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Air Traffic Controllers

Air Traffic Controllers
Quick Facts : Air Traffic Controllers*
2010 Median Pay$108,040
Entry Level EducationAssociate's degree
Work Experience in Related OccupationNone
Number of Jobs, 201227,000
Job Outlook-3% (Decline moderately)
Employment Change-800

Air traffic controllers coordinate the movement of air traffic to ensure that planes stay safe distances apart. Ground controllers monitor ground movement and issue taxi instructions. They manage the flow of airplanes in and out of the airport, guide pilots during takeoff and landing, and monitor airplanes as they travel through the skies.

What Air Traffic Controllers Do

  • Coordinate the arrival and departure of airplanes
  • Issue landing and takeoff instructions to pilots
  • Monitor and direct the movement of aircraft, using radar equipment
  • Provide weather updates to pilots
  • Alert airport response staff in the event of an aircraft emergency

Work Environment

Air traffic controllers work in control towers, approach control facilities, or route centers. Because total concentration is required at all times, the work can be stressful and exhausting. Night and weekend shifts are common.
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Job Outlook

Employment of air traffic controllers is projected to decline by 3 percent from 2010 to 2020 because the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) already hired many new controllers over the last several years.
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In May 2010, the average salary of air traffic controllers was $108,040.
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Air Traffic Controllers*
Average Annual Salary, May 2010

Air Traffic Controllers


Transportation Occupations


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Air Traffic Controllers*
Percent Change in Employment

Air Traffic Controllers


Transportation Occupations


All Jobs in the U.S.


Becoming a Air Traffic Controllers

To become an air traffic controller, a person must be a U.S. citizen, complete an air traffic management degree from a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certified school, achieve a qualifying score on the FAA pre-employment test, and complete a training course at the FAA Academy.
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