Air Traffic Controller School

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We previously explored the three primary ways an individual can become an air traffic controller.  One of the three options included previous work experience in air traffic control either in the civilian aviation ranks or the military.  If you are reading this website, the odds are fairly high that you do not fall into this category.  So, for most readers they have two options.  They can either enroll in air traffic controller school directly with the FAA (when they accept applicants) or attend an air traffic controller and complete their FAA certified/approved training program.

FAA Approved Air Traffic Controller School through a University

If you decide to attend air traffic controller school at a college or university, you must receive your Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI) degree through an FAA approved program.  Schools meeting FAA approval may offer two or four-year degrees depending upon the institution.  You will be exposed to courses in aviation, air traffic management and other appropriate subject content matter.

Those who complete the program of study are then eligible to take the pre-employment test. Applicants who receive a passing score will be allowed to enroll in a two month training course at the FAA Academy. This will, of course, depend highly on the amount of job openings available.

Education is based upon rigorous standards that are difficult to meet. Anyone who wishes to become an air traffic controller must be serious about the job, as well as able to devote up to four years of educational time to the task.  Air traffic controllers must have strong communication skills, as well as concentration, decision-making, problem-solving, and multitasking abilities. These are not negotiable, and are extremely vital to training.

Those seeking the job must be devoted and ready. A full list of FAA approved air traffic controller schools can be found here, but some of the more popular ones include:

1.)    Arizona State University, located in Tempe, Arizona, with an acceptance rate of 87%

2.)    The University of North Dakota, located in Grand Forks, North Dakota, with an acceptance rate of 70%

3.)    The University of Alaska Anchorage, located in Anchorage, Alaska with an acceptance rate of 68%

4.)    Riddle Aeronautical University, located in Daytona Beach, Florida, with an acceptance rate of 79%

5.)    Mt. San Antonio College, located in Walnut, California

6.)    Middle Georgia College, located in Cochran, Georgia, with an acceptance rate of 89%

7.)    Lewis University, located in Romeoville, Illinois, with an acceptance rate of 62%

8.)    Hesston College, located in Hesston, Kansas

9.)    Daniel Webster College, located in Nashua, New Hampshire, with an acceptance rate of 66%

10.)  Averett University, located in Danville, Virginia, with an acceptance rate of 54%


Federal Aviation Administration Air Traffic Controller Academy

The FAA allows those without any air traffic control experience to enroll in their FAA Academy as long as they have a combination of work experience and/or college education.  There is a five week period of qualification training followed by another 37-62 days of training for the terminal controller option or the en route controller option.  Students that enrolled in an AT-CTI through a university and successfully completed the program are allowed to skip the five week qualification period at the FAA Academy.  However, they are still required to go through the 37-62 day training period.

By choosing the right school and preparing yourself for the work ahead, those wishing to become air flight controllers will find that the task is not as difficult as previously anticipated. However, those who have not attended college need not be discouraged.

Summary of Air Traffic Controller School Options

If you do not have previous air traffic control experience, you must graduate from an AT-CTI program or directly through the FAA Academy.  If you are a high school student, you will be unable to attend the academy and must instead enroll in a two or four-year program at an FAA approved university.  If you have already graduated from high school and have the requisite work experience or education (or both), you can go directly to the academy.   Graduates of an AT-CTI program will also attend the academy, but will avoid a five week qualification period and move straight to training.

For more information about the air traffic controller career path, please visit the Air Traffic Controller Career Portal of Ditch College.

If you would like to read about other jobs that do not require a four year degree, please visit our career portal.

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