Air Traffic Controller

Oversee take-offs, schedule flight paths, and direct planes to safety.

Quick Stats


Salary Range
$54,000 – $166,000

Data from U.S. Department of Labor


What do Air Traffic Controllers do?

Air Traffic Controllers are responsible for ensuring the safety of thousands of lives, managing multiple flight patterns, and guiding landings and takeoffs—all at once. Their most important job is to make sure the planes have ample space around them during takeoff and landing, and when they’re in the air, as long as they’re within your range of control. Air Traffic Controllers may work at a normal civilian airport, at a military base, or on a barge for the air force.

If you’re an Air Traffic Controller, you work in a team, tracking planes with radar and your own vision. Taking into account the weather and the planes themselves (their size and speed, for example), you direct the Pilots to and from the runways. Your employer prizes you for your keen and watchful eyes and your ability to multitask and work well under pressure.

You have one of the highest-paying careers that don’t require a degree. And you can pick a specialization, too: takeoffs, landings, flight patterns, particular tower watches—it’s up to you. Whatever you think will keep you interested (and awake) during your long shifts in the watch towers.

There’s a catch though: Applicants without any air traffic control experience can’t be over 30 years old—so jump on this career path early!


Should I be an Air Traffic Controller?

You should have a certificate degree or higher and share these traits:
  • Trustworthy: You are known for your personal integrity and honesty.
  • Detail Oriented: You pay close attention to all the little details.
  • Team Player: You're able to listen, communicate, and work with tons of different people.

  • Also known as: Airport-Control Operator, Airport Tower Controller, Airport Traffic Controller, Air Traffic Control Operator See More

    How to become an Air Traffic Controller

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