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Career as an Airtraffic Controller

Air traffic controllers?

Air traffic controllers' primary concern is safety, but they also must direct aircraft efficiently to minimize delays. They manage the flow of aircraft into and out of the airport airspace, guide pilots during takeoff and landing, and monitor aircraft as they travel through the skies.

What does an Air Controller do?


Air traffic controllers typically do the following:

  • Issue landing and takeoff instructions to pilots

  • Monitor and direct the movement of aircraft on the ground and in the air, using radar, computers, or visual references

  • Control all ground traffic at airports, including baggage vehicles and airport workers

  • Manage communications by transferring control of departing flights to traffic control centers and accepting control of arriving flights

  • Provide information to pilots, such as weather updates, runway closures, and other critical information

  • Alert airport response staff, in the event of an aircraft emergency

Air traffic controllers’ primary concern is safety, but they also must direct aircraft efficiently to minimize delays. They manage the flow of aircraft into and out of the airport airspace, guide pilots during takeoff and landing, and monitor aircraft, as they travel through the skies.

Controllers usually manage multiple aircraft at the same time and must make quick decisions to ensure the safety of the aircraft. For example, a controller might direct one aircraft on its landing approach, while providing another aircraft with weather information.

The following are examples of types of air traffic controllers:

Tower controllers direct the movement of vehicles on runways and taxiways. They check flight plans, give pilots clearance for takeoff or landing, and direct the movement of aircraft and other traffic on the runways and other parts of the airport. Most work from control towers, as they generally must be able to see the traffic they control.

Approach and departure controllers ensure that aircraft traveling within an airport’s airspace maintain minimum separation for safety. They give clearances to enter controlled airspace and hand off control of aircraft to en route controllers. They use radar equipment to monitor flight paths and work in buildings known as Terminal Radar Approach Control Centers (TRACONs). They also provide information to pilots, such as weather conditions and other critical notices.

Types of Job Roles Air Traffic Controller

Air Traffic Controller is a restrictive career option as the air traffic controller job profiles are restricted to the aviation sector. Listed below are some of the popular air traffic controller job profiles:

Air Traffic Controller: They are responsible for monitoring and directing the movement of the aircraft on the ground/ air by making use of radar, computers and visual references. They also control all ground traffic at airports.

Approach and Departure Controller: Their job is to give clearance to enter controlled airspace and hand off control of aircraft to en route controllers. They use radar equipment to monitor flight paths and they also provide pilots with information regarding weather and other critical notices.

Tower Controller: They direct the movement of vehicles on runway, taxiways, check flight plans and also clearance to the pilots during takeoff or landing.

Knowledge areas that need to be required.


Transportation - Knowledge of principles and methods for moving people or goods by air, rail, sea, or road, including the relative costs and benefits.

English Language - Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.

Public Safety and Security - Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.

Education and Training - Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.

Customer and Personal Service - Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.

Geography - Knowledge of principles and methods for describing the features of land, sea, and air masses, including their physical characteristics, locations, interrelationships, and distribution of plant, animal, and human life.

Telecommunications - Knowledge of transmission, broadcasting, switching, control, and operation of telecommunications systems.

Mathematics - Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.

Computers and Electronics - Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.

Law and Government - Knowledge of laws, legal codes, court procedures, precedents, government regulations, executive orders, agency rules, and the democratic political process.

Psychology - Knowledge of human behavior and performance; individual differences in ability, personality, and interests; learning and motivation; psychological research methods; and the assessment and treatment of behavioral and affective disorders.


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.

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

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

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.

Coordination - Adjusting actions in relation to others' actions.

Active Learning - Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.

Reading Comprehension - Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.

Time Management - Managing one's own time and the time of others.

Social Perceptiveness - Being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do.


Communication skills. Air traffic controllers must be able to give clear, concise instructions, listen carefully to pilot’s requests, and respond by speaking clearly.

Concentration skills. Controllers must be able to concentrate in a room where multiple conversations occur at once. For example, in a large airport tower, several controllers may be speaking with several pilots at the same time.

