Air traffic controllers are generally some of the highest paid professionals in this country with compensation levels varying in part on the type of controller you are, as well as your location and specific job responsibilities. Every year, controllers rank number one on lists of highest paid professions that do not require a four-year degree.
In May of 2010, the median annual wage of air traffic controllers was $108,040 according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. This means that about half of all controllers were earning less than the given amount, and about half of all controllers were earning more than the given amount. The top ten percent of wages taken under this survey amounted to more than $169, with those in the bottom ten percent earning more than $61,000 a year.
In the United States, a family of four with an annual income of less than $23,050 is considered to be living at or below the “poverty line.”
The Federal Aviation Administration pegs the starting salary of air traffic controllers at $37,070 with this number obviously climbing dramatically with additional training and experience. Those who have already completed standard on-the-job training received an average annual salary of $118,000 in 2010 alone. This is an impressive amount of money, but it does come at a price. There are many hoops to jump through on the way to becoming an air traffic controller, including hours and hours of education and hard training courses that will truly test your ability in the field.
Best States for Air Traffic Controllers
There are approximately 27,000 air traffic controllers in this country with nearly 90% of them being federal employees.
The five states with the most air traffic controllers according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) are:
California – 2,440
Texas – 2,000
New York – 1,200
Virginia – 1,190
Georgia – 1,060
However, air traffic controllers in California are the lowest paid of these five states averaging $118,280. Virginia has the highest paying salaries at nearly $130,000 a year with New York, George and Texas all paying more than $122,000 a year.
Recent Salary Trends for Air Traffic Controllers
Annual wages have decreased slightly over the course of the years. In 2007, for example, the average annual income for all air traffic controllers stood at $112,670 and, in other states, sometimes up to $126,740.
Perhaps some of the reason that air traffic controllers make so much money has something to do with the training and exercises that you must complete to be approved. Or maybe it has to do with the amount of stress the work will take out on you. When put in a position in which you are in charge of the lives of other people, especially since 9/11, it is a stress-creating experience. Those who have worked as air traffic controllers have discovered this problem, and are currently figuring out ways to cope with the immense pressure of the job.
Another possible reason that air traffic controllers make such a large amount of money is related to the amount of hours put into the job, or to the specific conditions that must be met to be considered for the position. In any case, air traffic controllers make a large amount of money per year. You may not become a millionaire, as we all hope to become one day, but you will become someone with a job that pays above the poverty level. This will open up many doors for your future, and also paints a picture of the difficult career one is taking on when planning to become an air traffic controller.
For more information about the air traffic controller career path, please visit the Air Traffic Controller Career Portal of Ditch College.