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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

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

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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
  • Aircraft flight simulators or trainers — Flight simulators
  • 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)
  • Aircraft navigation beacons — Nondirectional radio beacon markers
  • Binoculars
  • Desktop computers
  • Mainframe computers
  • Personal computers
  • 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)
  • Two way radios — Frequency modulation FM two way radios

Technology used in this occupation:

  • Expert system software — Advanced technologies and oceanic procedures ATOP; Automated radar terminal systems ARTS; Center TRACON automation systems CTAS
  • Flight control software — Direct-to-tool software; En route descent advisor EDA; Multi-center traffic management advisor McTMA; Traffic management advisor TMA software (see all 7 examples)
  • Office suite software — Microsoft Office

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Knowledge

  • Transportation — Knowledge of principles and methods for moving people or goods by air, rail, sea, or road, including the relative costs and benefits.
  • English Language — Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Telecommunications — Knowledge of transmission, broadcasting, switching, control, and operation of telecommunications systems.
  • Mathematics — Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
  • Computers and Electronics — Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.

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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.
  • Speaking — Talking to others to convey information effectively.
  • Critical Thinking — Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
  • Judgment and Decision Making — Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
  • Complex Problem Solving — Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
  • Monitoring — Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
  • Coordination — Adjusting actions in relation to others' actions.
  • Active Learning — Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
  • Reading Comprehension — Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
  • Time Management — Managing one's own time and the time of others.
  • Social Perceptiveness — Being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
  • Operation Monitoring — Watching gauges, dials, or other indicators to make sure a machine is working properly.
  • Systems Analysis — Determining how a system should work and how changes in conditions, operations, and the environment will affect outcomes.
  • Instructing — Teaching others how to do something.
  • Learning Strategies — Selecting and using training/instructional methods and procedures appropriate for the situation when learning or teaching new things.
  • Service Orientation — Actively looking for ways to help people.
  • 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.
  • Writing — Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.

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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.
  • Oral Comprehension — The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
  • Oral Expression — The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
  • Selective Attention — The ability to concentrate on a task over a period of time without being distracted.
  • Deductive Reasoning — The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
  • 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.
  • Inductive Reasoning — The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
  • Speed of Closure — The ability to quickly make sense of, combine, and organize information into meaningful patterns.
  • Far Vision — The ability to see details at a distance.
  • Near Vision — The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
  • 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.
  • Speech Clarity — The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.
  • 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).
  • 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).
  • Speech Recognition — The ability to identify and understand the speech of another person.
  • Written Comprehension — The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
  • Category Flexibility — The ability to generate or use different sets of rules for combining or grouping things in different ways.
  • Auditory Attention — The ability to focus on a single source of sound in the presence of other distracting sounds.
  • Visualization — The ability to imagine how something will look after it is moved around or when its parts are moved or rearranged.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • Written Expression — The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.
  • Mathematical Reasoning — The ability to choose the right mathematical methods or formulas to solve a problem.
  • Memorization — The ability to remember information such as words, numbers, pictures, and procedures.
  • Number Facility — The ability to add, subtract, multiply, or divide quickly and correctly.
  • Visual Color Discrimination — The ability to match or detect differences between colors, including shades of color and brightness.

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Work Activities

  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems — Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
  • Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events — Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
  • Getting Information — Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
  • Monitor Processes, Materials, or Surroundings — Monitoring and reviewing information from materials, events, or the environment, to detect or assess problems.
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates — Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
  • Processing Information — Compiling, coding, categorizing, calculating, tabulating, auditing, or verifying information or data.
  • Training and Teaching Others — Identifying the educational needs of others, developing formal educational or training programs or classes, and teaching or instructing others.
  • Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge — Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.
  • Analyzing Data or Information — Identifying the underlying principles, reasons, or facts of information by breaking down information or data into separate parts.
  • 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.
  • Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work — Developing specific goals and plans to prioritize, organize, and accomplish your work.
  • Thinking Creatively — Developing, designing, or creating new applications, ideas, relationships, systems, or products, including artistic contributions.
  • 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.
  • Coaching and Developing Others — Identifying the developmental needs of others and coaching, mentoring, or otherwise helping others to improve their knowledge or skills.
  • Interacting With Computers — Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.
  • Documenting/Recording Information — Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Interpreting the Meaning of Information for Others — Translating or explaining what information means and how it can be used.
  • Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships — Developing constructive and cooperative working relationships with others, and maintaining them over time.
  • Developing Objectives and Strategies — Establishing long-range objectives and specifying the strategies and actions to achieve them.

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Detailed Work Activities

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

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Work Context

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

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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, travel guides, electricians, agricultural technicians, barbers, nannies, and medical assistants.
SVP Range (6.0 to < 7.0)

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Education


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

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Credentials

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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.
  • 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.

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Work Styles

  • Attention to Detail — Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
  • Stress Tolerance — Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high stress situations.
  • Dependability — Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
  • Adaptability/Flexibility — Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.
  • Persistence — Job requires persistence in the face of obstacles.
  • Achievement/Effort — Job requires establishing and maintaining personally challenging achievement goals and exerting effort toward mastering tasks.
  • Analytical Thinking — Job requires analyzing information and using logic to address work-related issues and problems.
  • Self Control — Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
  • Cooperation — Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
  • Initiative — Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.
  • Integrity — Job requires being honest and ethical.
  • 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.
  • Leadership — Job requires a willingness to lead, take charge, and offer opinions and direction.
  • Concern for Others — Job requires being sensitive to others' needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.
  • Innovation — Job requires creativity and alternative thinking to develop new ideas for and answers to work-related problems.
  • Social Orientation — Job requires preferring to work with others rather than alone, and being personally connected with others on the job.

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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.
  • Independence — Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions. Corresponding needs are Creativity, Responsibility and Autonomy.
  • 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.

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Related Occupations

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Wages & Employment Trends

Median wages (2015) $59.11 hourly, $122,950 annual
State wages Local Salary Info
 
Employment (2014) 25,000 employees
Projected growth (2014-2024) Decline (-2% or lower) Decline (-2% or lower)
Projected job openings (2014-2024) 7,500
State trends Employment Trends
 
Top industries (2014)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics 2015 wage data external site and 2014-2024 employment projections external site. "Projected growth" represents the estimated change in total employment over the projections period (2014-2024). "Projected job openings" represent openings due to growth and replacement.

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Job Openings on the Web

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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, 2016-17 Edition.

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