How To Become An Air Traffic Controller

Becoming an ATC

becoming_air_traffic_controllerAs guardians of the sky, an air traffic controller has many duties and responsibilities. If you want to know how to become an air traffic controller, this article will guide you in your goal to become one. Training to become an ATC is not without difficulties more so because the selection process is both strenuous and strict.


1) Earn an ATC degree

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires any applicant to complete an AT-CTI program. AT-CTI stands for Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative. Before enrolling on a particular air traffic control school, you must check if it is FAA-certified. As of the moment, there are at least 15 FAA-certified schools, some of which offer both bachelor and associate degrees. Your ATC degree will be insignificant if the school is uncertified and you won’t be able to apply for any air traffic controller jobs.


2) Pass the AT-SAT

After completing an air traffic control program, you must pass the pre-employment exam administered by the FAA itself. AT-SAT stands for Air Traffic Selection and Training and your score should be 70 at the very least. The passing scores are ranked qualified and well qualified if the scores are between 70.0 and 84.9 and 85.0 and above, respectively. While the FAA may have long-term need for ATCs, not all applicants pass such a test. If you have a previous ATC experience, you need not take the test. Nonetheless, AT-CTI students need to be tested 6 months before they are expected to graduate. Results are posted on AVIATOR, the job application platform of the FAA.


3) Complete an FAA Academy course

Not all applicants may proceed to this step; only the students with passing scores. The FAA Academy trains students for 2 months. This can be very competitive because the spots are highly limited. After graduating, the FAA will assign you to work in an ATC facility. You will be known as a developmental controller since you are working while completing all the certification requirements.

There are actually three paths that you have to look at if you really want to know how to become an air traffic controller. These are having a prior ATC experience, having no prior ATC experience and enrolling on an AT-CTI program which was tackled above.

You need not undergo these processes if you are one of these three types of controllers: 1) a veteran with military ATC experience, 2) a retired military ATC, and 3) a former or current civilian ATC. The FAA values experience hence this will be enough to qualify an experienced applicant provided that he or she has:

  • Exactly 52 consecutive weeks or 13 consecutive months or more of continuous ATC experience,
  • Skills and abilities in performing ATC duties, and
  • Knowledge about ATC regulations, rules and laws.

Regardless of your chosen path though, your age must not be more than 31 years old at the time of application. Air traffic controllers are allowed to work beyond that age, but he or she must already have an ATC experience.

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