It is so common to overlook many behind the scenes professions. Air traffic controllers are no different. They work diligently to ensure that our skies are safe and that our loved ones land safely. One might wonder how much do air traffic controllers make to compensate for this very important task. It can be assured that an air traffic controller salary is much more than adequate.
Air Traffic Controller Salary
What is the salary for air traffic controllers? These intrepid individuals make an average of $118,780 annually. This means that they make about $57 an hour. Even the bottom 10% can make a sizeable sum of up to $67,070 while top ten percent salaries are over at least $172,000.
The highest paid industry is the Federal Executive Branch with an average salary of $122,490. Other high paying industries include Support Activities for Air Transportation and Scheduled Air Transportation. Average salaries vary from state to state. Highest paying states include New Hampshire at $140,650, Illinois, Virginia, Georgia, and Minnesota at $130,690. This is likely due to the poor weather conditions in those areas.
Air Traffic Controller Job Description
Air traffic controllers have many different duties and most must be done nearly simultaneously. They are responsible for giving landing and takeoff instructions to pilots. They monitor and direct movement or traffic both on the ground and in the air by using tools like radar and computers. They must also use visual references. They control baggage vehicles, airport workers and all ground traffic.
Air traffic controllers are responsible for managing all communications and must transfer departing flights to other controllers and accept arriving flights. They also communicate to pilots information such as weather conditions, closures on the runway, etc. They must also be able to alert the appropriate people when there is an aircraft emergency.
While air traffic controllers mainly focus on safety, they also try to efficiently minimize delays and prevent air traffic jams. There are three main types of air traffic controller: tower controllers, approach/departure controllers, and en route controllers. Tower controllers oversee the runway directly and they give pilots clearance to take off. Approach/departure controllers can give clearances and will also accept control from or hand control over to en route controllers. En route controllers communicate with aircraft throughout their entire flight. En route stations are located throughout the country.
A majority of all air traffic controllers work for the Federal Aviation Administration or FAA. Most of them work in semi-dark rooms so that they are able to see the radar accurately. They must work rapidly and efficiently with complete concentration which can cause mental stress. Because of this stress, air traffic controllers can retire after 20 year at age 50 but are required to retire at age 56.
Most air traffic controllers work full time with some additional hours. It is common to rotate shifts of day, evening, and night because many airports require round the clock monitoring. Many have to work on weekends and holidays as well. Ones who work at less busy or part time airports have more normal work schedules.
How to Become an Air Traffic Controller
To be an air traffic controller with FAA, they must be a U.S. citizen and pass extensive medical and background checks. they must also pass the FAA pre-employment test which is an 8 hour computerized exam called the Air Traffic Standardized Aptitude Test or AT-SAT, and participate in a training course at the FAA academy.
To be considered for the exam, they must have 2-4 years of schooling with an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree from schools with the Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative or AT-CTI. After passing the exam, they can apply to jobs from a listing of vacancies specifically for graduates of the program. If chosen for the job, they begin their training course with the FAA which takes about 2-5 months. They are then assigned as developmental controllers and have on the job training for about 2-4 years. As they advance positions, their salary increases.
Sometimes vacancies open up for the public but it is still selective. Only those with relevant work experience are eligible to take the exam without schooling. Relevant experience includes work as a commercial pilot, navigator, or flight dispatcher.
Skills needed by all applicants because of the high profile nature of the job are communication, concentration, decision-making, mathematics, organization, and problem-solving. Air traffic controllers employed by the FAA are subject to annual physical exams and random drug screening. To be employed by the FAA without prior experience in the field, an applicant must start the process before the age of 31.
It is anticipated that there will be little to no change in the amount of job opportunities in the next ten years for this career. Most of the opportunities will arise because employees will have to retire. The FAA has stated that they do not expect to reduce the number of air traffic controllers even though air traffic has lessened in recent years. Although traffic is expected to increase in the next ten years, they already have the manpower in place to deal with it.
This is due in part by federal budget restraints and the fact that NextGen satellites will enable individuals to handle more traffic. Only 400 more jobs are anticipated in the next ten years so it will be incredibly strong competition. An applicant would have a better chance if they were willing to work anywhere in the country.
Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanics and Technicians are responsible for repairing and performing scheduled maintenance for aircrafts. They can also perform inspections. To work for the FAA, they must have gone to an approved Aviation Maintenance Technician School and most are required to have at least an Associate’s degree. They make $55,230 a year on average.
Airline and Commercial Pilots fly and navigate airplanes, helicopters and other aircraft. Airline pilots follow a schedule to carry passengers or deliver cargo. Commercial pilots are generally used for charter flights, rescue missions, firefighting and other things. They must attend an FAA certified Flight School and earn a Bachelor’s degree. The average yearly salary is $98,410.