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Air traffic control training is offered by the government agencies which supervise air traffic, such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the United States and Eurocontrol in Europe. People who are interested in careers as air traffic controllers can pursue a number of paths to be eligible for training. Once trained, candidates will spend several years working under the supervision of experienced air traffic controllers while they familiarize themselves with the systems and protocols used.
To be eligible for air traffic control training, someone needs to be a citizen of the region where he or she wishes to work. Government agencies also usually have age cutoffs, because they do not want to invest in training older adults; the FAA, for example, requires applicants to be under 31. Air traffic control candidates must also demonstrate the ability to speak and communicate clearly in the language used by air traffic controllers in the region where they plan to work, and they must pass medical and security checks. Some government agencies also expect candidates to take exams to demonstrate that they have the ability to learn once accepted into the air traffic control training program.
People who have prior experience as air traffic controllers because they have worked as civilian air traffic controllers, have prior military service, or have worked for government air traffic control agencies in the past must still take air traffic control training with the government before they are eligible for work. The government training ensures that everyone is familiar with the protocols used by government employees, although the length of the training may be shorter since people with experience do not need to be familiarized with basic information; training requirements vary depending on where one wants to work.
People with no experience are eligible for air traffic control training with the government as long as they have college degrees or at least three years of work experience which demonstrates their ability to deal with complex tasks and increasing levels of responsibility. Inexperienced applicants may find the training program challenging, but it's not impossible. If they are unable to complete the program, they will be dismissed. Failure to progress while working under the supervision of experienced air traffic controllers will also result in a dismissal.
In the United States, a third path is available through the Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative Program. Students in this program receive two or four year aviation degrees from an FAA approved college or university, and are then eligible to apply for air traffic control training. This program is designed to prepare candidates for work as air traffic controllers by familiarizing them with a number of aviation concepts.
The age 31 restriction is due to the fact you must have 25 years in service by the time you reach age 56 (maximum age to work live traffic) in order to retire with pension.
Also, all controllers everywhere in the world must speak english at ICAO level 4 as english is the standard aviation language. The average time to reach journeyman level at the center where I work is 4 years.
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