Air traffic controllers ensure the safety of aircrafts by monitoring and directing air traffic. They organize the flow of the airport’s arrivals and departures, regulate airport traffic, regulate flights between airports, and advice pilots of potentially dangerous weather changes. They also authorize, regulate, and control commercial airline flights according to government or company regulations. Other specific job tasks include inspecting, adjusting, and controlling radio equipment and airport lights, conducting pre-flight briefings on weather conditions, determining the timing and procedures for flight vector changes, and compiling information about flights.
Aspiring air traffic controllers need to have a good knowledge of transportation principles and methods, telecommunications systems, principles and laws of physics, mathematical applications, computers and electronics hardware and software, and systems operations. They must also be proficient in speaking, coordination, critical thinking, active listening, writing, decision making, and monitoring.
In terms of academic background, air traffic controllers must finish first an education program approved by the FAA. They must also complete a test that tests their ability to learn air traffic control duties. Applicants must also have 4 years of college, 3 years of full-time work experience, or both and have successfully completed an FAA-approved program. School recommendation is a definite advantage.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, air traffic controllers earned an average annual rate of $107,780 in 2007. Those who work for the Federal Executive Branch including the FAA received slightly higher earnings, at $112,670. Among other states, air traffic controllers in Illinois earned the highest annual salary at $126,740.