The ongoing shortage of air traffic controllers is swinging doors wide open for those seeking a career in this in-demand job. With the shortage hitting the New York area especially hard, this is an opportune time for those who are considering this career path—particularly for anyone who resides locally. Here’s why: Vaughn College, a leading aviation institution in Queens, adjacent to LaGuardia Airport, offers training that makes becoming an air traffic controller easier than you might expect.
Why the need is so urgent
According to Pete Buttigieg, United States Secretary of Transportation, the United States is understaffed by about 3,000 air traffic control positions. Additionally, data revealed that 77 percent of critical air traffic control facilities, such as New York Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) and Miami Tower, are staffed below the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) required 85 percent—coming in at 54 percent and 66 percent, respectively. It is therefore no surprise that this critical shortage is leading—in part—to more flight delays and cancellations during the height of summer travel and well beyond. With an estimated 24,9000 air traffic controllers currently in place in the United States, the need is expected to grow to 6,800 over the next 10 years—factoring in the retirement of approximately 5,900 practicing air traffic controllers and the addition of 900 more.
What does it take to become an air traffic controller?
As you might imagine, working as an air traffic controller can be intense. It requires the capacity to concentrate and multi-task in stressful situations as well as the ability to process a multitude of information quickly, among other critical responsibilities. And you may be surprised to learn about the specific requirements that are entailed. Let’s dive into these specifics.
Air traffic controller eligibility
Per the FAA, air traffic controllers (trainees without previous experience) must be 30 years old or younger before the closing date of the application period (with limited exceptions). Here is a list of the other mandatory requirements that applicants must meet to be considered eligible:
- Be a United States citizen
- Pass a medical examination
- Pass a security investigation
- Pass the FAA air traffic pre-employment test
- Speak English clearly enough to be understood over communications equipment
- Have three years of progressively responsible work experience, or a Bachelor’s degree, or a combination of post-secondary education and work experience that totals three years
It’s important to note that the 2023 application window is closed. The FAA only accepts applications once a year within a three-day period. Learn more about the FAA’s latest updates and information.
Air traffic controller responsibilities and benefits
There’s so much more to this job than meets the “eye in the sky.” In addition to coordinating and monitoring the movement of aircraft within safe distances—both in the air and on the ground, these specialized professionals must:
- Control ground traffic at airport runways and taxiways.
- Issue landing and takeoff instructions to pilots.
- Transfer control of departing flights to other traffic control centers and accept control of arriving flights.
Benefits of working as an air traffic controller:
- Potential to earn a six-figure salary after the first few years of service.
- Consistent work schedule.
- Scheduled breaks throughout your shift.
- Mandatory retirement age at 56—with full federal benefits and pension.
Why Vaughn is your path to becoming an air traffic controller
Vaughn College partners with the FAA to offer the Air Traffic—Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI). The FAA hires approximately 50 percent of its candidates from the AT-CTI and the military. Additionally, AT-CTI candidates can bypass the biometric screening exam, which many do not pass. In addition, if you already have an associate degree or bachelor’s degree, Vaughn offers a fast-track degree program where you can complete your prerequisite courses for the FAA exams in a year and a half. Otherwise, it takes two-to-four years.
Looking for another reason to choose Vaughn’s air traffic control program? The College is one of only 33 schools nationwide that offers AT-CTI―and the only institution to do so in the northeast. When it comes to aviation, Vaughn has the history, experience, reputation and industry connections that will ensure students graduate with a successful career.
What’s on your radar for the future? Be a part of the next generation of air traffic controllers. Apply today!