Air Traffic Controller

Quick Facts: Air Traffic Controllers
2012 Median Pay $122,530 per year
$58.91 per hour
Entry-Level Education Associate’s degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Long-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2012 25,000
Job Outlook, 2012-22 1% (Little or no change)
Employment Change, 2012-22 400

What Air Traffic Controllers Do

Air traffic controllers coordinate the movement of air traffic to ensure that aircraft stay safe distances apart.

Work Environment

Air traffic controllers work in control towers, approach control facilities, or route centers. Their work can be stressful because total concentration is required at all times. Night, weekend, and rotating shifts are common.

How to Become an Air Traffic Controller

To become an air traffic controller, a person must be a U.S. citizen, pass medical and background checks, achieve a qualifying score on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) pre-employment test, and complete a training course at the FAA Academy.


The median annual wage for air traffic controllers was $122,530 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

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 or leave the occupation. Job opportunities will be best for applicants with an air traffic management degree from an FAA-certified school or have an air traffic control background.