Air Traffic Controller Courses and Training Programs
An air traffic controller program can teach you how to manage an airport's aviation traffic and assist ground crews in preparing planes to take off and land. Read further to learn more about these programs and your career options.
What You Need to Know
Air traffic controllers help regulate the flow of air traffic in the air and on the ground. Multiple colleges across the U.S. offer degrees in this field. Students learn about air safety, air carrier operations, and aviation weather. Once students are offered a job they must continue their education through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
|Degrees||Associate's and bachelor's degrees|
|Classes||Aviation management, aviation history, radar applications, airline infrastructure|
|Certification||All students must be certified by passing Air Traffic Training and Selection test before working|
What Are an Air Traffic Controller's Job Duties?
An air traffic controller gathers and reports weather information to pilots and ground crews. As a controller, you also record an airport's hourly plane traffic, guide ground crews when assisting planes in and out of gates, and clear aircraft for takeoff and landings. They mainly work in airport towers and are employed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
What Training Programs Are Available?
You can earn a certificate, associate's degree or bachelor's degree from an AT-CTI or non-CTI program. Potential certificates are available in air traffic control, flight management, aviation management or aviation operations. These programs typically require a year of study.
Associate degrees are available in aviation management, air traffic control and aviation operations. Bachelor's degree programs are four years and degree titles include air traffic management, aviation management and aviation technology. Current FAA certification may be required.
What Topics Would I Study?
If you have an associate's or bachelor's degree, you may be eligible for a school's fast-track certificate program, which usually takes less than a year to complete. Fast-track programs are available online, but general certificate programs are usually not. These topics may be covered in a certificate program:
- Air safety
- Air transportation systems
- Air traffic control applications
- Air carrier operations
- Aviation weather
What About Courses in a Degree Program?
In an associate's degree program, you'll take lab classes that supplement lectures and allow you to practice learned techniques. You also complete internships at local airports, and programs are only offered on-campus. Bachelor's degree programs teach advanced topics, and you will practice air traffic techniques in simulation labs and onsite internships. Here are some of the courses you'll be taking in your degree program:
- Aviation history and development
- Air traffic control regulations and procedures
- Aviation technology
- Radar applications
- Basic navigation
- Propulsion systems
- Airport management
- Airline infrastructure
- Aviation law
- Air traffic management
What Further Training Will I Need?
The FAA requires all air traffic controllers who accept an employment offer to complete a training program. Regardless of whether you graduated from an AT-CTI program, you must pass the Air Traffic Training and Selection test (AT-SAT) to be eligible for training. At the training academy in Oklahoma, you are tested on the theories of air traffic control and complete several simulated exercises.
What Certifications Are Available?
As of 2018, the FAA has Air Traffic College Training Initiative (AT-CTI) agreements with about 30 schools throughout the U.S. that were taking new students. These agreements indicate that the FAA has approved the program's curriculum, and graduates of AT-CTI programs receive priority for open positions. U.S. citizens who will be younger than 31 when they apply for a job with the FAA and pass a class II medical certification examination performed by an aviation medical examiner can attend AT-CTI programs.
Non-CTI programs consist of the same coursework as AT-CTI programs, but graduates may not receive priority when applying for jobs. Graduates of these programs must apply for air traffic controller positions through general vacancy announcements.