Air traffic controller

Air traffic control officer

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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.

Entry requirements

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

More information

Other routes

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.

More information

Career tips

Senior air traffic controllers’ salaries can rise to over £100,000 at larger airports.

Further information

You can find out more about becoming an air traffic controller from National Air Traffic Services.

What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You’ll need:

  • 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:

You should be eligible to work in the UK.

You must be prepared to work anywhere in the UK.

What you’ll do

Day-to-day tasks

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

Working environment

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.

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