*** I will continue to update this post throughout the next month with any new details on the upcoming bid ***


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General Information

FAA Frequently Asked Questions

Pay and Benefits

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities required to be successful

Reference Guides and Study Material

Academy Housing Information

Disqualifying Medical Conditions and Special Considerations

It is speculated that the bid will he posted on June 25, but nothing has been confirmed yet.

Apply here next month - The listing will be for “Air Traffic Control Specialist Trainee”

It is HIGHLY recommended that you use the resume builder tool on USA Jobs rather than uploading your own.

Call a Tower or En Route Center near you and schedule a tour of the facility. We are always happy to show people around and give them a first hand look at the job.

Understand that this is a LONG process. Be prepared to do a lot of waiting.


Information about the job and requirements


To be eligible to apply in the upcoming hiring panel, you must be a US citizen, be under 31 years old, and have either 3 years of full time work experience, a bachelor’s degree, or a combination of both full time work experience and college credits.

Part of your application will be to take a Biographical Questionnaire. This is similar to personality tests you can find online. Once you’ve completed the application, you’ll have to wait a couple months to find out if you passed the BQ. If you didn’t, you’ll have to try again next time they open a hiring bid, which will most likely be next year. If you do pass, you will have to wait another 2-4 months to be scheduled to take the AT-SA. This is an 8 hour aptitude exam that you must pass to continue through the process. If you pass the AT-SA, you will get a Tentative Offer Letter around 2 months after that will include instructions on getting your medical completed, as well as setting up an appointment for a psychological evaluation. Once you’ve done that and your background check is completed, you’ll once again have to wait a few months to find out a class date for the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City. We joke around that the FAA’s motto is “Hurry up and wait”, and it’s pretty much spot on.

You will spend 3-4 months at the academy getting your initial training, the time difference being based on whether you were hired for Terminal (airport towers) or En Route (radar centers). At the end of your training you will take several examinations, which consist of you running simulated air traffic. If you fail, you lose your job. If you pass, you’ll get a list of facilities to choose from that can be anywhere in the country. YOU MUST BE WILLING TO RELOCATE. Once at your facility, you will continue your training on real traffic at your facility. This can take anywhere from 1-3 years, depending on your skill and the facility.

I can’t stress enough how amazing this job is. You will make anywhere from $70,000 - $180,000 per year, depending on your facility. You will have a pension that will pay you around 40% of your highest 3 year gross pay average for the rest of your life, and a 401k that matches 5% (1 for 1 the first 3%, 1/2 for 1 for the other 2%). Mandatory retirement is at 56, but you can retire at 50 with full benefits. You will earn good vacation time, as well as 13 sick days per year. On any given 8 hour shift you will have anywhere from 2-4 hours of break time. The worst part about the schedule is the rotating shift work, but it’s not that bad.

Any other questions, please don’t hesitate to ask here or PM me. I would love to help as many people get into this field as possible. Most people have no idea that this is even a thing.

Comments: 3628 • Responses: 48  • Date: 

greg_reddit4130 karma

Is the work as high pressure as we hear?

Edit: thanks for all the responses to my question.

SierraBravo263759 karma

It can be at times, yes. Other times not so much. It varies greatly.

Yochilllllllll1643 karma

Can you explain in detail what exactly is so high pressure about it? I get you’re responsible for people’s lives but are you scrambling over the controls & radio frantically or what exactly makes this stressful?

SierraBravo263908 karma

You need to know your next 8, 9, 10 moves and keep them in order while having controllers from adjacent sectors calling you in one ear and aircraft reaching out to you in another. Plus weather. Plus pilot error. Plus a lot of random little stuff.

Necrotroph3559 karma

As a student pilot, sorry for the errors lol

SierraBravo2671 karma

Hahaha no problem, bud. We love you guys!

greg_reddit68 karma


SierraBravo2662 karma

No problem!

chuckhart2126 karma

I’m in my late 30’s and just said damn a lot while reading this. Damn. I’d totally do that job. So I guess the only question I have is what you and your colleges thought of Breaking Bad. Was it authentic enough? Is it even possible that something like that could occur? I’ve wondered about this since those episodes aired.

SierraBravo262123 karma

A distracted controller could absolutely make a catastrophic error. I was impressed with how much of the phraseology they got right.

chuckhart381 karma

Thanks dude! You’ve got an awesome job.

SierraBravo26320 karma

Thanks, I think so too!

HazMatt_234 karma

If I'm 31 now and won't turn 32 until July, should I bother applying? I live in one of the cities with a position available.

