other information to pilots during flight, using radio. Relays traffic control and other instructions concerned with aircraft safety to pilots. Radios such information as identifying landmarks, beacons and available landing fields to pilots in flight. Maintains file of plans for operating under visual flight rules until completion of flight, and contacts facilities along route of flight to secure information on overdue aircraft. Reports lost aircraft to control center for rescue or local emergency services. Monitors such radio aids to navigation as range stations, fan markers and voice communication facilities, and notifies air personnel of availability of these facilities. Maintains written records of messages transmitted and received.

29012 Air Traffic Control Specialist, Terminal 2/ Minimum Hourly Wage $18.13

Controls air traffic on and within vicinity of airport according to established procedures and policies to prevent collisions and to minimize delays arising from traffic congestion: Answers radio calls from arriving and departing aircraft and issues such landing and takeoff instructions and information as runway to use, wind velocity and direction, visibility, taxiing instructions, and pertinent data on other aircraft operating in vicinity. Transfers control of departing flights to and accepts control of arriving flights from air traffic control center, using telephone or interphone. Alerts airport emergency crew and other designated personnel by radio or telephone when airplanes are having flight difficulties. Pushes buttons or pulls switches to control airport floodlights and boundary, runway, and hazard lights. Scans control panel to ascertain that lights are functioning. Operates radio and monitors radarscope to control aircraft operating in vicinity of airport. Receives cross-country flight plans and transmits them to air traffic control center. Signals aircraft flying under visual flight rules, using electric signal light or flags. May control cross-runway traffic by radio directions to guards or maintenance vehicles. May keep written record of messages received from aircraft.

FAA ATC Pay Table not including locality adjustments or Controller Incentive Pay.

ATC Grade Min Max
3 $37,283 $52,196
4 $39,799 $55,719
5 $45,171 $63,239
6 $49,915 $69,881
7 $55,155 $77,217
8 $60,947 $85,326
9 $67,345 $94,283
10 $77,447 $108,426
11 $81,513 $114,118
12 $85,589 $119,825
13 $89,869 $125,817
14 $94,363 $132,108
As of January 4th, 2001 the highest level facility was an ATC Grade-12.

Federal Certification

Air traffic control specialists in all specializations are required to possess a valid, FAA-issued, Air Traffic Control Specialist Certificate. Controllers who work in an air traffic tower must obtain a Control Tower Operator Certificate. These certificates require demonstrating knowledge of basic meteorology, basic air navigation, standard air traffic control and communications procedures, the types and uses of aid to air navigation, and regulations governing air traffic. Military controllers already possess one or both of these certificates.

In addition to a certificate, each civilian air traffic control specialist must possess or obtain a rating for the facility to which he or she is assigned. This facility rating requires demonstrating knowledge of the kind and location of radio aids to air navigation, the terrain, the landmarks, the communications systems and circuits, and the procedures peculiar to the area covered by the facility. All required certificates and ratings must be obtained, if not already held, within time limits established by the agency management.

The certification of air traffic controllers is regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The FAA publishes Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR). FAR Part 65 -- Certification: Airmen Other Than Flight Crewmembers, Subpart B, concerns Air Traffic Control Tower Operators, their eligibility requirements, privileges, and performance standards. The regulations are available on the FedWorld web site.

Obtaining Employment as a Civilian Air Traffic Controller

Employment with the FAA

Because of the wide variation in air traffic control duties and ratings, you should first consult the FAA jobs web site for current job openings, or call the region where you want to live to see if that region is accepting applications. The job announcement will specify the "area of consideration", meaning the type of applicant sought. The announcement will also specify the duties of the position and how to document your experience and education in order to meet the eligibility requirements. The following are general requirements for employment with the FAA.

Requirements To Enter the Job

- Applicants for FAA Air Traffic Control Specialist must have the following quantity and kind of experience:

General Experience:

Progressively responsible experience in administrative, technical or other work which demonstrates potential for learning and performing air traffic control work. A four year college degree can be substituted for the general experience requirement.

