Schools for Aspiring Air Traffic Controllers: How to Choose

Air traffic control programs prepare candidates to effectively coordinate the movement of aircraft to ensure both mid-air safety and the timeliness of arrivals and departures. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) employs most air traffic controllers, so a college program that leads directly to FAA training would be the most useful for the prospective controller.

Aspiring air traffic controllers have multiple ways to become employed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), but those without prior controlling experience may want to enroll in a postsecondary aviation program approved by the FAA's Air Traffic - Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI). These programs offer 2- to 4-year degrees, and graduates are eligible to bypass some of the FAA's mandatory controller training (www.faa.gov).

Schools with Air Traffic Controller Programs

Air traffic controller programs are offered at a number of institutions, including those listed here.

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Undergraduate Tuition (2015-2016)*
Aims Community College Greeley, CO 2-year, Public Associate's In-district $1,835; In-state $2,756; Out-of-state $10,424
Indiana State University Terre Haute, IN 4-year, Public Bachelor's In-state $8,580; Out-of-state $18,708
Kent State University at Kent Kent, OH 4-year, Public Bachelor's In-state $10,012; Out-of-state $18,212
Florida State College at Jacksonville Jacksonville, FL 4-year, Public Certificate, Associate's In-state $2,830; Out-of-state $9,944

Sources: *National Center for Education Statistics (NCES); School websites

School Selection Criteria

There are a number of things to consider when choosing an air traffic control program.

  • The types of programs and curriculum can vary depending on which institution a candidate attends, with some offering air traffic controlling courses as a concentration in a related major and others offering entire majors in air traffic control and management, with advanced courses in aerospace systems, aircraft design and aircraft safety.
  • It may be beneficial for candidates to select a program that offers professional and hands-on experience, either through school-sponsored internships or senior capstone projects, because authentic experience using industry-standard equipment provides a significant hiring advantage.
  • It is important to ensure the program meets the FAA's standards.
  • Some schools may have assistance with interview and resume preparation for graduates seeking employment.

Associate's Degree in Air Traffic Control

An Associate in Science (A.S.) or an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree program in air traffic control or aviation operations takes two years to complete, and general education courses are typically required. The student may also be required to choose an air traffic specialization either in en route or terminal traffic.

Bachelor's Degree in Air Traffic or Aviation Management

Students in bachelor's degree programs gain a technical foundation as well as industry and business knowledge to prepare them for their future careers. Air traffic management internships may be required for degree completion.

A number of colleges and universities offer associate's and bachelor's degrees for those interested in becoming an air traffic controller, and a handful offer certificate programs. Students may prefer programs that include hands-on training, as this will make it easier for them to find work in their field after graduation.


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