SierraBravo264 karma

If you are already 31 you are ineligible I’m afraid

Mock3001164 karma

What happens when you don't pass the first training exams? Are you allowed to try again or are you barred?

SierraBravo261099 karma

If you wash out of the academy I’m pretty sure you can apply again after one year.

Mock300406 karma

Even if your age is 31 or older after that first attempt?

SierraBravo26828 karma

No once you turn 31 you’re done.

iDeNoh402 karma

so having turned 31 this month, I'm pretty much screwed then?

SierraBravo26637 karma

Unless you are prior military, I’m afraid so :(

ribbonlace58 karma

I don't believe that's true. If you wash out of the academy generally you won't be extended another offer in the future.

SierraBravo26115 karma

I know that’s how it used to be, but some of the new guys out of the academy have said you can reapply. I’m honestly not sure.

sippyboots864 karma

What ‘title’ will the job be posted under next month in which we apply for?

SierraBravo26979 karma

“Air Traffic Control Specialist Trainee”, series 2152

twoshoesonesock775 karma

After getting established in the field is it fairly easy to relocate to another terminal?

SierraBravo26670 karma

The short answer is yes, but it may take some time depending on your facility and where you want to go.

midflinx686 karma

Do controllers feel they are understaffed at small, middle, or major airports? If so, how badly understaffed at each level?

SierraBravo26825 karma

It depends on the facility. On a national level, the FAA absolutely has a shortage of controllers. Some facilities are working mandatory 6 day weeks, which is the most they can force us to work because we can’t work more than 6 days in a row without a day off.

darwin_thornberry598 karma

Why 31 years old? What if I turn 31 a few months into the process?

SierraBravo26572 karma

Check the first link at the top. You must be under 31 by the closing date of the application period. If you’ve got a few months to go, then you’re good to go!

Ms-Adventure333 karma

Do you have any recommendations for a Canadian who might be interested in this? Do you think the process is similar here in Canada and where might one find more information about it?

SierraBravo26477 karma

In the US controllers are federal employees. The Canadian ATC system is privatized.

Galveira326 karma

How often do people burn out, and at what age does that usually happen?

SierraBravo26660 karma

I haven’t seen anybody burn out. Controllers love what they do. That being said, I’m sure that people working at facilities like New York TRACON where the traffic is nonstop all the time and they are working mandatory 6 day work weeks because they can’t get the staffing they need might have something else to say. Although from what I hear they are enjoying their $200,000 plus per year pay lol

Lord_of_Womba55 karma

If you don't mind my asking, what was your background bwfore you started as a ATC? Were you or people you know ever nervous or scared of the weight of responsibility that you have with the job?

The perks and pay sound awesome and I'm definitely interested, but being personally responsible for so many lives sounds very daunting. So far in my life the most responsibility I've had is just driving my car for work.

SierraBravo26191 karma

I was a college dropout baggage handler who had no direction and was just floating by. I knew I loved aviation, and knew I wanted to make more money. So I looked into being a pilot, and I visited my local ATC tower to see what being a controller was like. I absolutely fell in love with ATC at that point. I called HR and asked what I needed to do. At that time they were only hiring prior military and graduates from an Air Traffic CTI collegiate program. So I moved across the state and went to CTI school. It took 4 years from when I first became interested in ATC to finally getting hired.

zacht180299 karma

Hi, I currently work in public service and have also had a long history as working as a police, fire, and 911 dispatcher. I used to think of air-traffic controllers sort of like dispatchers, but for planes... and requires you to be much smarter and tedious regarding the technical work. I've considered looking into learning more about air-traffic controlling and have been on the fence on whether or not I should make the initiatives to actually pursuing it as a career option. A few questions:

- I am fine under pressure and can handle tense moments as well as demonstrate good multi-tasking and decision making skills. I am also a very good communicator. Thanks to my current career I've developed those skills quite well, but on the contrary I have never been an academic person. I did attend college and have a BA but for the most part I was always a B/C student and struggled with complicated subjects like math or chemistry. I was always under the impression that ATCs had to be very good mathematicians. Is that correct?

- I am red/green color deficient and very rarely I might have a hard time distinguishing two shades of red and green. Is that going to be a medical DQ?

- The benefits are great. Are there any commodities or advantages when it comes to travel, similar to how flight attendants get free or insanely cheap flights?

I appreciate your time.

SierraBravo26371 karma

Thanks for your questions! The skill set it takes to be an Air Traffic Controller really has nothing to do with being “book smart”. There have been med students with 4.5 GPAs who have washed out of the academy, and there have been Starbucks baristas pass the academy with flying colors. The math you need to be able to quickly on your head is very specific and you will learn good techniques for that at the academy and later at your facility.

