Approach and departure controllers: Salary, career path, job outlook, education and more

Approach and departure controllers ensure that aircraft traveling within an airport’s airspace maintain minimum separation for safety. They give clearances to enter controlled airspace and hand off control of aircraft to en route controllers. Approach and departure controllers use radar equipment to monitor flight paths and work in buildings known as Terminal Radar Approach Control Centers (TRACONs). They also inform pilots about weather conditions and other critical notices. Terminal approach controllers assist the aircraft until it reaches the edge of the facility’s airspace, usually about 20 to 50 miles from the airport and up to about 17,000 feet in the air.

Education Required
Candidates who want to become air traffic controllers typically need an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree from an AT-CTI program. Other candidates must have 3 years of progressively responsible work experience, have completed 4 years of college, or have a combination of both.
Training Required
Most newly hired air traffic controllers are trained at the FAA Academy, located in Oklahoma City, OK. The length of training varies with the applicant’s background. Applicants must be hired by their 31st birthday.
Job Outlook
The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026: 3% (Slower than average)
(The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.)
Licenses/Certifications
All air traffic controllers must hold an Air Traffic Control Tower Operator Certificate or be appropriately qualified and supervised as stated in Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 65. They must be at least 18 years old, fluent in English, and comply with all knowledge and skill requirements.
Median pay: How much do Air Traffic Controllers make?
$122,410 Annual Salary
$58.85 per hour

Careers for Air Traffic Controllers

  • Air traffic control operators
  • Air traffic control specialists
  • Air traffic coordinators
  • Airport tower controllers
  • Approach controllers
  • Control tower operators
  • Controllers, air traffic
  • Departure controllers
  • En route controllers
  • En route controllers, air traffic
  • Terminal controllers, air traffic
  • Tower controllers
  • Tower controllers, air traffic

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