Air traffic controller Air traffic control officer
Air traffic controllers give information and advice to airline pilots to help them take off and land safely and on time.
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'll need:
- to be 18 years old
- 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) or equivalent, including English and maths
- a medical examination
- 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 progression
With experience, you could move into training and assessing new controllers, or become a supervisor or unit manager.
You could also move into operations management.
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Last updated: 18 August 2017