Air Traffic Controller Salary in the US

Are you looking to get into the aviation industry? If it has always been your dream to get into the aviation industry, there are tons of career paths you can take one of which is becoming an air traffic controller. We bet you may want to about the air traffic controller salary in the US before you decide.

Whether you are a fresh graduate still deciding what career paths to venture into or an experienced salary-earner looking to switch careers and become an Air Traffic Controller, you are definitely on the right path.

This article is a detailed guide on Air Controller and further in the article, we will be discussing:

  • What is an air traffic controller?
  • Who is an air traffic controller?
  • What do air traffic controllers do?
  • Requirements to become an air traffic controller
  • Air traffic controller job description
  • Air traffic controller salary

Also, we will answer some other questions you might have towards the end of the article. Continue to read.

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Air Traffic Controller Salary in the US

Air Traffic Controller

So you want to become an air traffic controller? Getting into the variation industry is one of the fulfilling career paths anyone can take especially if you are a person who likes to look out for other people and ensure their safety.

Typically, up to 600,000 peoples fly through the US airspace every day and their safety will rely on you as an Air Traffic Controller. It is will be your responsibility to get them to their destination and ensure they land safely.

If this is is your dream job, you may live the rest of your life basking in the joy that you cared for people from all walks of life and also making tons of money and gaining wonderful experiences while at it.

This article is your guide to becoming one. In this article, you can learn what becoming an air traffic controller entails the steps to take to become one, and everything you may want to know about the field.

What is An Air Traffic Controller?

According to Wikipedia, an Air Traffic Controller otherwise known as ATC is a service provided by ground-based air traffic controllers whose main duties are to direct aircraft on the ground and through a given section of controlled airspace, and can provide advisory services to aircraft in non-controlled airspace.

Primarily, air traffic controllers serve to avert wrecks and clashes. Also, they schedule, manage and expedite the flow of air traffic as well as provide support and relevant information to pilots.

Usually, Air Traffic Controllers play security or defensive roles. They could be operated by the military – this varies across different countries. What remains the same worldwide is the role and responsibilities of the Air Traffic Controller.

Who is an Air Traffic Controller?

Basically, Air Traffic Controllers are professionals with the responsibility of safely directing the movement of the aircraft departing and arriving from airports as well as along central air routes.

They are not only in charge of directing airplanes but also in keeping the people aboard safe. Also, Air Traffic Controllers are in charge of directing the movement or operations of vehicles on the taxiways as well as the runways of the airport.

While directing the efficient movement of aircraft, they maintain and uphold radar contact with the aircraft pilots within fixed areas. They work to provide them with information about the weather conditions as well as about the ascent and descent paths. 

Also, they serve to give instructions and advice to the aircraft pilots.

Usually, Air Traffic Controllers can safely direct multiple planes to their destinations. However, this is not an inborn skill or one that can be gained through other experiences outside the aviation industry.

They gain thorough and rigorous training on learning how to direct the effective movement of one or more aircraft at a time. 

Air Traffic Controllers can work in three locations:

  • A glass room in the control tower at the airport
  • In a radar room in the control tower in an airport
  • In a control center outside the airport

What Does an Air Traffic Controller Do?

This section covers the Air Traffic Controller’s responsibilities.

To reiterate what we have discussed earlier in just a few words, Air Traffic controllers are responsible for authorizing flight path changes.

Also, they are responsible for coordinating the efficient movement of aircraft in order to maintain safe distances between two aircraft in the air. Basically, they are mainly focused on ensuring safety.

Responsibilities of an Air Traffic Controller

The following are the responsibilities of an Air Traffic Controller in detail:

  1. They observe and direct the movement of aircraft on the ground as well as in the air
  2. Regulate all ground traffics at airport runways and taxiways
  3. They issue landing and takeoff instructions to aircraft pilots
  4. They are responsible for transferring the control of departing flights to other traffic control centers.
  5. Accept control of arriving flights as well.
  6. Broadcast weather information, runway closures as well as other relevant information to the aircraft pilots
  7. They alert airport response staff in the occurrence of an aircraft emergency
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Primarily, all the responsibilities of an Air Traffic Controller center around ensuring safety, however, they are also responsible for minimizing flight delays.

