Pilots may have a great experience getting paid to travel in the sky, but certainly they also depend on several people on the ground that guide them as they land safe and sound. These people who they trust with the security of their landings, take-offs and runway traffic are the air traffic controllers.
Air traffic controllers have a huge responsibility of ensuring the order of aircrafts on busy runways and in the sky in order to prevent collisions. Aside from that, they also ensure that aircraft will arrive and depart at specific scheduled times.
Most of the air traffic controllers in the United States are employed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This is also an organization that regulates the prerequisites for aspiring air traffic controllers.
How to become an air traffic controller
Becoming an air traffic controller might be demanding, but it is undeniably a rewarding job and opportunities continue to grow. Interested to become one? Then read more to learn basic steps that will show you how to become an air traffic controller.
1 Meet age and citizenship qualifications.
- You must be 30 years old or younger
This has been the age limit of the FAA because of certain studies that indicate that individuals beyond the age of 30 have a slower ability to master the necessary skills in order to become an efficient air traffic controller.
- The FAA no longer trains individuals who are older than 30 years old, especially for those who do not have any past air traffic controller experience.
- If you do have previous experience as an air traffic controller you can attend the academy even if you’re 31 or older, provided that your prior air traffic control experience should have been completed before you reached the age of 31.
- You must be a United States citizen
Positions in the Federal Aviation Service have been restricted to U.S citizens and nationals since 1998.
- You must also be articulate in speaking the English language.
2 Comply with the educational and experience requirements.
In order to enter the FAA academy, you must meet with specific education and experience requirements mandated by the FAA. In order to be eligible for a position as an air traffic controller you must be able to satisfy one of the three following requirements.
- For those who are new to the profession, must have at least 3 years of continuous work experience, must have gone through a four-year college education leading to a bachelor’s degree, or some combination of both college education and work experience. The combination should include at least 1 year of studies, or a total of 30 semester hours, and a total of 9 months work experience.
- Individuals who have prior experiences working as a civilian air traffic controller, retired military controller or veterans with military traffic air traffic experience are also eligible; and
- Completed an Air Traffic-Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI) program accredited by the FAA. This can either be a two year or four year program that will teach you on basic traffic control courses. Must also have secured an official letter or recommendation from the school where you completed the said program.
3 Take and pass a medical examination, drug test and security clearance.
There are several health standards FAA requires in order for you to eligibly join the academy.
- You must have a perfect 20/20 vision in both eyes and must not be colorblind.
- Must have excellent hearing ability.
- You must not have any history of any form of heart disease and neurologic or psychiatric disorders. You must also have normal blood pressure and normal sugar levels. However, individuals who are diagnosed with high-blood pressure and diabetes that require medication may be considered to be under a special review.
- You must also pass a drug test. It will be vital that you must not have any history of abuse or dependence to any form of drugs or substance.
- Aside from the drug test and physical exam, part of the prerequisite is to pass a psychological exam.
4 Pass a security investigation.
You must pass the background investigation that will be conducted by the FAA.
- Part of the investigation will focus on criminal records or felonies. It is a must that you haven’t committed any crime, and drug or alcohol-related offenses.
- Other issues will include falsification of documents, application or examination, debarment issues, offensive termination from employment, illegal possession of explosives and firearms and a lot more.
5 Apply for an open air traffic controller position then pass the interview and written test administered by the FAA.
- In order to take the FAA AT-SAT exam you must apply for any open position and be chosen to take an exam.
- The pre-employment written examination, called as the Air Traffic Selection and Training (AT-SAT), is an 8-hour computer-based exam that will determine your ability to perform the duties and responsibilities of air traffic controllers.
- Obtain a score of at least 70 or better.
6 Attend and graduate from the FAA Academy.
The training for air traffic controller last for 12 weeks. This will include courses in FAA rules and regulations, fundamentals of the aviation system, operation of traffic control equipments, aircraft performance characteristics and other specialized task.
- ATBS or Air Traffic Basics Course is the first 5 weeks of the entire FAA air traffic controller training. This serves as the evaluation and qualification period.
- Completing an AT-CTI program prior to entering the FAA academy will allow you to be exempted from the ATBS. Giving you around 7 weeks to work on the training.
7 Become a certified air traffic controller.
After completing the training at the FAA Academy, you will then be appointed to an air traffic control facility as a “developmental controller” as a part of the on-the-job training portion.
- In order to become certified as an air traffic controller, you must be able to complete both academic and on-the-job training, plus other necessary requirements.
- For individuals who are new to the profession will expect to be certified after 2 to 4 years, depending on your performance, availability of workforce and the facility. While those who had previous air traffic control experience may take less time to become certified.
Once you become certified, you will then be subjected to a performance review twice a year and a physical examination once every year. Once you already find a job, also try to find a way to advance in your career. Continue educating yourself in order to get promoted in much higher positions. Becoming an air traffic controller is definitely a great choice of career especially for those who have the interest to be a successful part of the U.S aviations system.
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