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Air Traffic Control


Air traffic control programs prepare people to manage flight operations.

Programs in air traffic control prepare people to direct air traffic.  Students learn to use radar and radio communication to talk to pilots.  They learn to read flight plans, instruments, and weather conditions.  They also get hands-on experience at an FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) flight control center during training.

Air traffic control programs include topics such as:


Many community colleges offer associate degree programs in air traffic control. An associate degree program usually takes two years of full-time study.

A few colleges and universities offer a bachelor's degree in air traffic control. A bachelor’s degree usually takes four years of full-time study to complete.

In addition to an associate or bachelor’s degree, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) provides 15-17 weeks of training in air traffic control at its academy in Oklahoma City for people who meet their strict admission requirements. This training is followed by several years of successful on-the-job experience, and is required for employment as an air traffic controller.

See schools that offer this program.

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Program Admission

You can prepare for this program by taking courses in high school that prepare you for college. This typically includes four years of English, three years of math, three years of social studies, and two years of science. Some colleges also require two years of a second language.

Courses that emphasize computer skills, spatial relationships, and oral communication are essential.

Before you can go to the FAA training academy, you must first be admitted to an FAA-approved air traffic control program. Once admitted to a program, you must pass a pre-employment test given through the FAA. Passing this test means you have the right set of skills to become an air traffic controller.

When you successfully finish the program, you then attend the FAA training academy in Oklahoma City. However, there are several additional requirements that you must meet:

Below is a list of high school courses that will help prepare you for this program of study:

Typical Course Work

Program Courses

This program typically includes courses in the following subjects:

Many of your classes will include simulation time. This means that you use computers and radar equipment to learn concepts. You pretend to monitor air traffic and communicate with pilots. This tests your on-the-job skills.

Things to Know

Nearly all air traffic controllers work for the government. Most work for the Federal Aviation Administration, although some work for the Department of Defense. A few work for private companies.

Controllers must pass a physical exam each year.

Controllers must pass a job performance exam at least once per year.

College graduates with civilian or military experience as controllers, navigators, or pilots have the best chances of entering the air traffic controller program.


King-Snohomish Area

Green River College