They are also responsible for guiding pilots both during take-off and landing and while the aircraft is in the air, Air Traffic Controllers observe the aircraft as it travels through the sky.

They monitor and direct the aircrafts using radar, computers as well as other visual references.

What are the Types of Air Traffic Controllers?

There is no one type of Air Traffic Controller. 

The following are examples of types of air traffic controllers; there are three different types of Air Traffic Controllers:

  • Tower Controllers
  • The Approach and Departure Controllers
  • The Enroute Controllers

Discussing the three different types of air traffic controllers in detail:

Tower Controllers

The tower controller type of air traffic controller is the expert in charge of directing the efficient movement of aircraft and vehicles on taxiways and runways. Most tower controllers work from the control towers in the airport, monitoring the traffic they control.

They are responsible for checking flight plans and giving the aircraft pilots the clearance to take off or land. Also, they are in charge of directing the movement of aircraft as well as other traffic in the other parts of the airport.

The Approach and Departure Controllers

The approach and departure controllers are primarily in charge of informing aircraft pilots about weather conditions as well as giving them other relevant information.

Also, they work to ensure that two aircraft on air traveling within an airport space maintain the appropriate distance for safety. Basically, they work from the Terminal Radar Approach Control Centers (TRACONs).

This type of air traffic controller is also in charge of giving clearance to aircraft pilots to enter controlled airspace and then hand off to the En-route controllers. 

Thy use radar to monitor and survey airspace or flight paths.

The En route Controllers

These controllers specialize in monitoring aircraft immediately they take off from the airport. They efficiently guide airplanes or aircraft along their route as they approach and fly through a center’s air space.

En-route controllers do not necessarily work in airports. Mostly, they work at air route traffic control centers which can be found throughout the US.

Basically, each of these centers is usually designated airspace solely based on the geography and air traffic in the area in which the control center is located.

The Main Objective of an Air Traffic Controller

Generally, en route controllers effectively direct the aircraft for the majority of the flight before they hand control over to the terminal approach controllers.

Regardless of the different types of air traffic controllers, their sole responsibility is to ensure safety. Some air traffic controllers can work at the Air Traffic Control Systems Command Center – which is typically a control room designated for monitoring traffic within the entire national space. 

In the Air Traffic Control Systems Command, air traffic controllers focus on observing and seeking out faults or issues and they do find one, they provide information to the other controllers and then go on to assist them in preventing jams or sad occurrences. 

Basically, the main responsibility of the air traffic controllers working in the Air Traffic Control Systems Command is to ensure that traffic is kept at a minimum level for airports s well as the en route controllers.

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Air Traffic Controler Job Description

Here is an air traffic controller job description:

