Skip navigation

Summary Report for:
53-2021.00 - Air Traffic Controllers

Control air traffic on and within vicinity of airport and movement of air traffic between altitude sectors and control centers according to established procedures and policies. Authorize, regulate, and control commercial airline flights according to government or company regulations to expedite and ensure flight safety.

Sample of reported job titles: Air Traffic Control Specialist (ATCS); Air Traffic Control Specialist, Terminal; Air Traffic Control Specialist/Certified Professional Controller (ATC Specialist/CPC); Air Traffic Controller (ATC); Air Traffic Controller (Enroute Option); Air Traffic Controller (Tower Option); Air Traffic Controller, Center; Certified Professional Controller (CPC); Control Tower Operator; Radar Air Traffic Controller

View report: Summary  Details  Custom

Tasks  |  Tools & Technology  |  Knowledge  |  Skills  |  Abilities  |  Work Activities  |  Detailed Work Activities  |  Work Context  |  Job Zone  |  Education  |  Credentials  |  Interests  |  Work Styles  |  Work Values  |  Related Occupations  |  Wages & Employment  |  Job Openings  |  Additional Information

Tasks

  • Inform pilots about nearby planes or potentially hazardous conditions, such as weather, speed and direction of wind, or visibility problems. See more occupations related to this task.
  • Issue landing and take-off authorizations or instructions. See more occupations related to this task.
  • Transfer control of departing flights to traffic control centers and accept control of arriving flights. See more occupations related to this task.
  • Provide flight path changes or directions to emergency landing fields for pilots traveling in bad weather or in emergency situations. See more occupations related to this task.
  • Alert airport emergency services in cases of emergency or when aircraft are experiencing difficulties. See more occupations related to this task.
  • Monitor or direct the movement of aircraft within an assigned air space or on the ground at airports to minimize delays and maximize safety. See more occupations related to this task.
  • Direct pilots to runways when space is available or direct them to maintain a traffic pattern until there is space for them to land. See more occupations related to this task.
  • Monitor aircraft within a specific airspace, using radar, computer equipment, or visual references. See more occupations related to this task.
  • Direct ground traffic, including taxiing aircraft, maintenance or baggage vehicles, or airport workers. See more occupations related to this task.
  • Contact pilots by radio to provide meteorological, navigational, or other information. See more occupations related to this task.
  • Maintain radio or telephone contact with adjacent control towers, terminal control units, or other area control centers to coordinate aircraft movement. See more occupations related to this task.
  • Determine the timing or procedures for flight vector changes. See more occupations related to this task.
  • Initiate or coordinate searches for missing aircraft. See more occupations related to this task.
  • Provide on-the-job training to new air traffic controllers. See more occupations related to this task.
  • Check conditions and traffic at different altitudes in response to pilots' requests for altitude changes. See more occupations related to this task.
  • Relay air traffic information, such as courses, altitudes, or expected arrival times, to control centers. See more occupations related to this task.
  • Inspect, adjust, or control radio equipment or airport lights. See more occupations related to this task.
  • Compile information about flights from flight plans, pilot reports, radar, or observations. See more occupations related to this task.
  • Organize flight plans or traffic management plans to prepare for planes about to enter assigned airspace. See more occupations related to this task.
  • Review records or reports for clarity and completeness and maintain records or reports as required under federal law. See more occupations related to this task.
  • Complete daily activity reports and keep records of messages from aircraft. See more occupations related to this task.
  • Conduct pre-flight briefings on weather conditions, suggested routes, altitudes, indications of turbulence, or other flight safety information. See more occupations related to this task.
  • Analyze factors such as weather reports, fuel requirements, or maps to determine air routes. See more occupations related to this task.

Find occupations related to multiple tasks

back to top

Tools & Technology

Tools used in this occupation:

  • Aircraft communication systems — Controller pilot datalink communication CPDC systems; High frequency HF radio communications systems; Ultra high frequency UHF radio communication systems; Very high frequency VHF radio communication systems See more occupations related to this tool.
  • Aircraft flight simulators or trainers — Flight simulators See more occupations related to this tool.
  • Aircraft guidance systems — Automatic direction finder ADF radio systems; Distance measuring equipment DME; Standard terminal automation replacement systems STARS; Wide area augmentation systems WAAS (see all 11 examples) See more occupations related to this tool.
  • Aircraft navigation beacons — Nondirectional radio beacon markers See more occupations related to this tool.
  • Binoculars See more occupations related to this tool.
  • Desktop computers See more occupations related to this tool.
  • Mainframe computers See more occupations related to this tool.
  • Personal computers See more occupations related to this tool.
  • Radarbased surveillance systems — Air route surveillance radar ARSR systems; Airport surface detection equipment ASDE systems; Mode S radar systems; Precision runway monitor PRM (see all 6 examples) See more occupations related to this tool.
  • Two way radios — Frequency modulation FM two way radios See more occupations related to this tool.

