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Becoming a Federal Air Traffic Controller

So you have always wanted to be a New York air traffic controller, but you have no idea what type of experience and training you need to have. You know there is a tremendous challenge in this type of position. If you are a problem solver and really enjoy the challenge this could indeed be a good job for you. So what do you need to get this job in New York?

  • Love of Aviation: You have to really have a deep love for aviation, for flying and for the technology of aviation.
  • Take Responsibility seriously: air traffic controllers have a tremendous amount of responsibility. They tell pilots when they can take off and land safely. They tell pilots when there are other aircrafts in their path. They control the highways of the skies making sure all aircrafts are on different paths from one another.
  • Ability to multi-task: This is an essential skill as the air traffic controller has to insure the safety of everyone on every plane or aircraft in their area. They have to be able to respond quickly to multiple situations before the flyers safety is jeopardized.  Their decisions have to be quick, concise, and definite. They could be assisting the take-off of one plane, the landing of another and giving advice to a third all at the same time. If you can’t juggle this kind of responsibility, don’t apply to be an air traffic controller.
  • Communication: Is as critical as multi-tasking. If your decision making must be quick, concise and definite, then your communication to the pilots of your decision must be clear, concise and to the point.
  • Focus: Absolute focus is needed as you have hundreds if not thousands of lives in your hands as you direct these planes. This is the intense and stressful nature of the job that caused the federal air traffic controllers to strike and even lose their jobs in the 1980’s rather than deal with the stress. The situation for air traffic controllers has improved dramatically in the last 35 years, but it is still a life and death job that causes much stress.
  • In addition to directing flights and giving information to pilots, most air traffic controllers also control some ground traffic as well. They control all baggage carts, all ground workers and they are responsible for all communication with both air and ground crews regarding arrivals and departures. They are also responsible for communications in an emergency.


There are certain requirements for air traffic controllers including:

  • Must be a US citizen
  • Must pass a physical including medical and psychological and background checks.
  • Pass the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) pre-employment test
  • Complete the training course at the Federal Aviation Administration Academy.
  • Most applicants are required to have a degree prior to making an application. This degree should come from an AT-CTI school. This is an Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative. A combination of some schooling and professional experience can be accepted as can a candidate without any degree if they have enough experience and the right type of experiences.

The job pays well at $122,500 and so the stress might be worth it. But only if you have a passion for aviation.