What are the Different Air Traffic Control Jobs?

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  • Written By: Carol Francois
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 11 November 2019
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The process of managing the take off and landing of airplanes requires the coordination of several different air traffic control jobs. Although there are a series of different tasks involved in this position, air traffic control jobs can be grouped into four main categories: monitoring, communication, timing, and prioritizing. The skills required to be an air traffic controller include attention to detail, mental focus, and the ability to work under pressure.

A one-year air traffic controller program is available from a wide range of community and career colleges. In addition to this formal post-secondary training, all airports have their own training program and examinations. The role of traffic coordinator is central to the safe air travel at all airports, large and small. In addition to the initial training, most airports provide specific courses in new software, conflict management, communication, and procedures. Continual training is very important in this career, as the technology is changing at a rapid pace.

Monitoring of aircraft as they enter the airspace around an airport is one of the most important air traffic control jobs. Through a combination of radio communication, computer technology, and airplane detection equipment, the air traffic controller can track all the aircraft and their locations relative to each other, the ground, and the airport. Spacial awareness, understanding of airplane dimensions, and basic physics are all helpful in this career.


Communication is an essential component of being an air traffic controller. The ability to communicate quickly and effectively with a range of pilots, co-pilots, and other air traffic controllers is central to this role. During training, there are a series of mock communication drills used to provide the skills required in this role. Sending the wrong information or failing to include essential information in a verbal communication to a pilot can have fatal consequences.

Coordinating the take off, taxiing, and landing timing for all the planes on a set of runways is one of the many important air traffic control jobs that are required in this position. A solid understanding of the time required to complete these steps for different plane models and sizes allows the controller to maximize the usage of the runway and minimize waiting times. In an emergency situation, it is up to the air traffic controller to prioritize the air traffic to minimize the risk to passenger safety. Although this may seem straightforward, there are often conflicting priorities and demands from pilots. The final decision is the responsibility of the air traffic controller, who must be able to justify his decision and communicate this clearly to the pilots and other controllers.


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