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Aviation Careers

Air Traffic Control Specialists


Compilation of air traffic audio from pilot assists depicting the critical public safety function provided by air traffic controllers.

Every minute, every hour, every day, there are men and women working to ensure the safety and efficiency of our national airspace system.

This elite group of more than 14,000 FAA air traffic control specialists provide a vital public service to guide pilots, their planes and 2.7 million daily passengers from taxi to takeoff, through the air and back safely on the ground.

Because of the serious nature of this work and zero margin for error, the training regimen and proficiencies needed to become an air traffic control specialist, are demanding. Initial selection does not guarantee placement into federal civilian service. Entry-level applicants must complete required training courses at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City and gain on-the-job experience before becoming certified professional controllers.


Air traffic controllers in San Juan, Puerto Rico, describe their work and the satisfaction of being able to assist in the recovery of the island following recent hurricanes.

Minimum Requirements

  • Be a United States citizen
  • Be age 30 or under (on the closing date of the application period)
  • Pass a medical examination
  • Pass a security investigation
  • Pass the FAA air traffic pre-employment test
  • Speak English clearly enough to be understood over communications equipment
  • Have three years of progressively responsible work experience, or a Bachelor's degree, or a combination of post-secondary education and work experience that totals three years
  • Be willing to relocate to an FAA facility based on agency staffing needs

Two air traffic controller trainees share their perspectives after graduating from the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City.

The FAA offers employment opportunities for individuals with previous air traffic control experience, as well as entry-level trainee air traffic control specialists, through separate job vacancy announcements posted for a limited time throughout the year.

Get answers to your frequently asked questions about air traffic control specialist requirements.

Learn more about the general Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (KSAs) of a successful air traffic control specialist.

Follow a flight across America and its interaction with various FAA air traffic control facilities.


Get a behind the scenes tour of a FAA Tower/TRACON with air traffic controller Anni Luong and learn more about how she uses math on-the-job.

Pay, Benefits, Hours

The median annual wage for air traffic control specialists was $127,805 in 2016. The salaries for entry-level air traffic control specialists increase as they complete each new training phase.

The annual salary for more advanced controllers who have completed on-the-job training varies with the location of the facility, the complexity of the airspace, and other factors.


Air traffic controller Kevin McCants covers the basics about air traffic control and the application of geometry and physics in his work.

As a Federal employee, air traffic control specialists receive a benefits package that rivals, if not surpasses, those offered in the private sector, with a variety of insurance, retirement, leave and flexible spending options for employees and their families. Learn more about benefits.

Most air traffic control specialists work full time, and some work additional hours. Larger air traffic control facilities operate continuously, and employees may rotate among day, evening, and night shifts, along with weekends and holidays. Smaller facilities have more standard dawn to dusk operating hours.

Airway Transportation Systems Specialists

Join The Team

We're currently recruiting for entry-level positions at locations nationwide. Learn more.

The following five specialties encompass the duties of an Airway Transportation Systems Specialist (electronics technician):


illustration of people fixing various equipment

Technicians maintain and repair the following types of equipment: Lighted Navigational Aids Systems, Engine Generators (with or W/O Transfer Switches), Heating Ventilating and Air Conditioning Systems and Power Sources/Power Conditioning Systems.


illustration of people surveying radar

Technicians maintain and repair the following types of equipment: Airport Surveillance Radar, Air Route Surveillance Radar, Air Traffic Control Beacon Indicator, Airport Surface Detection Equipment, Terminal Doppler Weather Radar.

Navigational Aids

illustration of people working on navigational equipment

Technicians maintain and repair the following types of equipment: Instrument Landing Systems, Very High Frequency Omnidirectional Range (VORs), Doppler Very High Frequency Omni Directional Range (DVOR), Tactical Aircraft Control and Navigation (TACAN), and Distance Measuring Equipment (DMEs).


illustration of people working on comminications equipment

Technicians maintain and repair the following types of equipment: Motorola, ITT, or General Dynamics radios, Radio Communications Link Repeater, Low Density Radio Communications Link Repeater, Small Tower Voice Switch, Enhanced Terminal Voice Switch, Rapid Deployment Voice Switch, Digital Voice Recorder System, Digital Audio Legal Recorder.


illustration of people fixing automation equipment

Technicians maintain and repair the following types of equipment: Automated Radar Terminal System, Direct Access Radar Channel, En Route Automation Modernization.

Aviation Safety Inspector (ASI)

FAA Aviation Safety Inspectors are involved in developing, administering, or enforcing regulations and standards concerning civil aviation safety. This includes the airworthiness of aircraft and aircraft systems; the competence of pilots, mechanics, and other airmen; and the safety aspects of aviation facilities, equipment and procedures.

A broad knowledge of the aviation industry (including general principles of aviation safety and the regulations and policies affecting aviation) is applied. In addition, an extensive technical knowledge and skill in the operations, airworthiness (maintenance and avionics), or manufacture of aircraft and aircraft systems is needed.

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Offices and Locations

Our Business

FAA regulates and oversees all aspects of our nation's civil aviation. FAA employees work in a variety of occupations across the nation to provide the safest, most efficient aviation technology and airspace in the world.

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