Specialized Experience:

Experience in a military or civilian air traffic facility which demonstrates that you possess the knowledge, skills and abilities required to perform the level of work of the specialization for which you are applying. Persons with a four year college degree and a test score of 75.1 or higher on the Air Traffic Controller Aptitude Test will be admitted to controller training at the FAA Academy at Oklahoma City, OK.

Physical Requirements

- Candidates must be able to pass a physical examination (including normal color vision). Air traffic control specialists are required to requalify in a physical examination given annually.

Written Test and Interview

- Applicants must also pass a comprehensive written test and complete a personal interview during which alertness, decisiveness, diction, poise and conciseness of speech are evaluated. Because studies show that the unique skills necessary for success as a controller diminish with age, a maximum age of 30 has been established for entry into an FAA tower or center controller position.



Former Military ATCS:

Because of the wide variation in air traffic control duties and ratings, if you are a military controller seeking civilian employment you should first consult the FAA jobs web site for current job openings, or call the region where you want to live to see if that region is accepting applications. The job announcement will specify the "area of consideration", meaning the type of applicant sought. Some announcements are open only to military controllers. The announcement will also specify the duties of the position and how to document your experience and education in order to meet the eligibility requirements. The following are general requirements for employment with the FAA.

Hiring method:

Veterans Readjustment Act (VRA) appointments

All veterans are eligible for VRA appointments, but there is a specific order in whichselections must be made. 10-pt. Veterans must all be selected first; then 5-pt. Veterans can be selected; 0-pt. Veterans cannot be selected until all 5-pt. and 10-pt. Veterans have been selected.

10-point veterans - Have service-connected disabilities of 10% or more for which the Veterans Administration is compensating them.

5-point veterans - Served during a time of conflict in a location for which a campaign badge or expeditionary medal was authorized (e.g., Granada, Panama) OR served at any location during specified periods (e.g. the Vietnam Era or the Gulf War). Congress passed legislation in November 1997 authorizing 5 points of preference to everyone who served on active duty for 1 day or more during the Gulf War period of 8/2/90 through 2/2/92.

0-point veterans - Served in the military during peacetime.

Special Instructions: Applicants are to include a DD-214 and letter from the Veterans Administration, if appropriate, to support claims for veteran's preference.

The PATCO list in Oklahoma City

Hiring method:

Being selected from the PATCO register.

For what locations are PATCO applicants considered?

Terminal PATCOs can be considered for one state at a time; ARTCC PATCOs can be considered for one ARTCC at a time.

Examples:

- A terminal PATCO wants to be considered by both Eastern and Great Lakes Regions. THIS WILL NOT WORK. He must choose one state (not one region) for which he or she will be considered.

- A ARTCC PATCO wants to be considered for any ARTCC in Great Lakes. THIS WILL NOT WORK. He must choose one ARTCC for which he will be considered.

- A PATCO applicant was fully certified in both the terminal and ARTCC Options while working for FAA. He CAN be considered for both one ARTCC and one state because separate lists are issued for each option.

How applicants change consideration to another location:

Call Rick Williams in Oklahoma City at (405) 954-4912 to change a location preference. However, NO CHANGES CAN BE MADE AFTER PATCO CERTIFICATES ARE ISSUED TO REGIONS BY OKLAHOMA CITY.

All applicants are entitled to consideration. However, Great Lakes Region will give preference to PATCO applicants who are on the PATCO register. Applicants who did not apply during the open period (October 1993) may submit applications to AGL-18A in case AGL runs out of PATCO applicants for a given location. In other words, they will be selected only if AGL runs out of applicants from the PATCO list.

DOD Civilian ATCS

Hiring methods:

- Can transfer from DOD to FAA only if originally hired by DOD prior to their 31st birthdays. Some DOD ATCS were hired after their 31st birthdays, but FAA lacks the authority to hire them.

Is MPP required?

Frankly I don't know. We have new rules for MPP/IPP's and I will add to this section when I find out.

- Some DOD ATCS have 0 points of preference. AGL may have too many 10-pt. and 5-pt. veterans to be able to reach veterans with 0 points of preference. MPP or transfers without MPP may be the only way 0-pt. veterans can be hired. DOD civilian ATCS who are ex-PATCO's.