  1. Create as well as coordinate investigations for missing aircraft.
  2. Examine, modify, and head and control radio equipment and airport lights.
  3. The ability to inspect records and reports for transparency and completeness, as well as to maintain records and reports as mandated under federal law.
  4. Send precautions to airport emergency services in events of emergency as well as when aircraft are experiencing difficulties.
  5. The ability to examine and interpret factors such as weather reports, fuel requirements, as well as maps to determine air routes.
  6.  
  7. Inspect conditions and traffic at distinct altitudes in response to pilots’ requests for altitude changes.
  8. Perform pre-flight briefings on weather conditions, recommended routes, altitudes, signs of turbulence, as well as other flight safety information.
  9. Reach aircraft pilots by radio to deliver meteorological, navigational, as well as other relevant information.
  10. Decide the timing and processes for flight vector modifications.
  11. Control ground traffic; this includes taxiing aircraft, maintenance, and baggage vehicles, as well as airport staff members.
  12. Control aircraft pilots to runways when space is available, and effectively direct them to preserve or uphold a traffic pattern until space is made available for them to land.
  13. Alert aircraft pilots about nearby airplanes. Also, alert pilots of probable dangerous conditions such as weather, visibility issues as well as speed and direction of the wind.
  14. Schedule flight programs and traffic control to prepare for planes about to enter designated airspace.
  15. The ability to provide flight path changes or guidance to emergency landing fields for aircraft pilots flying in emergency situations.
  16. The ability to collect flight information from flight plans, radar, pilot reports, as well as from observations.
  17. Pass relevant information to control centers such as air traffic information, courses, altitudes, as well as expected arrival times.
  18. Communicate control of departing flights to the different traffic control centers as well as receive the control of arriving or landing flights.
  19. The ability to conclude day-to-day activity reports as well as to safely keep messages recorded from aircraft.
  20. Give landing and take-off instructions and clearances.
  21. Sustain radar and telephone contact with adjoining control towers, the terminal control units, as well as every other relevant control area to coordinate effective aircraft movement.
  22. The ability to observe aircraft within precise airspace, utilizing radar, computer equipment, as well as visual references.
  23. Observe, supervise and control the movement of aircraft within a designated air space as well as on the ground at airports in order to prevent delays and ensure safety.
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Air Traffic Controller Job Activities

This section discusses the different air traffic controller job activities.

As a controller at work, you will:

  1. Observe operations, materials, as well as the environment to detect and solve any problems.
  2. Collect information from relevant sources
  3. Recognize objects, actions as well as vents and detect the changes in circumstances.
  4. Examine and interpret data or information.
  5. Brainstorm, make informed decisions as well as provide solutions to problems
  6. Examine equipment materials or structures in order to identify the root causes of errors and other related issues.
  7. Collect, organize and compile information or data
  8. Evaluate the value and characteristics of products, information, events, or resources required to execute a work activity.
  9. Assess information to determine if events go by the standards, laws, and regulations.
  10. Offering help and care to others such as coworkers or customers.
  11. Document information either in both written and electronic or magnetic forms.
  12. Control machines and techniques using physical activity or control mechanisms to operate processes.
  13. Offer guidance and professional advice to the different groups in the industry on technical, systems, or any other related relevant topics.

Air Traffic Controller Skill Requirements

The following are the skill requirements to become an air traffic controller:

  1. Outstanding speaking skills
  2. Listening skills
  3. Writing
  4. Critical and analytical thinking
  5. Coordination
  6. Collaboration skills
  7. Operation and control
  8. Operation monitoring
  9. Observation skills
  10. Fair judgment and decision making skills
  11. Complex problem-solving skills
  12. Maths skill
  13. Concentration skill
  14. Organizational skill

Air Traffic Controller Requirements in the US

The following are the minimum requirements for air traffic control:

Educational Requirements

  1. 3 years of previous work experience
  2. Bachelor’s degree or post-secondary education qualification and work experience can total three years.

Other Requirements

  1. You must be a United States citizen
  2. Have to be age 30 or under
  3. You have to pass a medical examination
  4. Pass a security investigation
  5. Pass a medical test which includes drug screening and as well as background checks.
  6. Also, you have to pass the FAA air traffic pre-employment test which includes a biographical assessment
  7. Pass the Air traffic Controller Specialists Skills Assessment Battery (ATSA)
  8. You must complete a training course at the FAA Academy
  9. Effective English speaking and communication skills
  10. You must be ready to move to an FAA facility based on agency staffing needs

How To Become an Air Traffic Controller

This section discusses how to become an air traffic controller.

In addition to meeting the academic requirements as well as the other requirements mentioned above, to become an air traffic controller, you will obtain a degree through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-approved Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative program.

Additionally, to become a controller, you must pass a physical exam every year as well as a job performance exam twice every year. Also, you must pass periodic drug screening.

Education

If you want to become a controller, you will need a bachelor’s or an associate degree from the AT-CTI program.

