Air Traffic Controller Job Description [Updated for 2024]

air traffic controller job description

In the bustling world of aviation, the significance of Air Traffic Controllers has never been greater.

As air travel continues to grow, the demand for skilled professionals who can manage, coordinate, and ensure the safety of our aerial highways escalifies.

But let’s delve deeper: What’s truly expected from an Air Traffic Controller?

Whether you are:

  • A job seeker trying to understand the core responsibilities of this role,
  • A hiring manager defining the ideal candidate,
  • Or simply fascinated by the intricate operations of air traffic control,

You’re at the right place.

Today, we introduce a customizable Air Traffic Controller job description template, crafted for easy posting on job boards or career sites.

Let’s dive right into it.

Air Traffic Controller Duties and Responsibilities

Air Traffic Controllers play a critical role in ensuring safe and efficient air traffic by managing the flow of aircrafts in and out of the airport airspace, guiding pilots during takeoff and landing, and monitoring aircrafts as they travel.

They are tasked with the following duties and responsibilities:

  • Manage the flow of airplanes in and out of the airport airspace
  • Guide pilots during takeoff and landing
  • Monitor and direct the movement of aircraft on the ground and in the air
  • Using radar, computers, or visual references to monitor and direct routes of aircraft
  • Communicate instructions to pilots regarding course corrections for safety and efficiency
  • Provide information to pilots, such as weather updates and critical flight-path changes
  • Coordinate with other controllers to manage aircraft within their designated airspace
  • Resolve potential issues that can arise, like rerouting aircraft due to weather conditions
  • Ensure a safe and orderly flow of traffic
  • Handle emergency situations, provide immediate course of actions for pilots


Air Traffic Controller Job Description Template

Job Brief

We are looking for a skilled Air Traffic Controller to ensure the safe and efficient movement of aircrafts in all weather conditions.

The Air Traffic Controller will manage communication by guiding pilots during takeoff and landing, as well as coordinating air traffic moving in and around airports.

Candidates should possess strong concentration skills, excellent decision-making abilities, and a deep understanding of aviation procedures and regulations.

Ultimately, the role of the Air Traffic Controller is to manage safe takeoffs and landings by ensuring that all flights maintain a safe distance from each other.



  • Coordinate movement of air traffic to ensure that aircrafts stay safe distances apart.
  • Control all ground traffic at airports, including baggage vehicles and airport workers.
  • Alert airport response staff in the event of an aircraft emergency.
  • Communicate with pilots to provide necessary information about weather, visibility and other flight conditions.
  • Manage takeoff and landing of aircrafts by giving directions to pilots.
  • Monitor and direct the movement of aircrafts on the ground and in the air, using radar, computers, or visual references.
  • Keep track of all flights in the air, as well as aircrafts about to land and take off.



  • Proven work experience as an Air Traffic Controller.
  • Knowledge of air traffic control procedures and protocols.
  • Excellent spatial awareness and coordination skills.
  • Ability to work under pressure and make quick decisions.
  • Strong communication skills with the ability to speak clearly.
  • Completion of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) course for Air Traffic Controllers.
  • Medical and background checks.



  • 401(k)
  • Health insurance
  • Dental insurance
  • Retirement plan
  • Paid time off
  • Professional development opportunities


Additional Information

  • Job Title: Air Traffic Controller
  • Work Environment: This job typically requires shift work in control towers, approach control facilities or route centers.
  • Reporting Structure: Reports to the Air Traffic Control Manager.
  • Salary: Salary is based upon candidate experience and qualifications, as well as market and business considerations.
  • Pay Range: $123,033 minimum to $172,590 maximum
  • Location: [City, State] (specify the location or indicate if remote)
  • Employment Type: Full-time
  • Equal Opportunity Statement: We are an equal opportunity employer and value diversity at our company. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status, veteran status, or disability status.
  • Application Instructions: Please submit your resume and a cover letter outlining your qualifications and experience to [email address or application portal].


What Does an Air Traffic Controller Do?

Air Traffic Controllers, often employed by federal aviation authorities or private aviation companies, have the critical task of ensuring the safety and efficiency of air traffic in the skies and at airports.

They manage the movement of aircraft on the ground and in the air, using radar, computers, or visual references to monitor and direct the progress of aircraft.

They are responsible for coordinating aircraft arrivals and departures, ensuring safe distances are maintained between them.

Air Traffic Controllers also give pilots instructions for takeoffs and landings and provide them with essential information such as weather updates, runway closures, or other critical data.

In case of emergencies, they are expected to handle the situation swiftly by rerouting aircraft or coordinating rescue efforts.

They must maintain constant communication with pilots, respond quickly to any changes or requests, and make real-time decisions that could have significant impacts on passenger safety.

Their work requires intense concentration, strong problem-solving abilities, and exceptional communication skills.

Air Traffic Controllers also need to stay updated on new regulations or navigational aids and must always comply with federal aviation safety regulations.


