Air traffic controller

Air traffic controllers give information and advice to airline pilots to help them take off and land safely and on time.

Annual Salary

£17,000 to £50,000

Average UK salary in 2018 was £29,588 (source Office for Statistics)

Working hours

37 to 40

Future employment

There will be 5% more Air traffic controller jobs in 2023.
In your local area

What's it all about?

Your tasks will vary depending on which type of controller you become. There are 3 types:

  • area controller – in a regional control centre, tracking and guiding aircraft through your sector
  • approach controller – managing aircraft as they approach the airport
  • aerodrome controller – in a control tower, helping pilots land and park, and line up for take-off

Air traffic controllers also respond to emergency distress calls, guiding planes to the runway and helping pilots to land safely.

You'll need an air traffic control licence from the National Air Traffic Services (NATS). It takes around 3 years to train and you'll complete your training while working.

To become a trainee controller, you'll need:

  • to be 18 years old
  • 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) or equivalent, including English and maths
  • a medical examination
  • security clearance

NATS has more information about becoming an air traffic controller.

£17,000 to £50,000

Starter salary: £17,000 to £21,000

Experienced salary: £32,500 to £36,000

Salaries depend on where you work and shift allowances.

These figures are a guide.

37 to 40

You'll usually work 40 hours a week on shifts, including days, nights, weekends and public holidays. During a shift you'll usually guide aircraft for up to 2 hours, followed by a half-hour break.

You'll be based in a flight control centre or airport control tower.

With experience, you could move into training and assessing new controllers, or become a supervisor or unit manager.

You could also move into operations management.

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You'll need:

  • maths and IT skills
  • the ability to work calmly under pressure
  • communication skills to give instructions to pilots
  • the ability to interpret information from different sources to assess situations
My top 5 skills from the skills bank
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