UPDATE May 27

Added to the Frequently Asked Questions below.

UPDATE May 25

Good morning! I’ll be back at it again today, answering any questions y’all still have. Feel free to comment to each other below and send me PMs with any individual questions. A few common questions I’ve been receiving:

  • When does the bid open? — The rumored date is June 14, but it’s not official yet. I will post the actual date here once it’s announced.

  • Do I get paid while at the academy? — Yes. The FAA per diem will cover your housing and food. You won’t be able to pocket the leftover per diem the way you used to. In addition you’ll make somewhere around $11/hr (someone at the academy now feel free to give me the exact number, it’s been 3 years since I’ve been there) to cover your bills back home.

  • Does the FAA pay for my moving expenses? — No. However you will get 64 hours of paid “change of station” leave to give you a couple weeks to get situated in your new city.

  • Is there a way to see what facilities need people now? I’d like to stay near XXX. — There is a priority placement list, but it is useless to you right now. By the time you get your facility options at the academy the list will be completely different.

  • What can I do to make my resume stand out? — The hiring process is almost entirely automated. One of the only times a human will look at your resume is just to verify your job history and/or education. The best way to make yourself stand out against the competition is to score as high as you can on the AT-SA.

  • What do I need to do right now? — Follow this thread. If you want to be proactive you can go ahead and MAKE YOUR PROFILE on USA Jobs and set up your resume using the resume builder provided. Other than that, just bookmark this thread and keep in touch. I will handle this the same way I did last year by providing constant updates at the top as well as responding to all PMs.

Have a great day and I’ll see y’all in the comments!

UPDATE 5, May 24

I’ve managed to clear out all my chats and PMs, and it seems most questions in the comments were answered by myself or others. I’m packing it in for the night, but I’ll be back tomorrow to continue talking to you all. Feel free to send me any messages if you need more information. I’ll always get back to you guys.

Like I’ve mentioned, I will continue to update this thread similar to how I did it last year. As I get new information, I will post it as updates at the top of this thread, so be sure to follow. Goodnight Reddit, I’ll see y’all in the morning.

UPDATE 4, May 24

I’m still trying to get to everybody, even those of you who PM’d me last night when I first posted this. I’m working today and trying to answer what I can while on break, but I’ll be sure to get to everybody eventually. Buckle in, this will be a long process.

UPDATE 3, May 24

A member from FAA Personnel Security has joined the conversation with some good insight regarding your personal history. Below is a copy of their comment:

“As someone who works in FAA Personnel Security I want to mention a few things here to save me time and you as well if you intend on applying:

There is about a 50% washout rate in the ATCS academy. So half of the students make it to the next step.

All ATCS go through an extensive background investigation with a NBIB investigator. You need to be honest and upfront in your answers on security documents and with the investigator. Don't think you can lie about your experience or education and not have it found out.

Don't apply if you've smoked weed or used drugs in the last few years and ever plan on smoking weed or using again. It doesn't matter if marijuana is legal in your state, it's still illegal federally and this is a federal government job with regular random testing.

Don't apply if you've had a dishonorable or general discharge from the military ever or have any currently delinquent federal debt this include student loans, taxes, mortgage. Make sure all of your debts are current and you've got payment plans going with proof of the plans and payments in writing.

Don't apply if you have any pending criminal charges (other than traffic citation related) or a recent criminal record within the last 3 years

Don't apply if you've been fired or resigned under the threat of being fired more than once in the last three years

With all that said, it's an awesome job if you can get through the academy and probation/OJT. I didn't even know anything about it other than the stigma of it being so stressful (it's not) until it was too late for me to apply due to age. Otherwise I would've jumped on it. It's not that stressful and the pay and benefits are excellent. A large number of ATCS have friends and family also in the FAA, which tells me it's not a bad gig at all. Do keep in mind though, that it is a huge responsibility and if you make a mistake controlling traffic, hundreds of lives could be put on the line. It's a safety related position and not to be taken lightly.”

UPDATE 2, May 24

I am in the process of adding the reference material from last year’s AMA to this one, but I am on mobile so it will take a little time. In the meantime, make sure to check out the “START HERE” link below. It has every bit of reference material I included last year.

