Transport & Logistics
Air Traffic Controller
Air traffic controllers coordinate the movement of air traffic so that aircraft stay safe distances apart within Australian airspace.
Senior secondary school certificate or equivalent
What does an Air Traffic Controller do?
Air traffic controllers coordinate the movement of air traffic to ensure that aircraft stay safe distances apart within Australian airspace. They also work with overseas regions adjoining Australian airspace.
As an air traffic controller, you would work in one of the following roles:
- area controller – based in a regional control centre, tracking and guiding aircraft safely through your sector
- approach controller – managing aircraft as they near the airport, and arranging them into the correct landing order
- aerodrome controller – working from a control tower, relaying landing instructions to pilots as they descend.
The aerodrome controller role often includes ground control duties, for instance directing aircraft on the runway after landing and before take off, and to and from parking stands and holding areas.
An extremely important part of your work would be to respond to emergency distress calls. For example, this might include instructing and guiding to safety a light aircraft that has lost its way in bad weather.
Key skills and interests
To become an air traffic controller, you would need:
- the ability to work calmly under pressure
- the ability to concentrate on tasks
- excellent communication skills to give clear instructions
- confidence when working with technology
- the ability to interpret information from different sources
- the ability to check information quickly and accurately.
You must also have a good understanding and clear practical application of the English language; have Australian or New Zealand citizenship, or Australian permanent residency; be at least 18 years of age; and be able to satisfy aviation medical requirements.
Working hours and conditions
You would normally work 40 hours a week on a shift basis, including days, nights, weekends and public holidays. During a shift, you might guide aircraft for up to two hours, followed by a half-hour break.
You would be based in a flight control centre or airport control tower, spending most of your time monitoring aircraft and talking to pilots.
How to become an Air Traffic Controller?
Entry Level Education
To become an air traffic controller you usually have to gain your senior secondary school certificate or equivalent with passes in English, mathematics and a science subject (preferably physics).
Airservices Australia and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) are the only trainers and employers of air traffic controllers in Australia. Airservices Australia runs courses for air traffic control trainees in their Learning Academy throughout the year. Applicants must undergo a comprehensive selection process, including an online cognitive ability test, a computer-based aptitude test, an assessment day involving a competency-based interview, police checks, medical examinations and a drug test. Once selected, trainees undertake extensive training, covering theoretical and practical subjects as well as on-the-job instruction at the Learning Academy in Melbourne to complete the requirements for their Air Traffic Control Licence. Trainees are employed on a probationary basis while undergoing training, gaining a permanent position on successful completion of the course.
To become an air traffic controller with the RAAF you must first enter the Air Force as an officer and complete Air Force training courses in air traffic control.
Employment of air traffic controllers is projected to show little or no change. Most employment opportunities will result from the need to replace workers who retire.
As air traffic increases, employment growth will be influenced mainly by the building of new airports.