Technology used in this occupation:

  • Expert system software — Advanced technologies and oceanic procedures ATOP; Automated radar terminal systems ARTS; Center TRACON automation systems CTAS See more occupations related to this technology.
  • Flight control software — Direct-To Tool software; En route descent advisor EDA; Multi-center traffic management advisor McTMA software; Traffic management advisor TMA software (see all 7 examples) See more occupations related to this technology.

back to top

Knowledge

  • Transportation — Knowledge of principles and methods for moving people or goods by air, rail, sea, or road, including the relative costs and benefits. See more occupations related to this knowledge.
  • English Language — Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar. See more occupations related to this knowledge.
  • Education and Training — Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects. See more occupations related to this knowledge.
  • Public Safety and Security — Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions. See more occupations related to this knowledge.
  • Customer and Personal Service — Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction. See more occupations related to this knowledge.
  • Geography — Knowledge of principles and methods for describing the features of land, sea, and air masses, including their physical characteristics, locations, interrelationships, and distribution of plant, animal, and human life. See more occupations related to this knowledge.
  • Telecommunications — Knowledge of transmission, broadcasting, switching, control, and operation of telecommunications systems. See more occupations related to this knowledge.
  • Mathematics — Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications. See more occupations related to this knowledge.
  • Computers and Electronics — Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming. See more occupations related to this knowledge.

back to top

Skills

  • Active Listening — Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times. See more occupations related to this skill.
  • Speaking — Talking to others to convey information effectively. See more occupations related to this skill.
  • Critical Thinking — Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems. See more occupations related to this skill.
  • Judgment and Decision Making — Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one. See more occupations related to this skill.
  • Complex Problem Solving — Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions. See more occupations related to this skill.
  • Monitoring — Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action. See more occupations related to this skill.
  • Coordination — Adjusting actions in relation to others' actions. See more occupations related to this skill.
  • Active Learning — Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making. See more occupations related to this skill.
  • Reading Comprehension — Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents. See more occupations related to this skill.
  • Time Management — Managing one's own time and the time of others. See more occupations related to this skill.
  • Social Perceptiveness — Being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do. See more occupations related to this skill.
  • Operation Monitoring — Watching gauges, dials, or other indicators to make sure a machine is working properly. See more occupations related to this skill.
  • Systems Analysis — Determining how a system should work and how changes in conditions, operations, and the environment will affect outcomes. See more occupations related to this skill.
  • Instructing — Teaching others how to do something. See more occupations related to this skill.
  • Learning Strategies — Selecting and using training/instructional methods and procedures appropriate for the situation when learning or teaching new things. See more occupations related to this skill.
  • Service Orientation — Actively looking for ways to help people. See more occupations related to this skill.
  • Systems Evaluation — Identifying measures or indicators of system performance and the actions needed to improve or correct performance, relative to the goals of the system. See more occupations related to this skill.
  • Writing — Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience. See more occupations related to this skill.