UPDATE May 24

I went to sleep having answered everyone that had commented/messaged me at the time, and woke up to a lot more response. I will be getting to everybody whose comment wasn’t already answered by another helpful person, as well as every PM I’ve received. I will also keep this thread updated the same way I did last year, including updated on dates and times as they are released.

————————————————————————

THIS is the archived post from last year. There is a ton of information in that post that will be able to give you a solid idea of what this process and career entails. Below you will find the most important references from that post:

———————> START HERE <———————

You will apply for the position HERE once the bid is posted. It will be titled “Air Traffic Control Specialist Trainee”. It is highly recommended that you use the Resume Builder on USA Jobs rather than uploading your own.

Requirements to Apply:

  • Be a United States Citizen

  • Be age 30 or under

  • Pass a Medical Examination

  • Pass a security investigation

  • Speak English

  • Have 3 years of full time work experience, a bachelor’s degree, or a combination of the two

  • Be willing to relocate

————————————————————————

Things you should understand:

  • This is a long and seemingly arbitrary process. There are people who saw my post last year, applied, and never got beyond the application process. Others got to the next step to take the AT-SA (an entrance exam of sorts) and never got a response from the FAA after that. Others passed the AT-SA and received a tentative offer letter (TOL) but are still going through the different clearances as we speak a year later.

  • You will 99.9% have to relocate. The FAA does not care where you want to live. You will have limited options upon passing the academy that will be presented to you solely based on national staffing needs. There are a lot of facilities hurting for bodies and most of them aren’t in Florida or where your family lives. There are opportunities to transfer once you get in, but it can take time.

  • If you make it through the grueling hiring process and get to the academy, you can still not make it. If you fail your evals at the end of the academy, you will be terminated. If you pass the academy and get to a facility, you can still not make it through on the job training and may be terminated. Nothing is guaranteed until you are a fully certified controller, which takes anywhere from 1-3 years.

All that being said, this is the best job in the world if you can make it. You’ll make anywhere from $70-180k, with some exceptions making over $220k (those guys/girls are busting their asses working mandatory 6 day work weeks at severely understaffed facilities with insane traffic, so take that for what it’s worth). You earn competitive vacation time off, as well as 13 paid sick days per year. At a healthy facility, you’ll work 8 hour days with anywhere from 2-4 hours of break time. You will earn a pension that will pay you anywhere from 34-49% of your highest average 3 year pay for the rest of your life. We have mandatory retirement at age 56, but if you have 20 years in you can retire at age 50.

There are people at the academy right now who saw my AMA last year on Reddit, applied, and got hired. Solely for that reason I am doing this again. If anybody has any interest whatsoever in this, please don’t hesitate to comment and/or PM me. I will respond to everyone eventually.

Comments: 2275 • Responses: 24  • Date: 

PrivateIsotope809 karma

What is the stress level like?

SierraBravo261058 karma

I can only speak to my own experience, which that I do not feel overly stressed at any given point. I work at a mid-range facility with solid staffing. There are absolutely times where the traffic is intense, but as most controllers will tell you, that’s what we live for. It’s why we do the job. I think a lot of the stress is felt by people at understaffed facilities where there are substantial fatigue and morale issues.

PowerDubs514 karma

You mentioned mandatory age out, so what is the max age an applicant can be?

SierraBravo26571 karma

31 is the age cutoff for applicants.

supergiraffe92227 karma

Regarding the psychological evaluation, I have a history of depression and have been taking medication to treat it for years. Do you know if that would be a disqualifier? Thanks!

SierraBravo26362 karma

I can’t make any educated comment on medical issues, but I believe that would be a no-go. Take care of yourself.

FakeFlipFlops183 karma

Hey I go to an AMT school and for all I know from the teachers and staff they say being an ATC is really stresfull and you are forced to retire really early. How true is this?

SierraBravo26198 karma

The benefits outweigh the stress and yes we have mandatory retirement at 56, but that comes with a pension.

EDITED for typo. Mando retirement is 56, not 57.

bennetfoxy126 karma

Have you had any "deals" or near-misses when routing aircraft?

