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How to become an Air Traffic Controller

Air Traffic Controller
avg. starting salary

Believe that the sky’s the limit? You should become an Air Traffic Controller… Air Traffic Controllers use advanced radar systems and sophisticated communication equipment to help pilots take off and land planes safely, also making sure arrivals and departures are on schedule. By co-ordinating all air traffic effectively, they are able to ensure planes are always at a safe distance apart from each other. They work from control towers, approach control facilities, or en-route centres, depending on the particular air traffic control specialism they’re involved in. These could include, area control, approach, and aerodrome control. Typical duties for an Air Traffic Controller include:
  • Giving airline pilots take-off and landing instructions
  • Tracking and monitoring the movement of aircrafts
  • Arranging aircrafts into the best order of landing
  • Ensuring all ground traffic is under control
  • Keeping pilots up to date with important news updates (weather, runway closures etc.)
  • Effectively managing communications throughout all areas of traffic control

An ability to communicate effectively, work as part of a team, and exhibit a high level of concentration are all essential to becoming a successful Air Traffic Controller. If you’re easily distracted, this role probably isn’t for you. As a large portion of the job is based around quick decisions, you’ll need to be able to think fast in unforeseen circumstances, and have the ability to alter the schedule last-minute to ensure the plane remains safe. You’ll also need to be able to calculate speed, time, and distance accurately, meaning advanced skills in maths are vital. An Air Traffic Controller will also need to be:
  • A great problem solver
  • Able to stay calm under pressure
  • Skilled at using technology
  • Spatially aware
  • Able to work flexibly
  • Physically dexterous


Junior Air Traffic Controller

Up to £12,000

Air Traffic Controller

Up to £50,000

Senior Air Traffic Controller

Up to £100,000

"When I was little, my favourite part of going on holiday was always being at the airport and watching the planes go by. Somehow, I was lucky enough to turn it into a career, and after a total of three years of training, I’m now a fully qualified Air Traffic Controller. The working hours are varied, and the job can be full-on at times (especially if the weather is against you), but I really enjoy it. You even get in on a fair bit of jokes when you’re chatting with some of the pilots, which definitely makes the time go quicker. All in all, it’s safe to say the job definitely keeps me busy, and it’s a great way to combine my love of maths and technology. And, you know, planes."

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