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Air Traffic Controllers

Annual Earnings Percentiles

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  • Analytical: 95
  • Supported: 94
  • Social: 67
  • Creative: 38
  • Purpose: 27

What Air Traffic Controllers Do

Air traffic controllers coordinate the movement of air traffic to ensure that aircraft stay safe distances apart.

Work Environment

Air traffic controllers work in control towers, approach control facilities, or route centers. Their work can be stressful because total concentration is required at all times. Night, weekend, and rotating shifts are common.

How to Become an Air Traffic Controller

A prospective air traffic controller must be a U.S citizen. In addition, the applicant must have a bachelor’s degree, or work experience, or a combination of education and experience totaling 3 years. There are medical and background checks to pass, along with exams and a course at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) academy.

College Majors

Showing data from the American Community Survey for the following US Census occupation categories:

  • Air traffic controllers and airfield operations specialists

Bachelor's degree majors are shown.

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    Job Outlook

    Employment of air traffic controllers is projected to decline 9 percent from 2014 to 2024. Most employment opportunities will result from the need to replace workers who retire or leave the occupation.

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    Job Trends for Air Traffic Controllers

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    This occupation supported 25,000 jobs in 2012 and 24,500 jobs in 2014, reflecting a decline of 2.0%. In 2012, this occupation was projected to increase by 1.6% in 2022 to 25,400 jobs. As of 2014, to keep pace with prediction, the expected number of jobs was 25,000, compared with an observed value of 24,500, 2.0% lower than expected. This indicates current employment trends are about on track with the 2012 trend within this occupation. In 2014, this occupation was projected to decrease by 8.4% in 2024 to 22,400 jobs. Linear extrapolation of the 2012 projection for 2022 results in an expected number of 25,400 jobs for 2024, 13.4% higher than the 2014 projection for 2024. This indicates expectations for future employment trends are much worse than the 2012 trend within this occupation.

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