Does the FAA still require a 10-year work history? When I worked for the telephone department at our local airport, I had to provide a 10 year work history to get FAA clearance and I STILL couldn't go up on the flight deck of the air traffic controller tower. I could go above it and below it, but not inside and that's the room I always wanted to see!

SierraBravo26148 karma

Every controller will have moments of intense puckering. It happens.

As far as a tower tour, you should just be able to contact your local facility and ask for a tour! We’re always more than happy to show the public what we do.

Tato7069126 karma

Any info on when this year's opening will be posted?

SierraBravo26102 karma

Nothing has been formally announced yet, but I’ve heard somewhere around mid June.

SquiggleWings76 karma

Having experience in the job, would you put any college degrees or equivalent that would be advantageous to it? Do you think this new bid campaign was a success from last year (based on the talent pool that were successful so far)? I work in an airport and I absolutely couldn’t do your job, huge props to you

SierraBravo26108 karma

I can only speak to my own experience, which that I do not feel overly stressed at any given point. I work at a mid-range facility with solid staffing. There are absolutely times where the traffic is intense, but as most controllers will tell you, that’s what we live for. It’s why we do the job. I think a lot of the stress is felt by people at understaffed facilities where there are substantial fatigue and morale issues.

Probably the hardest aspect for most to get used to will be the rotating shift work. If you aren’t a napper before being a controller, you will certainly be one after.

Having any degree other than a CTI degree or prior experience means absolutely nothing. You will learn everything you need to know at the academy and then at your facility. There are excellent controllers who never stepped foot on a college campus, and there are people who had master’s degrees that couldn’t make it past the academy.

piledhighandlow49 karma

What is a CTI?

Also I like how Florida is your example of the most desirable place to be

SierraBravo2652 karma

Collegiate Training Initiative . It is one route to becoming an Air Traffic Controller, and the way I personally did it.

gallagej73 karma

What is your ideal brackfast?

SierraBravo26120 karma

If my fiancée is asleep when have an early shift, it’s usually a Greek yogurt with honey and granola. Otherwise it’s eggs with peppers and salsa, toast, and some fruit. Great question.

RCTIDKillpack61 karma

I'm too old, but I'm curious: if 31 is the oldest, what is the youngest an applicant can be?

Edit: typo

Gunhound47 karma

18

Alirrath54 karma

You need 4 years of work experience, or 3 years of college to apply however.

SierraBravo2679 karma

You flipped the years there, but yeah.

ilickvarts58 karma

So if you make it into the academy will they help you relocate to the academy? Also will you be paid while at the academy or will you need a good bit of money saved up to make it though those first 1-3 years you mentioned

DaytonaJoe112 karma

They pay mileage if you drive or they pay for your ticket. You're also paid for your time in Oklahoma and it's honestly a pretty sweet deal. They give you a per diem rate that is way more than enough to live there, especially if you don't stay at the normal controller spots...the owners know who stays there, so they rip you off knowing what you're getting paid.

When you get to your facility you start getting raises with each position you certify on, gradually rising from the starting salary of $45k or so up to whatever you'll be making as a certified controller. The training process tkes about 1-3 years.

SierraBravo2655 karma

^ All this

The-Zombie-ZAR55 karma

From your experience what’s the minimum vision requirements to be an air traffic controller? What’s the hardest part of your job?

Also would you say that the margin for human error is high in these kind of jobs?

SierraBravo26104 karma

I don’t know the requirements to pass the vision tests, but corrected vision is acceptable (I wear contacts).

The hardest part of the job is probably working weekends and holidays.

Yes.

The-Zombie-ZAR26 karma

Totally understandable.

What’s your vision rating without the contacts?

Charlie Mike.

SierraBravo2644 karma

I don’t know, but my prescription is -4.75

Alcedis31 karma

How realistic is the Airplane Crash Scene from Breaking Bad?

In case you might not know it (spoiler):

Because of stress and lack of concentration a single Air Traffic Controller causes two Airplanes to collide mid-Air.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sr6Ri0c5b5E

SierraBravo266 karma

It’s not the worst I’ve seen.

enska227 karma

Can I just ask questions about the job without inquiring about getting hired? I love the show "Air Disasters" and I like to learn about air travel.

