What Is the Best Degree for an Air Traffic Controller?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 04 December 2019
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The best degree for an air traffic controller depends a great deal upon the type of background and experience he or she may already have. Someone who has previous experience in this field, such as a person coming out of the military, likely needs very little additional training or education. A person entering this field without experience, however, should look for a program in aviation or air traffic management, which can offer either a two or four-year degree. Schools that provide a degree for an air traffic controller are often affiliated with a particular agency, such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the US.

There are a few different paths by which someone can become an air traffic controller, and they do not all require a degree. The process can depend upon the country in which someone wishes to work, though previous experience and education are both quite important in most areas. In the US, for example, someone who has professionally worked in air traffic control before looking for a position does not need a college degree. This includes someone with military experience, who gained training and worked in air traffic control prior to looking for civilian employment in this field.


People who do not have professional experience, however, may need to have a college degree to enter this field. The best degree for an air traffic controller is often one that focuses on aviation or on air traffic management, depending on the name of the program a school offers. Some colleges provide a two-year program, which culminates in an associate's degree, while other universities offer a program that awards students with a bachelor's degree after four years of study.

In some countries, such as the US, a government organization may be responsible for overseeing the employment of air traffic controllers. The Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, in the US is responsible for testing future controllers. Different schools partner with the FAA to establish a degree for an air traffic controller.

Some colleges in the US with this type of program are part of the Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative (ATCTI). A school that is partnered with the FAA can offer an ATCTI degree for an air traffic controller that may be required to enter this field. National Air Traffic Services (NATS) in the UK, on the other hand, employs and trains air traffic controllers, providing a rigorous program for certifying students.

A combination of both education and professional experience may be required in some countries, such as the US. Completion of a degree for an air traffic controller, however, can reduce the previous experience required. Anyone considering this career should also be sure to meet other standards, such as health and security tests that are typically administered. In the US, applicants must usually be under the age of 31 years old to become an air traffic controller without previous experience.


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