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Training

You will get trained at the FFA Academy in Oklahoma, City. Usually, the duration of the training can vary depending on your background. 

After you finish the Academy, you will be assigned to an air traffic control facility as a developmental controller. You will continue to work as one until you have met all the requirements to become a certified air traffic controller.

Usually, you will begin your career as an air traffic controller by providing pilots with essential flight data and airport information. While you progress, you can move up to positions within the control room. Your salary too.

You may need to have gained up to three years of work experience in a related job or a combination of your college education and work experience.

Must-Have to Obtain Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

You must obtain the Air Traffic Control Tower Operator Certificate, if not, then you must be qualified and supervised as articulated in Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part.65.

Air Traffic Controller Work Schedules

Usually, most air traffic controllers work full time while some others work additional hours. 

However, the FFA has regulated that air traffic controllers may not work over 10 hours straight in a shift. Also, it stated that every air traffic controller must have nine hours of rest/sleep before their next work shift.

Typically, air traffic controllers can rotate shifts: day, evening, and night. Also, they work during the weekend as well as holiday shifts

Air Traffic Controller Salary in the US

According to Indeed, the air traffic controller’s average salary is $47,806 a year. 

However, according to Faa.Gov, the air traffic controller is $138,556 in 2021. College 

Another source reported that the median annual air traffic controller salary was $130,420 in May 2020. 

Also, Tar

For clear and precise information on the air traffic controller’s salary, you can visit FAA Aviation Careers Page to read more.

FAQs on Air Traffic Controller Salary in the US

Who is an air traffic controller?

Air Traffic Controllers are professionals with the responsibility of safely directing the movement of the aircraft departing and arriving from airports as well as along central air routes.

What do air traffic controllers do?

1. They observe and direct the movement of aircraft on the ground as well as in the air
2. Regulate all ground traffics at airport runways and taxiways
3. They issue landing and takeoff instructions to aircraft pilots
4. They are responsible for transferring the control of departing flights to other traffic control centers.
5. Accept control of arriving flights as well.
6. Broadcast weather information, runway closures as well as other relevant information to the aircraft pilots
7. They alert airport response staff in the occurrence of an aircraft emergency

What is the air traffic controller’s salary?

However, according to Faa.Gov, the air traffic controller was $138,556 in 2021.

What skills do I need to become an air traffic controller?

The following are the skill requirements to become an air traffic controller:
1. Outstanding speaking skills
2. Listening skills
3. Writing
4. Critical and analytical thinking
5. Coordination
6. Collaboration skills
7. Operation and control
8. Operation monitoring
9. Observation skills
10. Fair judgment and decision making skills
11. Complex problem-solving skills
12. Maths skill
13. Concentration skill
14. Organizational skill

What are the requirements to become an air traffic controller?

1. 3 years of previous work experience
2. Bachelor’s degree or post-secondary education qualification and work experience can total three years.
3. You must be a United States citizen
4. Have to be age 30 or under
5. You have to pass a medical examination
6. Pass a security investigation
7. Pass a medical test which includes drug screening and as well as background checks.
8. Also, you have to pass the FAA air traffic pre-employment test which includes a biographical assessment
9. Pass the Air traffic Controller Specialists Skills Assessment Battery (ATSA)
10. You must complete a training course at the FAA Academy
11. Effective English speaking and communication skills
12. You must be ready to move to an FAA facility based on agency staffing needs

Conclusions

A career in the aviation industry is one of the most fulfilling careers yet and becoming an air traffic controller is among the top career paths in the industry. We hope that this guide has helped you understand who a controller is and what it entails.

We wish you all the best.

Reference

  • https://www.bls.gov/ooh/transportation-and-material-moving/air-traffic-controllers.htm#tab-5
  • https://job-descriptions.careerplanner.com/Air-Traffic-Controllers-4.cfm
  • https://www.indeed.com/hire/job-description/air-traffic-controller?hl=en&co=US

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