I'm not sure if this is even a thing because I may be fundamentally misunderstanding the process, but is there any kind of "backup" system in place so that you aren't solely responsible for anything? Or are you solely responsible for the flights that you are assigned (if that's how it works)?

Do you have to do a physical and/or psychological exam? Do you have to continue doing physical and/or psych exams while you are employed?

Is English used worldwide for air traffic control and other flight communication?

ETA: feel free to point me to the other thread. It's a lot of info that I haven't read yet so it could be my answers are in there!

SierraBravo2640 karma

If you are interested, I absolutely recommend you check out the linked thread. There is just so much information there that was put together over a long period of time that I think you’ll really enjoy. The short answer is no, we are not solely responsible, generally speaking. There are redundancies in place and warning systems that assist in the primary objective of keeping aircraft separated. However a mistake by a controller at a critical time can absolutely end in catastrophe.

We undergo a psychological evaluation and intense background screening as part of the hiring process. We also have to pass a medical exam, and continue to get medically evaluated every 1-2 years throughout our entire career. If you can’t maintain a medical, you can’t work traffic.

LibraryScneef20 karma

Do the days fly by?

SierraBravo2614 karma

:)

Nannapuddin13 karma

Have you ever seen a grown man naked?

SierraBravo2610 karma

What’s your vector, Victor?

Jbwood10 karma

Let's say our credit history is less than stellar... would that be a no go from them then?

SierraBravo269 karma

It’s not a no-go, but expect a face-to-face interview with an investigator.

NeverEnufWTF7 karma

We have mandatory retirement at age 56

No exceptions? Like, even if you wanted to work at a seriously remote and understaffed facility?

SierraBravo2619 karma

Correct. Once you retire from the FAA you can get a job at a contract tower, which a lot of people do. These are airports with not enough traffic to justify FAA controllers working them but just enough to justify having a private company have controllers staffed there.

Sobbinator6 karma

Is the hiring process for last bid over? I applied last year due to your previous post, went and took the test & got referred, been sitting on referred since then.

SierraBravo267 karma

Once this bid gets posted, last year’s list will be purged unfortunately. You’ll have to reapply to this one.

fortylightbulbs5 karma

What qualities, skills, etc. would make a person ideal for the job?

SierraBravo266 karma

Linked it in the original post. Most controllers seem to be Type A people. Confident, can think multiple moves in advance, able to listen/speak nearly simultaneously. Those are just a few that come to mind.

clwestbr5 karma

I'm unexperienced, I'm a writer, and I'm currently unemployed but desperate. I do, however, want to stay local for the time being. What are my chances and would you mind giving some training details?

For your info:

- I'm 30

- I'm an English major

- I've scored platinum on WorkKeys (not that it matters)

- I'm in great shape physically but I currently keep a trash schedule because...well, I'm unemployed.

SierraBravo268 karma

Check out the archived post I linked, it’s got a lot more information than I can give you here. Your age would be a concern, as you have to have a TOL by the time you turn 31, and that’s a hard cutoff.

Red_Jester-945 karma

Hi, I have a few questions, and sorry if you've already answered somewhere else ITT:

Do you know what the high-demand areas that need people are? I'm willing to work anywhere, but would like a good idea. Currently live in Seattle.

The Academy housing site in the previous thread didn't work for me. Generally, how much is cost of living and pay while there? What are the living conditions like?

Are non-medical failures allowed to retry for future openings?

How long would you say it generally takes from application to hire to training? It seems like it could range from 10 months to over a year.

SierraBravo2610 karma

  • Northeast and any major hub

  • Roughly $11/hr plus $94/day per diem

  • I honestly don’t know. Couldn’t hurt to apply again.

  • The general time frame from application to academy date is roughly one year. From there the academy is 3-4 months, depending on if you are selected for Terminal or En Route. Training time at your facility will be anywhere from 1-3 years.

JungleCatStevens1 karma

Do you think a four-year degree is a good way to gauge an applicant's ability to apply the focus, long-term thinking and resilience needed to do the job?

SierraBravo262 karma

The short answer is no, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.