Air Traffic Controller Promotion Opportunities

Sep 04, 2019

Air traffic controllers are an important part of safety and scheduling for the nation's air travel services. With training and proven experience, air traffic controllers can move up through the career's professional ranks.

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Air Traffic Controller Career Advancement

With the use of computer systems, radar, and visual cues, air traffic controllers monitor and direct aircraft within their designated airspace. They are essential to ensuring safety and preventing delays for the nation's air traffic. Upon completion of the necessary education and training, air traffic controllers start their career with basic responsibilities. After several years of strong performance and continued training, an air traffic controller can move up to higher grades, eventually reaching the ranks of professional controllers, supervisors, and possibly FAA Academy instructor. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the salaries for air traffic controllers will increase upon completion of additional training levels.

Job Title Median Annual Salary (2018)* Job Growth (2016-26)* Qualifications
Radar Controller $124,540 (all air traffic controllers) 3% (all air traffic controllers) 3-6 years of air traffic controller experience
Arrival Controller $124,540 (all air traffic controllers) 3% (all air traffic controllers) Airport ATC training; 3-6 years of air traffic controller experience
Air Traffic Control Supervisor $124,540 (all air traffic controllers) 3% (all air traffic controllers) Several years of air traffic controller experience; proven leadership
FAA Academy Instructor $53,120 (vocational education teachers, postsecondary) -3% (vocational education teachers, postsecondary) Several years of proven air traffic controller experience

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information

Radar Controller

Rookie air traffic controllers who begin their career in an air route traffic control center can, with time and training, advance into the role of radar controller. Radar controllers use radar equipment to monitor the control center's designated air space and guide pilots along their route, adjusting flight paths as needed for safety. Employment can be found across the country at air route traffic control centers, or with the national Air Traffic Control Systems Command Center. Air traffic controllers employed at the Command Center aid in monitoring air traffic across the nation's airspace. Advancement through the air traffic controller ranks can take anywhere from 3-6 years of work experience.

Arrival Controller

With a little more academy training, an air traffic controller can move from an air route traffic control center to a position in an airport environment. Once in an airport air traffic control (ATC) center, an air traffic controller can move up through the ranks of responsibilities with additional time and training to become an arrival controller. An ATC arrival controller is responsible for the safe, orderly arrival of aircraft at the airport. Using radar equipment and radio contact with pilots, they assist in the approach of aircraft into airport airspace. They can also be responsible for communicating vital information to pilots, such as weather conditions. Three to six years of air traffic controller experience and training in the various roles within an airport ATC environment are required for this position.

Air Traffic Control Supervisor

Air traffic controllers may move through the ranks to become an air traffic control supervisor. Air traffic control supervisors are responsible for all services and programs within the ATC facility. They also manage, train, and guide their ATC team, mitigating conflicts when necessary. An air traffic control supervisor will most likely have several years of air traffic controller experience, as well as experience in leadership, an ability to build strong work relationships, and a proven record of work-related results.

FAA Academy Instructor

A select few experienced air traffic control professionals may be chosen to teach at the FAA Academy. The FAA Academy, located in Oklahoma City, OK, is the main training facility for newly hired air traffic controllers. Seasoned professionals who have proven to be capable in their various ATC roles and have also shown an aptitude for teaching and guiding coworkers may find themselves with the opportunity to teach the upcoming generation. Employment at the FAA Academy is often by appointment.

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