How To Become An Air Traffic Controller (With FAQ And Salary)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 23 November 2022 | Published 13 December 2021

Updated 23 November 2022

Published 13 December 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Air traffic controllers are back-end professionals who are responsible for the safe navigation of aircraft. The challenging nature of the job and the responsibilities often make it an interesting career choice for many. If you would like to become an air traffic controller, learning about the career path to follow can help you take the right steps. In this article, we discuss how to become an air traffic controller, understand their roles and responsibilities, explore the skills needed, discover the average salary and answer some of the most commonly asked questions for air traffic controllers.

How To Become An Air Traffic Controller

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to become an air traffic controller:

1. Get qualified

Pursuing science in 10+2 is the primary requirement for becoming an air traffic controller. After its completion, you can pursue an engineering degree in electronics, telecommunication, electrical or radio engineering. Some students may even complete a bachelor's degree in physics or mathematics and then pursue their MTech. Completing these degrees with a minimum of 65% is usually important to be eligible for becoming an air traffic controller. Having a minimum of 60% in English is also a requirement to qualify for the further steps to becoming an air traffic controller.

2. Pass the entrance exam

The next step is to clear the air traffic controller (ATC) entrance exam held by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) every year. This exam comprises two parts and is divided into six sections. The first part comprises questions related to reasoning, English language and comprehension, aptitude and general awareness. The second part tests your grasp of mathematics and physics. Along with a degree in science, the other eligibility criteria for the AAI ATC exam is an age limit of 27 years.

3. Clear the preliminary tests

Once you clear the written test, the next steps that follow are a voice test, a personal interview and medical tests. The voice test checks your fluency in English, your pronunciation and clarity of speech. This is one of the most important steps as it tests your ability to give clear commands in English, which is a crucial aspect of being an ATC.

In the personal interview, the interviewer can test your understanding of the aviation sector and an air traffic controller's roles and responsibilities. Then, through a medical examination, the authorities may test your fitness levels and eyesight to check if you are physically fit for the challenges of an air traffic controller's job. All these tests test your ability to perform the job of an air traffic controller efficiently.

4. Undergo training

After the entrance test and the preliminary tests, the next step is to undergo a year-long training. This training may take place at training centres in Allahabad, Hyderabad and Gondia. During the training, you may learn about air traffic control equipment, air laws and all the other technical skills that are essential to do your job properly as an ATC.

5. Gain experience

After successfully gaining all the qualifications and completing the training, you may become a qualified junior executive air traffic controller. The next step can be to look for suitable job openings and gain experience. You can look for job openings on the official website of AAI or on job portals like Indeed.

Related: 9 Types Of Aviation Jobs (With Salaries And Job Duties)

Roles And Responsibilities Of An Air Traffic Controller

The roles and responsibilities of an air traffic controller may include:

  • Monitoring and directing the movement of aircraft

  • Ensuring safe take-off and landing by guiding pilots

  • Managing the flow of traffic in the air, on runways and on taxiways

  • Keeping pilots informed about the weather, air traffic and status of the runway

  • Instructing pilots about route changes, if any

  • Responding promptly to emergencies and unforeseen situations

  • Coordinating with ground controllers once an aircraft has landed

Skills Required To Be An Air Traffic Controller

Some skills that can help you perform well as an air traffic controller are:

Communication

Communication is one of the most important skills for an air traffic controller as pilots generally rely on the information they convey. Communicating the message in precise words and short sentences is very important, as these messages are often time bound. Good communication skills can ensure that the pilots, controllers, emergency response teams and also the air traffic controller's team understand the message they want to convey without going into a lot of detail. Since English is a global language, being able to speak fluently in English is an important aspect of being able to communicate well.

Related: How To Improve Communication Skills

Spatial awareness

Air traffic controllers usually ensure that there is sufficient distance between planes to prevent collisions between them. This can require air traffic controllers to have spatial awareness so that they understand the position of aircraft and can respond to any changes in the position. While there are several exercises that can help improve spatial awareness, recreational activities like photography and solving puzzles can be as effective.

Problem-solving and decision making

Air traffic controllers may come across problematic situations frequently. Even though they follow standard operating procedures when they encounter a problem, some circumstances may be unforeseen and require air traffic controllers to act promptly. Visual problem-solving skills and quick decision making can help an air traffic controller prevent a potentially dangerous situation by acting on time.

Related: Problem-Solving Skills: Definitions And Examples

Teamwork

An air traffic controller requires frequent communication with their team, airport authorities, airlines, air traffic control units and pilots. All these departments typically work together as a team to ensure the safe takeoff and landing of flights. Being able to work in teams can make it easy to coordinate with the various departments with minimum conflicts.

Multitasking

An air traffic controller may manage multiple important activities at one time. They may coordinate with pilots, keep track of the weather conditions on multiple routes, monitor multiple aircraft movements on the ground and in the air, clear traffic on the runways and much more. Being able to multi-task can help them manage different tasks simultaneously without getting overwhelmed.

Average Salary Of An Air Traffic Controller

The average salary of an air traffic controller is ₹35,000 per month. Your salary can vary depending on the organisation that you work for, the location of the airport, years of experience, skills and the type of air traffic controller you are. There are different types of air traffic controllers such as:

  • Town controller

  • Area controller

  • Approach and depart controller

  • En-route controller

FAQ About Being An Air Traffic Controller

Here are some commonly asked questions related to air traffic controller jobs:

Is air traffic controller a challenging job?

Compared to other jobs in the aviation industry, being an air traffic controller can be a stressful job. People who like challenges might find this profession very interesting. There may often be situations that require air traffic controllers to think and act spontaneously. There may be emergencies, bad weather conditions, heavy air traffic and other situations, but air traffic controllers are trained to handle them during their mandatory training.

Is air traffic controller a good career choice?

Becoming an air traffic controller can be an excellent career choice for professionals who like to work in teams, enjoy challenging situations and are good at multi-tasking. Even though the nature of the job may be stressful, there can be great job satisfaction too. The average salary of air traffic controllers is usually higher than many other professions in the aviation industry. There can also be a huge scope for air traffic controllers, as there are many job openings posted on job portals and government websites.

Are air traffic controllers government employees?

Depending on the organisation that air traffic controllers work for, they may or may not be government employees. If the Airports Authority of India employs an air traffic controller, they are considered a government employee. But if private sector companies employ them, they are considered a private sector employee.

Do air traffic controllers work long hours?

The nature of the job may require air traffic controllers to be present 24 hours a day and seven days a week monitoring and directing flights. Based on the guidelines from the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) the maximum working hours of air traffic controllers can be 32-40 hours each week. Depending on the available workforce and requirements of the airport, rosters are created and each air traffic controller gets assigned a shift. While regular shifts may last up to 10 hours, longer shifts that include a lot of scheduled breaks can last between 10-12 hours.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are associated with Indeed.


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