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.
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Pay, Benefits, Hours
The median annual wage for air traffic control specialists is $138,556 in 2021. 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.
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.
I have the greatest job in the world, and there is absolutely nothing else in the world I would rather be doing.
— Jeffrey Vincent, Vice President of Air Traffic Services
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.
Being an air traffic controller is not only important, but it's also an interesting and dynamic career.
— Teri L. Bristol, Chief Operating Officer, Air Traffic Services
- 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
Get answers to your frequently asked questions about air traffic control specialist requirements.
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.
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