Employment of Retired Military Air Traffic Controllers

- A joint venture between the FAA and the Department of Defense designed to improve post-military employment for military air traffic controllers went into effect October 1, 1999. Known in the military as Phoenix Controller 20 and in the FAA as the Employment of Retired Military Air Traffic Controllers, the program provides military controllers who retire from active duty the opportunity to work for the FAA even if they are over the age of 30. To be eligible, you must meet all of the following criteria:

  1. Be on terminal leave pending retirement from active duty military service or have retired from active duty military service on or after September 17, 1999.
  2. Have received either air traffic control specialist certification or a facility rating according to FAA standards.
  3. Meet all application, qualification and position requirements, including applicable medical and security requirements.

Controllers hired under this program are given time-limited appointments, meaning that their appointments will have a specific termination date attached to them. The initial appointment may be up to 10 years and may not exceed the last day of the month in which the controller turns age 56. Appointments can be extended for up to five years at a time.

You will be required to submit a resume or government job application form and proof of your retired status. Your application must contain certain information about your experience as an air traffic controller. Detailed information about what your application must contain is on the FAA web site. FAA job opportunities for air traffic controllers are posted on the FAA jobs web site.

More information on the Employment of Retired Military Air Traffic Controllers program is available on the FAA web site as well. You may also view the bid at http://www.usajobs.opm.gov/

Employment with the DOD as a civilian

The Department of Defense Hires civilian as air traffic controllers too. While I do not know many details, I can show you where to find information on job openings and where to apply. You shoud check the OPM's official site USAJOBS for openings.

You think their pay is not adequate? Here is some info from a navy bid open indefintely.

SERIES/GRADE: GS-2152-01/15
SALARY: $ 13,870. TO $ 100,897., ANNUAL

USAF
RECRUITMENT CALL CENTER
PHONE: (800) 699-4473
INTERNET ADDRESS: http://www.afpc.randolph.af.mil/afjobs

HQ AFPC/DPCTDC
ATTN: RECRUITMENT CALL CENTER
550 C STREET W STE 57
RANDOLPH AFB, TX 78150-4759

NAVY
WEST PAC TEAM
PHONE: (808) 474-0025 322
INTERNET ADDRESS: HTTP://WWW.DONHR.NAVY.MIL

HUMAN RESOURCES SERVICE CENTER
PACIFIC
178 MAIN STREET
BLDG 499
HONOLULU, HI 96818-4048

Employment with non FAA/DOD Firms

Below you will find a list of companies/municipalities that employee air traffic controllers. You should also check the America's JobBank web site.

Non FAA Firms offering ATC Employment
  • Robinson-Van Vuren Associates, Inc.
    3000 United Founders Boulevard, Suite 240
    Oklahoma City, OK 73112
    Tel: 1 (405) 840 3771
    Fax: 1 (405) 840 3772

  • Midwest Air Traffic Control Services Inc.
    Attn: Operations
    P. O. Box 34 (401 Prairie Village Drive)
    New Century AirCenter, KS 66031-0034
    Tel: 1 (913) 782 7082 ext 21
    Fax: 1 (913) 780 2529

  • EuroControl Jobs Section: Europe
    EUROCONTROL Selection & assignment
    Rue De La Fusee, 96
    B - 1130 Brussels
    Tel: (+ 32.2) 729.35.29
    Tel: (+ 32.2) 729.35.21
    Tel: (+ 32.2) 729.36.28
    Tel: (+ 32.2) 729.37.22
    Fax: (+ 32.2) 729.90.70
    e-mail: recruitment@eurocontrol.be

  • Safeskys Ltd: UK
    TEL: 01494 451660
    FAX: 01494 474377
    Direct: 0 707 4 Safeskys (723375)
    e-mail: Safeskys@x-stream.co.uk

  • Serco ATC
    1609 East Palmdale Blvd., Suite E
    Palmdale, CA 93550
    Tel: 1 (661) 575 2325
    Fax: 1 (661) 575 2330

  • Serco (North American main offices)
    20 E Clementon Road
    Suite 102 South
    Gibbsboro, New Jersey 08026
    Tel: 1 (609) 346 8800
    Fax: 1 (609) 346 8463

