Air traffic controllers


Average Annual Pay

Annual Survey of Hours and Earning 2018


Average Weekly Hours

Annual Survey of Hours and Earning 2018


Unemployment Rate

Labour Force Survey 2018

Future employment projections (Working Futures UK)


Air traffic controllers prepare flight plans, authorise flight departures and arrivals and maintain radio, radar and/or visual contact with aircraft to ensure the safe movement of air traffic.


Entrants require GCSEs/S grades and A levels/H grades, a BTEC/SQA award or an Advanced GNVQ/GSVQ Level III. Academic requirements may be lowered for those with relevant aviation experience. Whilst entrants may begin training towards obtaining a licence earlier than 18 years of age, they may not apply for a Student Licence before 18 years. A full air traffic controller licence can only be issued to individuals of at least 21 years of age. Candidates must have good eyesight and no hearing or speech defects. Entrants are required to undergo a medical examination. Training lasts 74 weeks and consists of courses of study followed by supervised practical experience leading to the award of a Civil Aviation Authority licence.

Typical tasks

  • maintains radio and/or radar or visual contact with aircraft and liaises with other air traffic controllers and control centres to direct aircraft in and out of controlled airspace and into holding areas ready for landing;
  • directs the movement of aircraft en route to its destination and ensures minimum distances are maintained between planes;
  • gives landing instructions to pilot and monitors descent of aircraft;
  • directs movement of aircraft and motor vehicles on runways, taxiways and in parking bays;
  • obtains information regarding weather conditions, navigational hazards, landing conditions, seating arrangements, loading of cargo, fuel and catering supplies;
  • calculates fuel consumption and optimum flying height, plans route and prepares flight plan for aircraft pilot;
  • discusses operational requirements with pilot, issues duty schedules for flight deck and cabin crews, maintains records of flight progress and authorises flight departure;
  • handles emergencies, unscheduled traffic and other unanticipated incidents.

Common job titles

Officer, briefing
Assistant, service, traffic, air
Officer, control, traffic, air
Controller, radar, area
Controller of aircraft
Planner, flight
Officer, control, space (airport)
Assistant, services, traffic, air
Controller, movement, ground (airport)
Planner, traffic, air
Controller, traffic, air