Here’s how to become an air traffic controller, help meet demand for shortage

FAA has list of criteria to meet if interested in becoming an air traffic controller

LaGuardia Airport's air traffic control tower, right, is shown as planes line up for takeoff, May 25, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File) (Bebeto Matthews, Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

While poor air quality stemming from Canadian wildfires has been a big reason for recent airline delays across the country, a crisis with air traffic controllers is another reason.

According to a report from the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General, 20 out of 26 critical air traffic control facilities (77%) are staffed below the agency’s 85-percent threshold.

A combination of air traffic controllers retiring and COVID slowing down the development of new trainees has led to a shortage.

The average annual salary for a controller in 2021 was $129,750, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and controllers also get to have top-notch benefits working for the government.

But it can also be a high-stress job, and becoming an air traffic controller involves a grueling training process that can typically take between 18 months and three years.

The training requires a series of tests, skills assessments, and both physical and psychological exams.

For those who are interested in giving it a try, the application requirements and process can be found by clicking or tapping here.

There are two noteworthy age-related issues when it comes to becoming an air traffic controller.

One, you can’t apply for training once you turn 31 years old before the closing date of the application period.

There are limited exceptions, but the FAA through research has determined that the older a person is, the harder it is for them to complete the training.

The agency does hire people up to age 35 if they already have experience as an air traffic controller.

Two, air traffic controllers are forced to retire from working traffic at age 56 due to the risk of memory or hearing loss, reduced eyesight or inattentiveness.

There can be desk or management jobs at the agency away from working traffic for people once they hit age 56, but aren’t ready to retire.

About the Author:

Keith is a member of Graham Media Group's Digital Content Team, which produces content for all the company's news websites.