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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

4%
Future employment

There will be 4% more Air traffic controller jobs in 2024.
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 can get into this job through:

  • an apprenticeship
  • a trainee scheme

Apprenticeship

You could do an air traffic controller higher apprenticeship.

You'll usually need:

  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent qualifications, for a higher or a degree apprenticeship

Other routes

You can apply for a place as a trainee with National Air Traffic Services.

You'll need a minimum of 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) or equivalent qualifications, including English and maths.

You'll be expected to relocate to Fareham in Hampshire while training. Once you qualify, you could work anywhere in the UK.

Initial training takes up to 1 year and further training may continue while working.

You may also be considered for training if you have relevant aviation experience as a military air traffic controller, or military or commercial pilot.

Restrictions and requirements

You'll need to:

You should be eligible to work in the UK.

You must be prepared to work anywhere in the UK.

£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.

You can find out more about becoming an air traffic controller from National Air Traffic Services.

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You'll need:

  • concentration skills
  • knowledge of transport methods, costs and benefits
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • thinking and reasoning skills
  • complex problem-solving skills
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • to be flexible and open to change
  • the ability to use your judgement and make decisions
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages confidently
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