Air Traffic Controller in the U.S.

air-traffic-controller-usOne of the highest paying jobs in the United States (US) is being an air traffic controller (ATC). In fact, Forbes ranks ATC as the best paying job in the US today wherein an ATC can earn up to $108,040 air traffic controller salary yearly. The top 3 highest paying markets are Chicago ($145,050), Boston ($144,020) and Cleveland ($141,830).

The question now is how to become an air traffic controller. The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) maintains that while being an ATC is a lucrative job, becoming one is not easy. There are three paths to becoming an ATC.

1st Path: Having prior ATC experience

The FAA hires individuals who are experienced ATCs. These individuals may have already worked as an air traffic controller in the military or other private companies. Nonetheless, the experienced ATC must have a comprehensive knowledge on all laws and rules relating to air traffic control and at least 52 weeks of working as a controller which is enough time to determine that the ATC has the necessary knowledge, skills and abilities in performing his or her duties. Veterans and retired military are mostly welcome to become an ATC.

2nd Path: Having no prior ATC experience

The FAA welcomes the interested individuals to train to become an ATC at different times throughout the year. However, there are specific air traffic controller requirements that must be met including:

  • Be a US citizen
  • Be 30 years old or below
  • English language proficient
  • Have 3 years of progressive work experience OR
  • Have 4 years course that lead to completing a bachelor’s degree
  • Passed the pre-employment testing
  • Completed the interview
  • Passed the medical exam
  • Passed the security check

3rd Path: Enrolling the AT-CTI

The FAA partners with different academic institutions in conducting Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI) program. Such a program primarily aims at training students to fill ATC positions in the future, but AT-CTI graduates can only apply to job postings entitled air traffic control specialist. Before you may be eligible to undergo an air traffic controller training, you must also meet the requirements noted above in addition to having official recommendation from the school.

Graduates of this program need not complete the basic courses which basically refer to a 5-week qualification training at FAA’s Oklahoma academy. All the students are required to complete the trainings at the academy, so that they may continue to work for FAA. Depending on your chosen specialization, the basic terminal course is 37 days and the basic en route course is 62 days.

Further, the FAA tracks the status of all the students enrolled in the program. The FAA has a program inventory in tracking applicant eligibility and graduation dates among others. The tracker also monitors the status of school recommendations and schedule of pre-employment tests.

Even after 3 years of graduating, you may still be included in the inventory until you are assigned to a post. However, you need to apply to extend your stay every year within 60 days after your eligibility period expires. This is FAA’s way of ensuring that all students will land a job after completing all the necessary requirements and air traffic controller training.


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