Air Traffic Controller Qualifications and Skills

An Air Traffic Controller must possess a range of technical skills, soft skills and specific qualifications to effectively manage and coordinate air traffic, including:

  • Strong communication skills to effectively interact with pilots, providing them with instructions and information regarding the flying conditions and other relevant data.
  • Excellent problem-solving abilities and decision-making skills to ensure safety and manage unexpected situations like an equipment failure or sudden change in weather conditions.
  • Outstanding observation and attention to detail skills to monitor multiple radar screens, recognize any potential issues, and manage large amounts of data simultaneously.
  • High level of stress tolerance and ability to work under pressure, as the job involves making quick decisions that can impact human lives and expensive equipment.
  • Proficient in understanding and interpreting complex technical data, such as flight plans, weather reports, and navigational information.
  • Excellent spatial awareness to visualize the position of aircrafts in the air with reference to their reported or anticipated positions.
  • Physical fitness and good hearing and vision as required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) or the relevant aviation authority in your country.
  • Completion of an Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative program or equivalent, and passing the FAA-authorized pre-employment test.


Air Traffic Controller Experience Requirements

Air Traffic Controllers typically start their career by attending an Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI) program or by gaining experience through the military.

These programs provide both theoretical and practical experience in air traffic control and aviation.

Upon completing a program, candidates must pass the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Air Traffic Controller Specialist exam to qualify for an initial role in the industry.

This initial experience often includes roles such as an Air Traffic Control Assistant or Trainee.

After gaining a few years of on-the-job experience, typically around 2 to 3 years, Air Traffic Controllers may progress into more specialized roles, such as a Tower Controller or Approach Controller.

Those with 5 or more years of experience may be able to take on leadership roles such as Air Traffic Control Supervisor or Manager, where they manage teams of controllers and oversee daily operations.

In order to progress to senior roles, controllers need to continually update their knowledge and skills, especially in relation to changes in aviation technology and regulations.

Continuous training and professional development are crucial in this highly specialized field.


Air Traffic Controller Education and Training Requirements

To become an Air Traffic Controller, a candidate usually requires an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree from the Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI) program.

These programs are designed to provide the theoretical and practical knowledge necessary for the role, and cover subjects such as aviation weather, airspace, clearances, reading radar data, federal aviation regulations, and related topics.

While not a formal requirement, some individuals may also benefit from a background in subjects such as mathematics, physics, or computer science, which can help with understanding the complex systems used in air traffic control.

After graduation, candidates must also attend the FAA Academy for further practical training and pass an FAA-approved pre-employment test, a medical examination, and a security investigation.

Air Traffic Controllers are also required to be U.S. citizens, fluent in English, and generally must start their training no later than the age of 30.

Certification is also necessary and is provided by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) after the successful completion of the Air Traffic Control Tower Operator Course, or an equivalent course.

Even after being hired, Air Traffic Controllers must continue their education and training to keep up-to-date with new technology and regulations.

Having additional certifications and ongoing training may also demonstrate a candidate’s dedication to their career and their ability to cope with the high-stress nature of the job.


Air Traffic Controller Salary Expectations

An Air Traffic Controller earns an average of $124,540 (USD) per year.

The actual salary may depend on factors such as experience, certifications, the complexity of the airspace they manage, and geographical location.


Air Traffic Controller Job Description FAQs

What skills does an Air Traffic Controller need?

Air Traffic Controllers require excellent communication skills as they need to provide pilots with clear and concise instructions.

They need to have good decision-making skills to make quick decisions in high-pressure situations.

Spatial awareness is also a crucial skill as they need to be able to visualize the positions of different aircrafts in relation to each other.


Do Air Traffic Controllers need a degree?

While not mandatory, having a degree can be beneficial for an Air Traffic Controller.

Many employers require at least an associate’s degree, with preference given to applicants who have a degree in aviation or a related field.

Some countries also require completion of a course from an Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI) program.


What should you look for in an Air Traffic Controller resume?

Look for a valid Air Traffic Control Specialist (ATCS) certificate.

Check their work experience, especially in high-traffic airports.

Good physical and mental health is crucial for this role, as it is a high-pressure job requiring long hours.

Knowledge of aviation laws and regulations, as well as experience in using air traffic control software and equipment, is also a plus.


What qualities make a good Air Traffic Controller?

Good Air Traffic Controllers are calm and composed, even in stressful situations.

They have excellent concentration skills to maintain focus over extended periods and are able to multitask efficiently.

They are good team players, who can work harmoniously with pilots, airport staff, and other controllers.

Additionally, they should have a good understanding of weather patterns, as this can greatly affect flight paths.


How stressful is the job of an Air Traffic Controller?

The job of an Air Traffic Controller is often considered as one of the most stressful jobs due to the high level of responsibility involved in ensuring the safety of numerous flights and passengers.

Controllers need to remain focused and make quick decisions to manage multiple flights simultaneously, which can be mentally demanding.

However, proper training and experience can help manage this stress effectively.



And there we have it.

Today, we’ve soared above the clouds to unveil the true essence of being an air traffic controller.

Surprise, surprise!

It’s not just about guiding aircraft.

It’s about orchestrating the symphony in the sky, one flight at a time.

Armed with our handy air traffic controller job description template and real-world examples, you’re ready to take the flight.

But why descend now?

Ascend further with our job description generator. It’s your next destination for meticulously crafted listings or polishing your resume to perfection.


Every flight guided is a part of the grand aerial ballet.

Let’s conquer the skies. Together.

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