Air traffic control officer
Air traffic controllers give information and advice to airline pilots to help them take off and land safely and on time.
Salary range: £17,000 to £50,000
How to become an air traffic controller
You can get into this job through:
- an apprenticeship
- a trainee scheme
You could do an air traffic controller higher apprenticeship.
You’ll usually need:
- 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent, for a higher or degree apprenticeship
You can apply for a place as a trainee with National Air Traffic Services.
You’ll need a minimum of 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) or equivalent qualifications, including English and maths.
You’ll be expected to relocate to Fareham in Hampshire while training. Once you qualify, you could work anywhere in the UK.
Initial training takes up to 1 year and further training may continue while working.
You may also be considered for training if you have relevant aviation experience as a military air traffic controller, or military or commercial pilot.
Senior air traffic controllers’ salaries can rise to over £100,000 at larger airports.
You can find out more about becoming an air traffic controller from National Air Traffic Services.
What it takes
Skills and knowledge
- concentration skills
- knowledge of transport methods, costs and benefits
- excellent verbal communication skills
- thinking and reasoning skills
- complex problem-solving skills
- to be thorough and pay attention to detail
- to be flexible and open to change
- the ability to use your judgement and make decisions
- to be able to use a computer and the main software packages confidently
Restrictions and requirements
You’ll need to:
- pass security checks
- pass a medical check
- be over 18 years of age
You should be eligible to work in the UK.
You must be prepared to work anywhere in the UK.
What you’ll do
Your tasks will vary depending on which type of controller you become. There are 3 types:
- area controllers – track and guide aircraft flying at higher altitudes through a sector and are based at a regional control centre
- approach controllers – manage aircraft as they approach the airport and issue instructions to planes that have just taken off
- aerodrome controllers – work in a control tower, giving clearance to land and take off, and guide pilots to the correct taxi positions on stands and runways
You could work in an airport control tower.
Career path and progression
With experience, you could move into training and assessing new controllers, or become a supervisor or unit manager.
You could also move into operations management.