What does an Air Traffic Controller do?

Air traffic controllers have a high level of responsibility related to maintaining the safety of flights at a particular airport. They ensure orderly and efficient operations and air traffic flow to help prevent delays or the need for flights diversions. They must have extensive familiarity with air traffic rules, regulations, and applicable laws, as well as standard traffic control procedures and emergency protocols.

Air traffic controllers who have graduated from a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI) program are generally preferred, but some employers will also consider applicants with a bachelor’s degree or several years of related professional experience This is a high-stress occupation that requires the ability to make quick decisions under pressure. These professionals also must pass rigorous background checks and meet other security protocol, including periodic or random drug screenings.

What responsibilities are common for Air Traffic Controller jobs?
  • Provide ATC technical analysis and support for new NAS requirements and technologies.
  • Ensure concurrent distribution of changes and revisions affecting flight manuals, associated checklists and any associated manuals.
  • Coordinate all MDS-specific non-nuclear weapons manual (-34 series) changes to ensure standardization of all weapons issues.
  • Support the FAA in discussions, meetings, and briefings with internal and external agencies and organizations.
  • Coordinate with the TO manager for flight manual publication contract, funding, numbering, printing, distribution, and indexing.
  • Maintain permanent records of all approved waivers and deviations to flight manual publication TO specifications for the life cycle of the MDS.
  • Postpone minor corrections or updates to flight manual publication not affecting operations or safety until a major change or revision.
  • If using an interactive electronic technical manual corrections and updates should be made when they are identified.
  • Submit flight manual publications and updates for publishing and distribution.
  • Issue an updated supplement concurrently with a change or revision when the change or revision contains part of that existing supplement.
  • Responsible for analyze, develop, reviewing, and coordinating new NAS requirements/technologies.
  • Effectively work with the team to develop, evaluate, and analyze safety metrics.
  • Prepare drafts of operational concepts, mission need statements, requirements documents, etc. to support the review, development, and implementation of new/revised systems/equipment to be used by operational controllers.
  • Develop charts, briefing packages, graphs, presentation materials and white papers as needed.
What are the typical qualifications for Air Traffic Controller jobs?
  • Certification and training in air traffic control.
  • A professional and critical thinker at all times.
  • Is comfortable leading and problem solving with composure and a positive attitude.
  • Experience with applicable software and systems.
  • Can communicate with a wide variety of colleagues while multitasking and paying strict attention to details.
  • Is skilled at queue management techniques.
  • Has an eye for continuous improvement.
Work/Life Balance
3.2 ★
Total Pay--
Career Opportunity
3.6 ★
Avg. Experience8+ years

How much does an Air Traffic Controller make?

$78,290 /yr
Total Pay

Base Pay


Additional Pay


 / yr
Most Likely Range
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Air Traffic Controller Career Path

Learn how to become an Air Traffic Controller, what skills and education you need to succeed, and what level of pay to expect at each step on your career path.

Average Years of Experience

0 - 1
2 - 4
5 - 7
Not including years spent in education and/or training
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Air Traffic Controller Insights

Read what Air Traffic Controller professionals have to say about their job experiences and view top companies for this career.
Trifecta TransportTrifecta Transport
LTL Traffic Specialist
Apr 8, 2022

“One of the best factors that is keeping me and my inspiration to go to work is the management.”

US Air ForceUS Air Force
Air Traffic Controller
Oct 4, 2021

“ALOT of extra things to do outside of work if you want to get promotions.”

Iran Airports & Air Navigation
Air Traffic Controller Supervisor
Oct 4, 2020

“However I am the ATC supervisor but I have no options to do my job as regulation says.”

Air Traffic Control Specialist
Jul 16, 2021

“Excellent pay and schedule.”

NAV CanadaNAV Canada
Air Traffic Controller Trainee
Sep 29, 2020

“Uncertainty during training based on economic factors within the industry”

IAP Worldwide ServicesIAP Worldwide Services
Air Traffic Controller
Nov 5, 2021

“Consistent salary but HR was not that helpful when you had issues”

Air Traffic Control Specialist
Dec 21, 2020

“Tough work life balance for a career”

Air Traffic Control Specialist
Dec 21, 2020

“Good compensation for a career”

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Air Traffic Controller Interviews

Frequently asked questions about the roles and responsibilities of an Air Traffic Controller

The most similar professions to Air Traffic Controller are:
  • Program Manager
  • Traffic Coordinator
  • Project Manager
  • Technical Program Manager

Related Careers

Program Manager
No skills overlap
Traffic Coordinator
No skills overlap
Project Manager
No skills overlap
Technical Program Manager
No skills overlap

Air Traffic Controller Jobs