What Can I Expect from Life as an Air Traffic Controller?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 01 April 2020
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Life as an air traffic controller can be a fairly stressful one, but it can also be quite rewarding. The salary for this position tends to be quite high, but so does the stress level: air traffic controllers are responsible for the safe departure and arrival of aircraft at airports, as well as for maintaining safe distances between aircraft within a given region or airspace. Your life as an air traffic controller will require highly specialized skills and plenty of education, and you may be required to work very long hours.

If you intend to start a life as an air traffic controller in the military, you will be bound by military rules and regulations as well as many civilian air rules and regulations. Working in the military is quite different than working in a civilian position, and you may be required to travel to various parts of the world in order to complete your job. One of the advantages of becoming a military air traffic controller is the training you will receive: as a civilian, you will be required to pay for your own training and education, but in the military, you will receive much of this training free of charge.


Before you can start your life as an air traffic controller, you will need to meet specific criteria outlined by various governing agencies; in the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulates air traffic controllers. It is a good idea to research the various qualifications you will need to have before you can become an air traffic controller, as the training can be rigorous, as can be the qualifications you will need. It is likely you will spend several years as an air traffic controller trainee who works under the guidance and supervision of a more experienced controller.

Working overnight shifts can be quite difficult, so you will need to prepare yourself for life as an air traffic controller by altering your schedule. Sleeping during the day and working at night can be very hard on the body and mind, and the transition can take some time. It is vital that you stay awake and aware at all times while you are on shift to give pilots instructions and monitor flight patterns of various aircraft coming into an airport. The safety of all personnel and passengers will rest on your shoulders, which can elevate the stress level of this position.


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