back to top

Abilities

  • Problem Sensitivity — The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing there is a problem. See more occupations related to this ability.
  • Oral Comprehension — The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences. See more occupations related to this ability.
  • Oral Expression — The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand. See more occupations related to this ability.
  • Selective Attention — The ability to concentrate on a task over a period of time without being distracted. See more occupations related to this ability.
  • Deductive Reasoning — The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense. See more occupations related to this ability.
  • Flexibility of Closure — The ability to identify or detect a known pattern (a figure, object, word, or sound) that is hidden in other distracting material. See more occupations related to this ability.
  • Inductive Reasoning — The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events). See more occupations related to this ability.
  • Speed of Closure — The ability to quickly make sense of, combine, and organize information into meaningful patterns. See more occupations related to this ability.
  • Far Vision — The ability to see details at a distance. See more occupations related to this ability.
  • Near Vision — The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer). See more occupations related to this ability.
  • Perceptual Speed — The ability to quickly and accurately compare similarities and differences among sets of letters, numbers, objects, pictures, or patterns. The things to be compared may be presented at the same time or one after the other. This ability also includes comparing a presented object with a remembered object. See more occupations related to this ability.
  • Speech Clarity — The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you. See more occupations related to this ability.
  • Time Sharing — The ability to shift back and forth between two or more activities or sources of information (such as speech, sounds, touch, or other sources). See more occupations related to this ability.
  • Information Ordering — The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations). See more occupations related to this ability.
  • Speech Recognition — The ability to identify and understand the speech of another person. See more occupations related to this ability.
  • Written Comprehension — The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing. See more occupations related to this ability.
  • Category Flexibility — The ability to generate or use different sets of rules for combining or grouping things in different ways. See more occupations related to this ability.
  • Auditory Attention — The ability to focus on a single source of sound in the presence of other distracting sounds. See more occupations related to this ability.
  • Visualization — The ability to imagine how something will look after it is moved around or when its parts are moved or rearranged. See more occupations related to this ability.
  • Fluency of Ideas — The ability to come up with a number of ideas about a topic (the number of ideas is important, not their quality, correctness, or creativity). See more occupations related to this ability.
  • Originality — The ability to come up with unusual or clever ideas about a given topic or situation, or to develop creative ways to solve a problem. See more occupations related to this ability.
  • Written Expression — The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand. See more occupations related to this ability.
  • Mathematical Reasoning — The ability to choose the right mathematical methods or formulas to solve a problem. See more occupations related to this ability.
  • Memorization — The ability to remember information such as words, numbers, pictures, and procedures. See more occupations related to this ability.
  • Number Facility — The ability to add, subtract, multiply, or divide quickly and correctly. See more occupations related to this ability.
  • Visual Color Discrimination — The ability to match or detect differences between colors, including shades of color and brightness. See more occupations related to this ability.

back to top

Work Activities

  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems — Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems. See more occupations related to this activity.
  • Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events — Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events. See more occupations related to this activity.
  • Getting Information — Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources. See more occupations related to this activity.
  • Monitor Processes, Materials, or Surroundings — Monitoring and reviewing information from materials, events, or the environment, to detect or assess problems. See more occupations related to this activity.
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates — Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person. See more occupations related to this activity.
  • Processing Information — Compiling, coding, categorizing, calculating, tabulating, auditing, or verifying information or data. See more occupations related to this activity.
  • Training and Teaching Others — Identifying the educational needs of others, developing formal educational or training programs or classes, and teaching or instructing others. See more occupations related to this activity.
  • Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge — Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job. See more occupations related to this activity.
  • Analyzing Data or Information — Identifying the underlying principles, reasons, or facts of information by breaking down information or data into separate parts. See more occupations related to this activity.
  • Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards — Using relevant information and individual judgment to determine whether events or processes comply with laws, regulations, or standards. See more occupations related to this activity.
  • Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work — Developing specific goals and plans to prioritize, organize, and accomplish your work. See more occupations related to this activity.
  • Thinking Creatively — Developing, designing, or creating new applications, ideas, relationships, systems, or products, including artistic contributions. See more occupations related to this activity.
  • Performing for or Working Directly with the Public — Performing for people or dealing directly with the public. This includes serving customers in restaurants and stores, and receiving clients or guests. See more occupations related to this activity.
  • Coaching and Developing Others — Identifying the developmental needs of others and coaching, mentoring, or otherwise helping others to improve their knowledge or skills. See more occupations related to this activity.
  • Interacting With Computers — Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information. See more occupations related to this activity.
  • Documenting/Recording Information — Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form. See more occupations related to this activity.
  • Estimating the Quantifiable Characteristics of Products, Events, or Information — Estimating sizes, distances, and quantities; or determining time, costs, resources, or materials needed to perform a work activity. See more occupations related to this activity.
  • Communicating with Persons Outside Organization — Communicating with people outside the organization, representing the organization to customers, the public, government, and other external sources. This information can be exchanged in person, in writing, or by telephone or e-mail. See more occupations related to this activity.
  • Interpreting the Meaning of Information for Others — Translating or explaining what information means and how it can be used. See more occupations related to this activity.
  • Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships — Developing constructive and cooperative working relationships with others, and maintaining them over time. See more occupations related to this activity.
  • Developing Objectives and Strategies — Establishing long-range objectives and specifying the strategies and actions to achieve them. See more occupations related to this activity.

