How to Become an Air Traffic Controller?

Are you one of those who are interested in Air Traffic Controller and want to become an Air Traffic Controller (ATC)? If yes, and curious to know about the job description of Air traffic controller and browsing the details about how to become an Air traffic controller then your search is over because, In this article, I will discuss the ways to become an Air traffic controller.

An Air Traffic Controller often referred to as ATC is an officer in an Air Traffic Control tower whose job is to coordinate with aircraft to maintain a safe distance between aircraft in the air and on the ground. Also, ATC ensures the safety of the aircraft, pilots, passengers and all crew members. The duty of an Air Traffic Controller is quite complex because it works within a system with the help of many electronic devices such as Surveillance Radars, Computers, Two-Way Radio Equipments, and so on. Air Traffic Controller provide proper guidance and runway clearance to take off and land safely in an airport.

Air Traffic Controller is a hardworking and stressful job as it is a full-time job and has to manage safety responsibilities. With the day-to-day challenges, ATC requires proper training and knowledge in many areas such as aerial navigation, operation of sophisticated electronic and mechanical controls, interpretation of meteorological reports, and piloting aircraft in adverse conditions.

However, the procedure and eligibility criteria to become an Air Traffic Controller vary from country to country. So, let’s look at the process of becoming an Air Traffic Controller in some countries.

how to become an air traffic controller

How to Become an Air Traffic Controller in USA?

Candidates who want to be an Air Traffic Controller in the USA must be a citizen of the United States of America. First candidates will need to complete an associate degree-level program that is approved by the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI). Candidates can pursue their associate degree programs in any one of several disciplines such as basic navigation and flight operations, aviation weather, air traffic control technology, aviation law and radar. There are many schools across the country that offer associate degree courses to the students which are also approved through AT-CTI.

After that when candidates complete their associate degree level program candidates need a recommendation from their AT-CTI approved school for the training at FAA Academy. During the training process, candidates get in-depth practical training on how to use electronic devices, surveillance systems, ATC simulators, Aircraft simulators, and many more.

Candidates can also become air traffic controllers after completing master’s degree programs in aeronautics, and aviation management. Although master’s degree candidates also go for deeper education in aeronautics and aviation technology.

Additionally, to become an air traffic controller, candidates must meet these air traffic controller requirements

  • Must be a citizen of the United States.
  • Candidates must be below 31 years of age at the time of first hiring.
  • Candidates must pass a criminal history background check.
  • Pass medical evaluations that include vision, colour vision, hearing, psychological, substance abuse, cardiac and neurological tests.
  • Controllers must also pass a physical test each year after joining and a job performance test twice per year.

How Long does it Take to Become an Air Traffic Controller?

The time involved to become an Air Traffic Controller varies from individual to individual because there are several ways to become an Air Traffic Controller. Candidates need to complete an associate’s or bachelor’s degree from the AT-CTI program. Other candidates should have 3 years of progressively responsible work experience, and have completed 4 years of college or a combination of both. Some candidates also apply for Air Traffic Controller after completing their master’s degree. In general, it takes 6 months to 1 year to get hired for the first time as a proper air traffic controller after completing your training from FAA Academy. After that, it takes another 3 to 4 years for job training to become a fully certified Air Traffic Controller. Altogether, it takes at least 5 years to become fully certified.

Air Traffic Controller Salary by State

The national median salary for an air traffic controller is $50,879 per year. Although salaries range from $14,000 to $130,000 they depend on many factors like experience, location, workload, etc.

According to Forbes, the top 10 highest paying states for Air Traffic Controllers are

1. New Hampshire$147,350
2. Virginia$139,520
3. Illinois$136,390
4. Georgia$136,210
5. Texas$133,260
6. California$132,300
7. Minnesota$131,330
8. Ohio$131,180
9. New York$130,840
10. Colorado$128,210
Source – Forbes

Air Traffic Controller Schools (AT-CTI Approved)

Aims Community College GreeleyColorado
Arizona State University MezaArizona
Broward College Pembroke PinesFlorida
Community College of Baltimore County BaltimoreMaryland
Dowling College OakdaleNew York
Florida Institute of Technology MelbourneFlorida
Green River College AuburnWashington
Hampton University HamptonVirginia
Kent State University KentOhio
Mount San Antonio College WalnutCalifornia

You can check out the complete AT-CTI approved schools list by visiting this link – AT-CTI Schools List

How to Become Air Traffic Controller in India?

One who wants to become an Air Traffic Controller in India must have a bachelor’s degree with physics and mathematics as core subjects or an engineering degree in a stream like aeronautics, electronics, radio engineering, or telecommunications. Also, those who have done master’s degree in any one of these subjects are also eligible to apply. First of all, candidates have to apply for a form of ATC test which is conducted by the Civil Aviation Authority of India. It is a written based test consisting of 4 papers. Applicants have to qualify for this written test, then applicants move to the next stage i.e. Personal Interview and Medical Fitness test (as per ICA). If candidates qualify in the Medical and Interview round then they are sent for one-year training at Civil Aviation Training College, Allahabad, UP. After training, applicants are first ready to get hired as Air Traffic Controller.

Air Traffic Controller Eligibility

  • Applicants need a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in science with physics and mathematics subjects.
  • Applicants should have at least 60% aggregate in their relevant degree. Although the minimum percentage may vary from category to category.
  • The minimum age to become Air Traffic Controller is 21 years and the maximum age is 27 years. However, reserved category applicants get relaxation in the upper age limit.

Air Traffic Controller Salary in India

The salary of an Air Traffic Controller in India depends on many factors such as experience, location, work profile, company, etc. An air traffic controller’s salary increases over time as they complete their successive levels of training and experience. The national median salary of a newly hired air traffic controller in India per month is Rs. 40,000 to Rs. 80,000 and per year is Rs. 4,80,000 to Rs, 9,60,000. As your hierarchy progresses, so does the salary. There are some levels of designation as ATC.

  • Junior Executive
  • Assistant Manager
  • Manager
  • Senior Manager
  • Assistant General Manager
  • Deputy General Manager
  • Joint General Manager
  • General Manager
  • Executive Director

How to Become Air Traffic Controller after 12th

To be honest, no one becomes an air traffic controller after 12th standard because the minimum education qualification need to apply for Air Traffic Controller is a bachelor’s degree. After passing 12th, candidates have to opt for B.Sc in Physics and Mathematics or B.Tech/B.E in Aeronautical/Electronics/ Radio Engineering /Telecommunication or BBA in Aviation. After completing a bachelor’s degree, candidates are eligible to apply for the form ATC test. I have already told you about the next steps after applying the ATC test form above this article.

Skills Required to be Air Traffic Controller

  • Applicants should have a Quick Decision-Making Capacity during emergency situations.
  • Applicants must be hardworking and interested in the aviation industry.
  • Applicants should have multitasking capability.
  • Applicants should have good communication skills and have a sharp memory.
  • Applicants should have social in nature and have a deep interest in physics and mathematics.
  • Applicants should be aware and alert in nature.

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