The vision issue could be another story. Check out this page for some background information, and maybe search around to see if you can find tests online.

FailureToExecute265 karma

What, if any, are the administrative differences between being a Terminal ATC and an En Route ATC? I imagine Terminal controllers will receive a higher starting salary due to what I presume to be more stressful jobs associated with higher volumes of traffic, but I'm curious to know if you have any insight on this.

SierraBravo26213 karma

So the facility levels go from basically level 5 to level 12. The lowest En Route facility is a level 10, and you can’t start at a Terminal facility higher than 8. So if you get picked up for En Route, after about 2-3 years you will be making more money. That being said, you can typically check out at a Terminal facility within a year, meaning you will get your certification raises much faster and be making more money for the first few years. Also, once you check out at a Terminal facility you can transfer to an En Route center, staffing permitting.

WVAustin113 karma

You can't go higher than level 7, OKC is the only level 8 offered out of the academy and they're training backlogged. I'm at the academy now

SierraBravo2693 karma

Is that just for your class list? I had level 8’s on my list when I went through in early 2016.

WVAustin73 karma

They told us on the first day of basics we can only choose between level 4 and 7, they also changed to one slot per person from two

SierraBravo2664 karma


bgeller240 karma

After mandatory retirement can one work for a contracted tower at a smaller airport?

SierraBravo26158 karma


yum_blue_waffles213 karma

What's your average work day like?

SierraBravo26698 karma

Keep airplanes moving and don’t let them touch. Play ping pong, XBOX, or nap on breaks.

Justin_92205 karma

So is it 3 years of work experience period or does it need to be somewhat related to the job? Kinda unclear on that for me...

SierraBravo26246 karma

3 years of any full time work experience.

Drakkos1018128 karma

Once you are at your facility, can you stay there for good or should you expect to change facilities periodically?

SierraBravo26156 karma

You can stay at your first facility for your entire career if you wish.

patb2015111 karma

why the age restriction?

SierraBravo26267 karma

Because we face mandatory retirement at age 56 and must be able to put in 25 good years for our pension.

barsoapguy87 karma

can't smoke weed right ?

SierraBravo2696 karma

Unfortunately not.

nyrvesMTG85 karma

What does it pay during training?

SierraBravo26240 karma

You’ll make $10/hr plus $90 per day in per diem while at the academy. Once you graduate and report to your facility you will make roughly $45,000 per year. Then you get raises as you certify on positions until your final raise when you complete all training. I have been at my facility for less than 2 years and I am making $95,000.

Ihaveasmallwang28 karma

Why 31? What makes 33 unable to perform the job?

SierraBravo2682 karma

Because we face mandatory retirement at age 56 and must be able to put in 25 good years for our pension.

sleepingsysadmin20 karma

How many times have you had to give someone a phone number to call and get in trouble? Respect mah Authoritah!

Why do aircraft designations in the USA start with N? If the USA was first to invent airplanes shouldn't they be A or 1?

SierraBravo2638 karma

Haha I’ve only had to do that twice so far, both for severe pilot deviations. One was a runway incursion with an aircraft on short final, and another was a Cherokee that decided to turn back through the departure fan and almost collide with a citation that departed behind him.

And here is everything you could ever learn about the history of the N designator!

Rocksofty7 karma

What is considered the best quality of life base/assignment?

SierraBravo2611 karma

That is entirely subjective. I personally prefer the Terminal environment.

727Super277 karma

Do you love ATCmemes as much as I do?

SierraBravo268 karma


DogIsMyShepherd6 karma

Can I pm you a few questions?

SierraBravo267 karma

Please do!

D_left_handed_fapper4 karma

I was convicted of a DUI back in January but it was issued in November of 2017. I've been going to AA meetings and fulfilling all requirements. I'm also attending a CTI with my completion date being later on this year. I did not plan to pursue a bachelor's degree because I was set to become an ATC. By the way, my credit score isn't that great. At this point I feel like the chances of me becoming an ATC is minimal. Am I being realistic?

SierraBravo2611 karma

Honestly bud, I have no idea. Your best bet is to call FAA HR. PM me and I’ll give you their number.

BattleScarredWarrior4 karma

I kind of crack under (not sure what to do, mixup words, have a hard time talking) pressure. Can you give me examples of some high stakes situations that might happen?

SierraBravo264 karma

Not to be sarcastic, but basically this^

BamaBagz2 karma

What is the age cut-off for former/current military? Does this provision only apply to former military with experience in the air traffic control area, r any military specialty?

SierraBravo261 karma

I’m not sure. PM me and I’ll give you the number to reach FAA HR and they’ll be able to tell you.