back to top

Detailed Work Activities

  • Choose optimal transportation routes or speeds. See more occupations related to this activity.
  • Communicate with others to coordinate vehicle movement. See more occupations related to this activity.
  • Notify others of emergencies, problems, or hazards. See more occupations related to this activity.
  • Monitor surroundings to detect potential hazards. See more occupations related to this activity.
  • Monitor vehicle movement or location. See more occupations related to this activity.
  • Operate communications equipment or systems. See more occupations related to this activity.
  • Coordinate flight control or management activities. See more occupations related to this activity.
  • Respond to transportation emergencies. See more occupations related to this activity.
  • Review documents or materials for compliance with policies or regulations. See more occupations related to this activity.
  • Direct vehicle traffic. See more occupations related to this activity.
  • Direct emergency management activities. See more occupations related to this activity.
  • Record operational details of travel. See more occupations related to this activity.
  • Plan flight operations. See more occupations related to this activity.
  • Adjust routes or speeds as necessary. See more occupations related to this activity.
  • Train transportation or material moving personnel. See more occupations related to this activity.
  • Meet with coworkers to communicate work orders or plans. See more occupations related to this activity.

Find occupations related to multiple detailed work activities

back to top

Work Context

  • Frequency of Decision Making — 96% responded “Every day.” See more occupations related to this work context.
  • Indoors, Environmentally Controlled — 97% responded “Every day.” See more occupations related to this work context.
  • Impact of Decisions on Co-workers or Company Results — 87% responded “Very important results.” See more occupations related to this work context.
  • Importance of Being Exact or Accurate — 88% responded “Extremely important.” See more occupations related to this work context.
  • Work With Work Group or Team — 83% responded “Extremely important.” See more occupations related to this work context.
  • Contact With Others — 87% responded “Constant contact with others.” See more occupations related to this work context.
  • Importance of Repeating Same Tasks — 77% responded “Extremely important.” See more occupations related to this work context.
  • Spend Time Sitting — 60% responded “Continually or almost continually.” See more occupations related to this work context.
  • Frequency of Conflict Situations — 65% responded “Every day.” See more occupations related to this work context.
  • Freedom to Make Decisions — 59% responded “A lot of freedom.” See more occupations related to this work context.
  • Physical Proximity — 62% responded “Moderately close (at arm's length).” See more occupations related to this work context.
  • Deal With External Customers — 70% responded “Extremely important.” See more occupations related to this work context.
  • Consequence of Error — 76% responded “Extremely serious.” See more occupations related to this work context.
  • Coordinate or Lead Others — 53% responded “Extremely important.” See more occupations related to this work context.
  • Spend Time Using Your Hands to Handle, Control, or Feel Objects, Tools, or Controls — 63% responded “Continually or almost continually.” See more occupations related to this work context.
  • Face-to-Face Discussions — 62% responded “Every day.” See more occupations related to this work context.
  • Structured versus Unstructured Work — 48% responded “A lot of freedom.” See more occupations related to this work context.
  • Telephone — 62% responded “Every day.” See more occupations related to this work context.
  • Degree of Automation — 32% responded “Highly automated.” See more occupations related to this work context.
  • Responsibility for Outcomes and Results — 33% responded “Very high responsibility.” See more occupations related to this work context.
  • Sounds, Noise Levels Are Distracting or Uncomfortable — 30% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.” See more occupations related to this work context.
  • Spend Time Making Repetitive Motions — 33% responded “More than half the time.” See more occupations related to this work context.
  • Deal With Unpleasant or Angry People — 30% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.” See more occupations related to this work context.
  • Time Pressure — 48% responded “Every day.” See more occupations related to this work context.
  • Letters and Memos — 30% responded “Every day.” See more occupations related to this work context.
  • Duration of Typical Work Week — 88% responded “40 hours.” See more occupations related to this work context.
  • Level of Competition — 24% responded “Highly competitive.” See more occupations related to this work context.

