Air Traffic Control Specialists are responsible for safely and efficiently directing air traffic through United States airspace. Air Traffic Controllers are trained to control air traffic with proper separation between aircraft as they fly between airports. There are different levels of Air Traffic Control Specialists, with some positions requiring more responsibility and duties than others. Also, some airports are busier than others, and that directly affects the pace and number of duties required of the Air Traffic Control Specialists.
The job of an Air Traffic Control Specialist is one of the most stressful occupations in the country. They are largely responsible for maintaining the safety of passengers, crew, and aircraft and of people and structures on the ground by directing the speed and direction of multiple aircraft simultaneously. There is currently a shortage of air traffic controllers, which contributes to higher stress levels.
Air Traffic Control Specialists must be adept at handling extreme stress and be able to make quick and correct decisions at a moment’s notice with the knowledge that each decision can be life threatening to many people. Excellent verbal and written communication skills are necessary. A medical examination and psychological screening test must be passed as a condition of employment.
Applicants must be United States citizens. A minimum of 52 consecutive weeks of air traffic control experience in a civilian or military air traffic control facility is necessary. A candidate must have a track record that demonstrates a thorough understanding of FAA rules and regulations, aircraft separation, and control of aircraft under stressful conditions. Anyone over the age of 30 is automatically disqualified for any entry-level Air Traffic Control Specialist positions. Applicants must pass a security clearance as a condition of employment.
An intensive training course will be provided, and applicants are required to pass it as a condition of employment. For each advancement in position as a controller, additional training is required.
Controllers with less seniority may be required to work irregular hours, nights, weekends, or holidays.
Air Traffic Controller Salary and Benefits
Temporary or new hires in training will earn annual and sick leave, but will not be eligible to benefits that permanent employees have, including life and health insurance, retirement plans, or Thrift Savings Plan eligibility. Upon successful completion of training, controllers will be entitled to full benefits.