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Air traffic controller

Alternative titles for this job include Air traffic control officer

Air traffic controllers give information and advice to airline pilots to help them take off and land safely and on time.

Average salary (a year)

£20,000 Starter


£48,000 Experienced

Typical hours (a week)

35 to 45 a week

You could work

evenings / weekends / bank holidays on shifts

How to become

Explore the different ways to get into this role.

How to become Air traffic controller

You can get into this job through:

  • an apprenticeship
  • a trainee scheme


You could do an apprenticeship to get into this career, for example:

  • Aviation Flight Operations Co-ordinator Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship
  • Air Traffic Controller Level 5 Higher Apprenticeship

You may be able to get into a similar role through an armed forces apprenticeship:

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English and maths, for an advanced apprenticeship
  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent, for a higher or degree apprenticeship

More Information

Other Routes

You can apply for a place as a trainee with National Air Traffic Services.

You'll need a minimum of 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) or equivalent qualifications, including English and maths.

You'll be expected to relocate to Fareham in Hampshire while training. Once you qualify, you could work anywhere in the UK.

Initial training takes up to 1 year and further training may continue while working.

You may also be considered for training if you have relevant aviation experience as a military air traffic controller, or military or commercial pilot.

More Information

Career tips

Senior air traffic controllers' salaries can rise to between £70,000 and £100,000 at larger airports.

Further information

You can find out more about becoming an air traffic controller from National Air Traffic Services.

What it takes

Find out what skills you’ll use in this role.

What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You'll need:

  • concentration skills
  • knowledge of transport methods, costs and benefits
  • the ability to use your judgement and make decisions
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • complex problem-solving skills
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • the ability to think clearly using logic and reasoning
  • to have a thorough understanding of computer systems and applications

Restrictions and Requirements

You'll need to:

You should be eligible to work in the UK.

You must be prepared to work anywhere in the UK.

What you’ll do

Discover the day to day tasks you’ll do in this role.

What you'll do

Day-to-day tasks

Your tasks will vary depending on which type of controller you become. There are 3 types:

  • area controllers - track and guide aircraft flying at higher altitudes through a sector and are based at a regional control centre
  • approach controllers - manage aircraft as they approach the airport and issue instructions to planes that have just taken off
  • aerodrome controllers - work in a control tower, giving clearance to land and take off, and guide pilots to the correct taxi positions on stands and runways

Typically in these roles you could:

  • make sure safe distances are maintained between aircraft
  • keep in radio contact with flight crew and give out instructions
  • prevent collisions between planes and with other obstacles
  • handle emergencies
  • monitor data

Working environment

You could work in an airport control tower.

Career path and progression

Look at progression in this role and similar opportunities.

Career path and progression

With experience, you could move into training and assessing new controllers, or become a supervisor or unit manager.

You could also move into operations management.

Current opportunities

Find apprenticeships, courses and jobs available near you.

Current opportunities

Apprenticeships In England

RAF Air Traffic & Weapons Controller - Full Time Career with Apprenticeship

  • Wage: £21,091 a year Annually
  • Location: Waterwells Drive, Gloucester, Gloucestershire

RAF Air Operations Control Officer - Full Time Career with Apprenticeship

  • Wage: £31,300 a year Annually
  • Location: Waterwells Drive, Gloucester, Gloucestershire

Courses In England

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