back to top

Job Zone

Title Job Zone Three: Medium Preparation Needed
Education Most occupations in this zone require training in vocational schools, related on-the-job experience, or an associate's degree.
Related Experience Previous work-related skill, knowledge, or experience is required for these occupations. For example, an electrician must have completed three or four years of apprenticeship or several years of vocational training, and often must have passed a licensing exam, in order to perform the job.
Job Training Employees in these occupations usually need one or two years of training involving both on-the-job experience and informal training with experienced workers. A recognized apprenticeship program may be associated with these occupations.
Job Zone Examples These occupations usually involve using communication and organizational skills to coordinate, supervise, manage, or train others to accomplish goals. Examples include food service managers, electricians, agricultural technicians, legal secretaries, occupational therapy assistants, and medical assistants.
SVP Range (6.0 to < 7.0)

back to top

Education


Percentage of Respondents
Education Level Required
36   High school diploma or equivalent Help
21   Post-secondary certificate Help
20   Bachelor's degree

back to top

Credentials

Find Training Find Certifications Find Licenses Find Apprenticeships

back to top

Interests

Interest code: EC

  • Enterprising — Enterprising occupations frequently involve starting up and carrying out projects. These occupations can involve leading people and making many decisions. Sometimes they require risk taking and often deal with business. See more occupations related to this interest.
  • Conventional — Conventional occupations frequently involve following set procedures and routines. These occupations can include working with data and details more than with ideas. Usually there is a clear line of authority to follow. See more occupations related to this interest.

back to top

Work Styles

  • Attention to Detail — Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks. See more occupations related to this work style.
  • Stress Tolerance — Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high stress situations. See more occupations related to this work style.
  • Dependability — Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations. See more occupations related to this work style.
  • Adaptability/Flexibility — Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace. See more occupations related to this work style.
  • Persistence — Job requires persistence in the face of obstacles. See more occupations related to this work style.
  • Achievement/Effort — Job requires establishing and maintaining personally challenging achievement goals and exerting effort toward mastering tasks. See more occupations related to this work style.
  • Analytical Thinking — Job requires analyzing information and using logic to address work-related issues and problems. See more occupations related to this work style.
  • Self Control — Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations. See more occupations related to this work style.
  • Cooperation — Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude. See more occupations related to this work style.
  • Initiative — Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges. See more occupations related to this work style.
  • Integrity — Job requires being honest and ethical. See more occupations related to this work style.
  • Independence — Job requires developing one's own ways of doing things, guiding oneself with little or no supervision, and depending on oneself to get things done. See more occupations related to this work style.
  • Leadership — Job requires a willingness to lead, take charge, and offer opinions and direction. See more occupations related to this work style.
  • Concern for Others — Job requires being sensitive to others' needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job. See more occupations related to this work style.
  • Innovation — Job requires creativity and alternative thinking to develop new ideas for and answers to work-related problems. See more occupations related to this work style.
  • Social Orientation — Job requires preferring to work with others rather than alone, and being personally connected with others on the job. See more occupations related to this work style.

back to top

Work Values

  • Support — Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees. Corresponding needs are Company Policies, Supervision: Human Relations and Supervision: Technical. See more occupations related to this work value.
  • Independence — Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions. Corresponding needs are Creativity, Responsibility and Autonomy. See more occupations related to this work value.
  • Working Conditions — Occupations that satisfy this work value offer job security and good working conditions. Corresponding needs are Activity, Compensation, Independence, Security, Variety and Working Conditions. See more occupations related to this work value.

back to top

Related Occupations

back to top

Wages & Employment Trends

Median wages (2014) $58.82 hourly, $122,340 annual
State wages Local Salary Info
 
Employment (2012) 25,000 employees
Projected growth (2012-2022) Little or no change (-2% to 2%) Little or no change (-2% to 2%)
Projected job openings (2012-2022) 11,400
State trends Employment Trends
 
Top industries (2012)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014 wage data external site and 2012-2022 employment projections external site. "Projected growth" represents the estimated change in total employment over the projections period (2012-2022). "Projected job openings" represent openings due to growth and replacement.

back to top

Job Openings on the Web

Find Jobs Job Banks

back to top

Sources of Additional Information

Disclaimer: Sources are listed to provide additional information on related jobs, specialties, and/or industries. Links to non-DOL Internet sites are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement.

  • Air Traffic Controllers external site. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition.

back to top