11 October, 2023 | Posted by Jenny Smith

How to become an air traffic controller | Study Airline, Airport and Aviation Management at Portobello

Air traffic controllers are the unsung heroes of the skies, orchestrating the safe movement of aeroplanes in the air and on the ground at airports. This high-responsibility role requires precision, calm under pressure, and a specialised skill set.

Behind every seamless journey that cuts through the vast skies is a symphony of precision, expertise, and decision-making. It's an intricate ballet, not just up in the air, but also on the ground, as professionals work tirelessly to guide countless flights safely to their destinations.

At the centre of this coordinated dance is the air traffic controller. Tasked with orchestrating the movement of aircraft, they stand as guardians of the skies, ensuring that every takeoff, transit, and touchdown happens without a hitch.

If the idea of such a pivotal role, one that marries technology with tenacity, appeals to you, then a career as an air traffic controller might just be your runway to a rewarding profession.

1. Understand the Role:
Air traffic controllers work in control towers, approach control facilities, or route centres. Their primary job is to ensure safe takeoffs, landings, and in-flight navigation. They communicate with pilots, relay important information, and make quick decisions to manage flight patterns.

2. Meet Basic Requirements:
In most countries, before you embark on this career, you'll need to:

  • Be a citizen of the country of employment.
  • Be below a certain age when beginning training (typically mid to late twenties).
  • Hold a school diploma or equivalent, though some employers may prefer a bachelor’s degree.
  • Have no criminal record.

3. Undergo Rigorous Training:
The heart of becoming an air traffic controller lies in specialised training. This often includes:

  • An initial training phase with aviation authorities or an accredited institution.
  • An on-the-job training phase at an air traffic control facility. Training covers areas like airspace classification, reading radar and weather screens, and mastering the unique language of aviation.

4. Pass Necessary Examinations:
Prospective air traffic controllers must pass a series of examinations. These tests assess skills such as problem-solving, attention to detail, and the ability to think quickly under pressure.

5. Medical and Background Checks:
Given the high stakes of the job, air traffic controllers need to be in good health and sound mind. Regular medical examinations ensure controllers are fit for the role. Additionally, background checks ensure the safety and security of the aviation industry.

6. Gain Experience and Continuous Learning:
The world of aviation is dynamic. As you gather experience, you'll also need to stay updated with the latest technologies, regulations, and best practices in the field.

7. Consider Further Specialisations:
With experience, air traffic controllers can choose to specialise. Whether it's focusing on big international airports, smaller regional ones, or even military bases, the sky's the limit!

Becoming an air traffic controller is no small feat. It demands dedication, precision, and a genuine passion for aviation. However, the rewards, both in terms of remuneration and the sheer thrill of the job, are well worth the effort. If you're ready to take to the skies (from the ground), the path to becoming an air traffic controller awaits you. Safe journeys ahead!

Get in Contact With Our Aviation Department

If you are interested in any of our Aviation Management degrees or courses, you can check out our department page. 

View our BSc in Aviation Management or learn more about the MSc in Aviation Management.

If you are interested in choosing the course for the career you want, you can book a consultation call with our expert Travel & Tourism advisor Brandon McLean here, email brandon.mclean@portobelloinstitute.com or call 01 892 0035.

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