Decision-making skills. Controllers must make quick decisions. For example, when a pilot requests a change of altitude or heading to avoid poor weather, the controller must respond quickly, so that the plane can operate safely.

Math skills. Controllers must be able to do arithmetic accurately and quickly. They often need to compute speed, time, and distance problems, and recommend heading and altitude changes.

Organizational skills. Controllers must be able to coordinate the actions of multiple flights. Controllers need to be able to prioritize tasks, as they may be required to guide several pilots at the same time.

Problem-solving skills. Controllers must be able to understand complex situations, such as the impact of changing weather patterns on a plane’s flight path. Controllers must be able to review important information and provide pilots with an appropriate solution.


The FAA sets guidelines for schools to offer specific programs called the Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative, or the AT-CTI program. AT-CTI schools offer 2- or 4-year degrees that are designed to prepare students for a career in air traffic control. The curriculum is not standardized, but courses focus on subjects that are fundamental to aviation. Topics include aviation weather, airspace, clearances, reading maps, federal regulations, and other related topics.

Candidates who have a recommendation letter from their AT-CTI school are eligible to take the AT-SAT. Students typically take the exam before graduation but must have met their school’s specific requirements to get their recommendation. Once they pass the exam, they are able to apply for air traffic controller vacancies through special vacancy announcements specifically for AT-CTI graduates. Applicants who pass the test and accept a job offer are then eligible to enroll in an intensive training course at the FAA Academy.

Air traffic controllers may also apply for positions through vacancy announcements made to the general public, when available. These vacancy announcements allow the public, with no special experience or education, to apply to become air traffic controllers. These applicants generally must have completed a 4-year degree, have equivalent progressive work experience, or have some combination of the two. Applicants from the general public should try to educate themselves along the lines of the AT-CTI and AT-SAT standards, to improve their chances of passing the exam.

Job Outlook

Salary: Average Base Pay : ₹ 69,736/mo.

Employment of air traffic controllers is projected to show little or no change from 2012 to 2022. Most employment opportunities will result from the need to replace workers who retire.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not, and does not expect to reduce the overall number of controllers, although total air traffic has fallen since 2000. Even though air traffic is expected to increase, employment growth will not keep pace, because the FAA already has enough personnel capacity. In addition, federal budget constraints should limit the hiring of new controllers. In the long term, the NextGen satellite-based system is expected to allow individual controllers to handle more air traffic.

Frequent asked questions?

Q) How can I become an Air traffic controller?

Aspirants who are planning to become air traffic controller must have a bachelor’s degree (B.Sc. in Science) with physics and mathematics as mandatory subjects or B. Tech/B.E. degree in any field can apply for the post of Junior Executive Controller (ATC). The minimum pass percentage to apply for ATC is 60%

For UG Courses:

  • Candidate must have a B.Sc. in Science or B. Tech/B.E. degree with a minimum aggregate of 60%. However, the minimum aggregate rules vary from category to category.

  • Candidates have to appear in the written test, voice test and medical test.

  • The age criteria for general category candidates is 27 years whereas for reserved category candidates it is 32 years and for OBC candidates it is 30 years to apply for the ATC.

For PG Courses:

  • Candidate must have a bachelor's degree in the respective field.

  • Must have some professional experience in the aviation management industry.

Q) What are the pros and cons of Air Traffic Controller?

Pros of becoming an Air Traffic Controller

  • The career of an air traffic controller is highly rewarding and a certified controller enjoys a lot of perks.

  • It offers one with great job satisfaction as you get challenging situations which help you utilize your problem-solving skills.

  • The job of an air traffic controller provides you with an interesting environment to work in which is not offered by a lot of professions and it is very enjoyable.

Cons of becoming an Air Traffic Controller

  • The profession is very demanding in terms of shift which can be very stressful at times.

  • You tend to miss social events and festivals due to shifts.

  • The job holds a lot of pressure as you responsible for other people’s lives, therefore it requires you to be alert and vigilant all the time.

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