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All About Air Traffic Controllers

Air Traffic Controller Example Control air traffic on and within vicinity of airport and movement of air traffic between altitude sectors and control centers according to established procedures and policies. Authorize, regulate, and control commercial airline flights according to government or company regulations to expedite and ensure flight safety.

A Day in the Life of an Air Traffic Controller

  • Conduct pre-flight briefings on weather conditions, suggested routes, altitudes, indications of turbulence, or other flight safety information.
  • Direct ground traffic, including taxiing aircraft, maintenance or baggage vehicles, or airport workers.
  • Provide on-the-job training to new air traffic controllers.
  • Direct pilots to runways when space is available or direct them to maintain a traffic pattern until there is space for them to land.
  • Alert airport emergency services in cases of emergency or when aircraft are experiencing difficulties.
  • Determine the timing or procedures for flight vector changes.

Things an Air Traffic Controller Should Know How to Do

When polled, Air Traffic Controllers say the following skills are most frequently used in their jobs:

Active Listening: Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.

Speaking: Talking to others to convey information effectively.

Judgment and Decision Making: Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.

Critical Thinking: Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.

Monitoring: Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.

Complex Problem Solving: Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.

Other Air Traffic Controller Job Titles

  • Tower Air Traffic Control Specialist
  • Ground Control Approach Technician (GCA Technician)
  • Flight Service Specialist
  • Flight Communications Officer
  • Dispatcher

What Kind of Air Traffic Controller Job Opportunities Are There?

In 2016, there was an estimated number of 24,900 jobs in the United States for Air Traffic Controller. New jobs are being produced at a rate of 3.6% which is below the national average. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 900 new jobs for Air Traffic Controller by 2026. The BLS estimates 2,400 yearly job openings in this field.

Forecasted Number of Jobs for Air Traffic Controllers in U.S.

The states with the most job growth for Air Traffic Controller are Nevada, Nebraska, and Louisiana. Watch out if you plan on working in Michigan, Wisconsin, or West Virginia. These states have the worst job growth for this type of profession.

Do Air Traffic Controllers Make A Lot Of Money?

The salary for Air Traffic Controllers ranges between about $68,090 and $178,650 a year.

Salary Ranges for Air Traffic Controllers

Air Traffic Controllers who work in Illinois, Virginia, or New Hampshire, make the highest salaries.

How much do Air Traffic Controllers make in different U.S. states?

State Annual Mean Salary
Alabama $94,370
Alaska $112,260
Arizona $110,370
Arkansas $93,370
California $132,300
Colorado $128,210
Connecticut $88,360
District of Columbia $75,670
Georgia $136,210
Hawaii $110,050
Idaho $94,910
Illinois $136,390
Indiana $122,470
Iowa $82,460
Kansas $122,510
Kentucky $104,890
Louisiana $86,070
Maryland $117,610
Massachusetts $109,430
Michigan $111,830
Minnesota $131,330
Mississippi $84,240
Missouri $101,280
Montana $77,150
Nebraska $92,720
Nevada $119,600
New Hampshire $147,350
New Jersey $118,380
New Mexico $114,890
New York $130,840
North Carolina $109,000
North Dakota $85,760
Ohio $131,180
Oklahoma $109,280
Oregon $95,570
Pennsylvania $115,040
South Carolina $92,070
South Dakota $82,580
Texas $133,260
Utah $118,410
Vermont $81,630
Virginia $139,520
West Virginia $79,710
Wisconsin $100,500

Tools & Technologies Used by Air Traffic Controllers

Although they’re not necessarily needed for all jobs, the following technologies are used by many Air Traffic Controllers:

  • Microsoft Excel
  • Microsoft Word
  • Microsoft Office
  • Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Microsoft Outlook
  • Microsoft Access
  • Adobe Acrobat
  • Enterprise resource planning ERP software
  • SAP software
  • Really Simple Syndication RSS
  • Flight simulation software

How do I Become an Air Traffic Controller?

What education or degrees do I need to become an Air Traffic Controller?

Air Traffic Controller Degree Level

What work experience do I need to become an Air Traffic Controller?

Air Traffic Controller Work Experience

Air Traffic Controllers Sector

Air Traffic Controller Sectors

Below are examples of industries where Air Traffic Controllers work:

Air Traffic Controller Industries


Image Credit: Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol via U.S. Air Force photo

More about our data sources and methodologies.

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