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Entry Level Air Traffic Controller Salary

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Air traffic controllers work for the Federal Aviation Administration and, as such, enjoy access to federal pay scales and federal benefits. While entry level pay for air traffic controllers, as of September 2013, is relatively low, the value of the benefits are significant. In addition, wages climb for air traffic controllers. As of the May 2012 Occupational Employment and Wages study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a median-earning air traffic controller took home $122,530.


A member of the general public with no training or a college graduate of an air traffic control course enters the FAA's academy at a base pay of $17,803. Once the recruit finishes training, the pay automatically gets bumped up to $37,070. Controllers with military or current Federal experience start at the $37,070 wage. Air traffic controller wages also continue to increase as the controller's experience grows. It can take two to four years to complete the on-the-job training process.

Additional Training Compensation

While the training salary is relatively low, the FAA offers additional pay during the initial training period, which can be a few weeks or a few months. While you're in training, you get a $79.20 daily reimbursement for meals, lodging and incidentals. The FAA will also pay to transport you to and from the academy in Oklahoma City.

Locality Pay

The government adjusts the salary you receive based on where you end up working. As such, you may actually make more than $37,070 as an entry level air traffic controller. If you end up in the Boston area, you'll get an extra 24.8 percent in locality pay. Serving in Columbus, OH gives you an extra 17.16 percent, while getting sent to the San Francisco Bay Area increases your pay by 35.15 percent. In other words, depending on whether you're in Columbus or San Francisco, your $37,070 position could actually pay you $43,431 or $50,100.

Federal Benefits

As a federal employee, you also get access to the full range of federal benefits. You get to choose from multiple health plans, seven dental plans and three vision plans. You can also set up a flexible spending account, benefit from discounted life insurance and even purchase long term care insurance. You also get generous annual and sick leave, and access to a federal pension and the Thrift Savings Plan.

Air Traffic Controllers salary

  • Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $184,780 ($88.84/hour)
  • Median Annual Salary: $130,420 ($62.70/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $72,760 ($34.98/hour)

Salary Information for Air Traffic Controllers

In 2020, 24,500 people were employed in the U.S. as air traffic controllers.

Number of Jobs for Air Traffic Controllers (by year)
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Steve Lander has been a writer since 1996, with experience in the fields of financial services, real estate and technology. His work has appeared in trade publications such as the "Minnesota Real Estate Journal" and "Minnesota Multi-Housing Association Advocate." Lander holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Columbia University.

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