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Career Profile: Air Traffic Controllers

Control air traffic on and within vicinity of airport, and movement of air traffic between altitude sectors and control centers, according to established procedures and policies. Authorize, regulate, and control commercial airline flights according to government or company regulations to expedite and ensure flight safety.

Salary and Outlook

According to the US Department of Labor, there are 24,500 people employed as air traffic controllers in the United States. The median annual salary is $130,400. Entry level employees earn approximately $72,760 per year and senior employees earn approximately $184,780 per year.

Estimates do not include other potential benefits such as health insurance, overtime pay, or retirement benefits that may be offered by employers.

Job Duties

  • Monitor or direct the movement of aircraft within an assigned air space or on the ground at airports to minimize delays and maximize safety.
  • Direct pilots to runways when space is available or direct them to maintain a traffic pattern until there is space for them to land.
  • Monitor aircraft within a specific airspace, using radar, computer equipment, or visual references.
  • Direct ground traffic, including taxiing aircraft, maintenance or baggage vehicles, or airport workers.
  • Contact pilots by radio to provide meteorological, navigational, or other information.
  • Maintain radio or telephone contact with adjacent control towers, terminal control units, or other area control centers to coordinate aircraft movement.
  • Determine the timing or procedures for flight vector changes.
  • Initiate or coordinate searches for missing aircraft.
  • Provide on-the-job training to new air traffic controllers.
  • Check conditions and traffic at different altitudes in response to pilots' requests for altitude changes.
  • Relay air traffic information, such as courses, altitudes, or expected arrival times, to control centers.
  • Inspect, adjust, or control radio equipment or airport lights.
  • Compile information about flights from flight plans, pilot reports, radar, or observations.
  • Organize flight plans or traffic management plans to prepare for planes about to enter assigned airspace.
  • Review records or reports for clarity and completeness and maintain records or reports, as required under federal law.
  • Complete daily activity reports and keep records of messages from aircraft.
  • Conduct pre-flight briefings on weather conditions, suggested routes, altitudes, indications of turbulence, or other flight safety information.
  • Analyze factors such as weather reports, fuel requirements, or maps to determine air routes.
  • Inform pilots about nearby planes or potentially hazardous conditions, such as weather, speed and direction of wind, or visibility problems.
  • Issue landing and take-off authorizations or instructions.
  • Transfer control of departing flights to traffic control centers and accept control of arriving flights.
  • Provide flight path changes or directions to emergency landing fields for pilots traveling in bad weather or in emergency situations.
  • Alert airport emergency services in cases of emergency or when aircraft are experiencing difficulties.

Career List

Job Outlook


Total Current Jobs:
24,500
Annual Openings:
2,500
Increase in Openings by 2030:
4%
Annual Salary Range:
$72,760 - $184,780
Education Requirements:
Associate's degree