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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

Now Hiring - Airway Transportation Systems Specialists - Take Charge

Technical Operations video

Watch the exciting career opportunities available to FAA Technicians.

Job Description

Airway Transportation Systems Specialist (Electronics Systems Technician) perform in the capacity of highly specialized electronics technicians. The primary duties of an ATSS are linked to maintaining the safe and efficient operating capacity of the vast and complex network of electronics systems required for the world's largest air traffic control and navigation system.

Certified Safe video

Watch how FAA Technicians Certify the Safety of the National Airspace System

ATSS personnel install, evaluate, maintain, modify and certify facilities, systems, services and equipment that support the National Airspace System (NAS). They are also responsible for various auxiliary duties that contribute to providing reliable and safe FAA services to the flying public. This involves working with surveillance radar, weather, communications, automation, and navigational aid equipment as well as various environmental support facilities and equipment.

This work also includes periodic maintenance, modification, troubleshooting, repair and replacement of malfunctioning equipment, and certification. ATSSs may be required to maintain entire facilities, subsystems, or individual services or equipment that assist in the safe and expedient movement of air traffic throughout the NAS.

Note: The job duties listed are typical examples of work performed by ATSSs, however, not all duties assigned to every ATSS are included, nor it is expected that all ATSSs will be assigned every duty.

The following five specialties encompass the duties of an ATSS electronic equipment/systems technician:


ATSSs assigned to work with systems in the environmental specialty may be required to install, maintain, modify and certify facilities, services and equipment. This includes, but is not limited to: lighted navigational aids systems, engine generators (with or w/o transfer switches), heating ventilating and air conditioning systems and power sources/power conditioning systems. They are also expected to possess knowledge of the national electric code (NEC) and additional responsibilities in the communication, automation, navigational aids, or radar fields may also be required.


ATSSs assigned to work within the radar specialty are associated with the installation, maintenance, modification and certification of surveillance and RADAR systems and services such as: Airport Surveillance Radar, Air Route Surveillance Radar, Air Traffic Control Beacon Indicator, Airport Surface Detection Equipment, Terminal Doppler Weather Radar, etc. Additional responsibilities in the communication, environmental, navigational aids, or automation fields may also be required.

Navigational Aids

ATSSs assigned to work with systems in the navigational aids specialty may be required to install, inspect/evaluate, repair, maintain, modify, and certify various navigational aid related systems and services. These are included, but not limited to: 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), etc. Additional responsibilities in the environmental, communication, radar or automation fields may also be required.


ATSSs assigned to work with systems in the communications specialty are associated with the installation, maintenance, modification and certification of communications systems and services such as: 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, etc. Additional responsibilities in the environmental, navigational aids, radar or automation fields may also be required.


ATSSs assigned to work with systems in the automation specialty are associated with the installation, maintenance, modification and certification of automation-related systems and services such as: Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System, Automated Radar Terminal System, Direct Access Radar Channel, En Route Automation Modernization, etc. Additional responsibilities in the communication, environmental, navigational aids, or radar fields may also be required.

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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