  • SerCo Middle East
    Ken Vowden
    Manager Air Traffic Operations
    Serco Middle East
    PO Box 9197
    Dubai
    United Arab Emirates.
    Tel (+971) 4 3240236
    Fax (+971) 4 3240241
    Email vowden@emirates.net.ae

  • Fujairah International Airport: U.A.E.
    Rick Sharpe
    Manager Air Traffic Operations
    PO BOX 9197
    Dubai
    United Arab Emirates
    +971 4 403 3527
    e-mail recruitment@serco.ae

  • Walker Air Traffic Services Incorporated
    P.O. Box 10012
    Pensacola, FL 32524-0012
    (904)501-2716
    Fax:(904)479-3579

  • Athens-Ben Epps Airport Authority
    Athens Ben Epps Airport
    1010 Ben Epps Drive
    Athens, GA 30605
    Phone 706-613-3420
    Fax 706-613-3425

  • Mobile Brookley Downtown Airport
    Mobile Airport Authority
    1891 Ninth Street
    Mobile, Alabama 36615
    (334) 438-7334 or 1-800-348-3824
    Fax (334) 694-7667
    Email maa@MOBairport.com

  • Central Wisconsin Airport

  • Cuyahoga County Airport
    355 Richmond Road
    Cuyahoga County, OH 44143
    (216) 289-4111

  • Eagle County Airport
    0219 Eldon Wilson Road,
    Gypsum, CO 81637,
    Tel: 1 (970) 524-9490
    Tel: 2 (970) 524-8246
    Fax: 1 (970) 524-8247

  • EASTERN OREGON REGIONAL AIRPORT
    2016 Airport Road
    Pendleton, OR 97801
    (541) 276-7754

  • GREENBRIER VALLEY AIRPORT
    Garnette Haynes
    PO Box 329
    Lewisburg WV 24901
    Phone: (304) 645-3961
    Fax: (304) 645-4683

  • Hailey Friedman Memorial Airport
    Blaine County Airpor Commission
    Hailey, Idaho 83333
    (208) 788-2709

  • Nashua Airport Authority.
    93 Perimeter Road
    Nashua, NH 03063-1325
    (603)889-0661

  • Lakeland Linder Regional Airport
    City of Lakeland Fl

  • Owensboro Regional Airport
    Owensboro Regional Airport Board

  • Paducah, KY
    Paducah Airport Corp.

  • Acadiana Regional Airport
    Iberia Parish Airport

  • Ardmore, OK
    Ardmore Development Auth.

  • Enid, OK
    City of Enid

  • Grand Prairie, TX
    City of Grand Prairie

  • Hobbs
    Lea County Government

  • Laredo, TX
    City of Laredo

  • Norman, OK
    Univ. of Oklahoma

The Military Route

Every day, thousands of military airplanes and helicopters take off and land all over the world. Their movements are closely controlled in order to prevent accidents. Air traffic controllers direct the movement of aircraft into and out of military airfields. They track aircraft by radar and give voice instructions by radio. Military air traffic perform duties similar to civilian air traffic controllers working for the FAA in airports and control centers around the country. They may specialize in specific areas, such as aircraft arrivals, departures, ground control, or en route flights. Military air traffic controllers work in land-based and shipboard control centers. Air traffic controllers in the military perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Operate radio equipment to issue takeoff, flight, and landing instructions to pilots;
  • Relay weather reports, airfield conditions,and safety information to pilots;
  • Use radar equipment to track aircraft in flight;
  • Plot airplane locations on charts and maps;
  • Compute speed, direction, and altitude of aircraft; and
  • Maintain air traffic control records and communication logs.

Job training consists of 7 to 13 weeks of classroom instruction. Training length varies depending on specialty. Certification by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) normally must be obtained during training. Course content typically includes: air traffic control fundamentals; visual and instrument flight procedures; radar and other landing approach procedures; communication procedures. Additional training occurs on the job. Aircraft carrier air traffic controllers receive specialized training. Check the Military Careers web site for additional information about air traffic controller careers in the military.

