Air traffic controller Air traffic control officer
Air traffic controllers track and manage planes during take-off, landing and in flight.
1. Entry requirements
You'll need an air traffic control licence from the National Air Traffic Services (NATS). It takes around 3 years to train and you'll complete your training while working.
To become a trainee controller, you must:
- be 18 years old
- have 5 GCSEs (A* to C) including English and maths
- pass a medical examination
- get security clearance
NATS has more information about becoming an air traffic controller.
2. Skills required
- maths and IT skills
- the ability to work calmly under pressure
- communication skills to give instructions to pilots
- the ability to interpret information from different sources to assess situations
3. What you'll do
Your tasks will vary depending on which type of controller you become. There are 3 types:
- area controller – in a regional control centre, tracking and guiding aircraft through your sector
- approach controller – managing aircraft as they approach the airport
- aerodrome controller – in a control tower, helping pilots land and park, and line up for take-off
Air traffic controllers also respond to emergency distress calls, guiding planes to the runway and helping pilots to land safely.
Starter: £17,000 to £21,000
Experienced: £32,500 to £36,000
Highly Experienced: £46,000 to £50,000
Salaries depend on where you work and shift allowances.
These figures are a guide.
5. Working hours, patterns and environment
You'll usually work 40 hours a week on shifts, including days, nights, weekends and public holidays. During a shift you'll usually guide aircraft for up to 2 hours, followed by a half-hour break.
You'll be based in a flight control centre or airport control tower.
6. Career path and progressionWith experience, you could move into training and assessing new controllers, or become a supervisor or unit manager.
You could also move into operations management.
Last updated: 26 September 2016