Upon graduating in the FAA Academy-required air traffic controller training, you will be assigned to a facility. You will now be known as a developmental controller and will be known as such upon the completion of all requirements towards an air traffic controller (ATC) certification and thus become a full pledged ATC. It takes about 2 up to 4 years for a developmental controller to complete the training. It might take less time if you have a previous ATC experience.
Basically, if offered, no one will refuse to work as an ATC. Being an ATC is definitely an awesome job as you get to control a flight in a tower or control center with the use of only the most state-of-the-art radio and radar communication equipments. Here’s a look at the career advancement of an air traffic control specialist.
You will begin your career through supplying basic airport information and flight data to the pilots. You will be working in the control center most of the time. Once you master all the responsibilities in a particular position, you may advance to another higher position although this usually comes with advancement in training. Definitely, your air traffic controller salary will also increase.
You cannot jump from being an en route controller to becoming an area controller easily unless you will also train on becoming an area controller or other air traffic controller specialty. You may only transfer from one location to another especially when you have all the necessary experience, but not necessarily to another controller job. For instance, you may move to a bigger, busier airport. Of course, you may always advance to the managerial or supervisory positions if the opportunity allows.
There is an evident limited progression when it comes to the chosen ATC specialty. Nevertheless, you may undergo specialty training if you really want to switch role. However, you have to be financially prepared.
According to the National Air Traffic Services (NATS) which is the primary air navigation provider in the UK, about 80% of all operational controllers it employed remained on their respective operational roles. These controllers are given an option to progress into the center manager or group supervisor position where they are able to manage other air traffic controllers.
Depending on the air traffic controller training also, an air traffic control specialist may be able to progress in one of the available training roles. For example, you may work in a training assessment unit to assess new applicants or in the control center as a mentor to new recruits. You may also choose to teach in one of the air traffic control schools that offer an ATC course or program after completing some education units.
Throughout your training, there will be periodic practical exercises and performance reviews. If you fail in any of these, you will be dismissed. Nonetheless, some trainees are allowed to apply for other airport-related jobs. In this way, your previous air traffic controller requirements, trainings and experiences will not become worthless.
You may consider learning a new language spoken in a country that you wish to work after dismissal though this will not be a guarantee that you can still work as an air traffic control specialist. English is the universal language of controllers; it’ll only become more helpful if you know other languages as this can widen your employment prospects.