US Air Force
REQUIRED: Flying Class III Physical, No Speech Impediment, Must be a U.S. Citizen
Call 1-800-423-USAF or visit their web siteat
http://careers.airforce.com/

US Army

PHONE: (800) 872-2769
US ARMY RECRUITING COMMAND
HQ USAREC
ATTN: RCAPA-MC
BLDG. 1307 3RD AVENUE
FT. KNOX, KY 40121-2725
INTERNET ADDRESS: www.GoArmy.com

US Navy

REQUIRED: High school graduate less than 34 years of age, Flying Class III Physical, No Speech Impediment, Must be a U.S. Citizen.
For more information, call 1-800-USA-NAVY or visit their web site at:
http://www.navyjobs.com

US Marine Corps

Links of particular interest

Schools Offering FAA Certified ATC Programs (CTI)

  • Community College of Beaver County
    Mr. Paul A. Arnholt
    Assistant Professor, Aviation
    Aviation Sciences Center
    125 Cessna Drive
    Beaver Falls, PA 15010-1060
    1-800-335-0222
    (724) 847-7000 ext 209.
    paul.arnholt@ccbc.pa.us
  • College of Aeronautics
    Dr. Maxine Lubner
    LaGuardia Airport
    Flushing NY 11371
    (800) PRO-AERO ext 139
    FAX: 718-429-0256
    maxine@aero.edu
  • Daniel Webster College
    Mr. Roger Bacchieri
    Aviation Division
    20 University Drive
    Nashua, NH 03063-1699
    603-577-6452
    FAX: 603-577-6001
    bacchier@dwc.edu
  • Dowling College
    Mr. Herbert Armstrong
    School of Aviation and Transportation
    Oakdale, NY 11769-1999
    516-244-3121
    Fax: 516-244-1055
    armstroh@dowling.edu
  • Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
    Dr. Marvin Smith
    600 South Clyde Morris Blvd
    Daytona Beach, FL 32114-3900
    904-226-6448
    Fax: 904-266-6012
    smithm@cts.db.erau.edu
  • Hampton University
    Department of Aviation
    Hampton, VA 23668
    757-727-5417
    Fax: 757-728-6809
    healdgcj@aol.com
  • Inter-American University of Puerto Rico
    Bayamon Campus
    Eleazar Lamboy
    Carr. 830 Num 500
    Cerro Gordo
    Bayamon, PR 00957
    787-724-1912
    Fax: 787-725-1912
  • Miami-Dade Community College
    Marjan Mazza
    Aviation Department
    500 College Terrace
    Homestead, FL 33030
    (305)-237-5130
    Fax: (305)-237-5165
    yhernand@mdcc.edu
  • Middle Tennessee State University
    Ms. Gail Zlotky
    Aerospace Department
    BOX 67, MTSU
    Murfreesboro, TN 37132
    615-898-2788
    Fax: 615-904-8273
    gzlotky@frank.mtsu.edu
  • Mt. San Antonio College
    Mr. Wayne Lutz
    Aeronautics & Transportation
    1100 North Grand Avenue
    Walnut, CA 91789
    909-594-5611 ext 4774
    wlutz@ibm.mtsac.edu
  • Purdue University
    Mr. Michael Nolan
    Dept. of Aviation Technology
    1 Purdue Airport
    West Lafayette, IN 47906-3398
    765-494-9962
    Fax: 765-494-2305
    mnolan@purdue.edu
  • University of Alaska Anchorage
    Dr. Robb Jones
    2811 Merrill Field Drive
    Anchorage, AK 99501
    907-264-7415
    Fax: 907-279-0996
    AFRLJ@uaa.alaska.edu
  • University of North Dakota
    Mr. Gary Bartelson
    4201 University Ave.
    Grand Forks, ND 58202-9023
    701-777-4744
    800-258-1525 ext 4744
    Fax: 701-777-4799
    bartelso@aero.und.edu
  • Minneapolis Community and Technical College
    Mr. Gordon Hoff
    10100 Flying Cloud Drive
    Eden Prairie MN 55347
    612-826-6700
    800-475-2828
    Fax: 612-826-6711
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