Final Update 8/3

The application window is closed! This will be my last update on this thread, although I will continue to answer any questions that I get notifications for here.

To all who applied: Head over to r/ATC_Hiring to keep in touch throughout the upcoming process. There are a lot of hurdles to clear and I know a lot of you will continue to have a ton of questions. I’ll be over there posting updates and helping out along the way. See you there, and good luck!


Update 8/1, 11:00pm CDT

Wrapping up for the night. I’ll be back here tomorrow for the last day of the application window. After that, I encourage those of you who applied and want to stay in touch to head over to r/ATC_Hiring. I created that sub after the last hiring round to be a place for everybody to keep in touch and bounce questions off each other as they move along through the very long hiring process. See you tomorrow!


Update 8/1, 7:00am CDT

Good morning! I’m back here all day to continue to answer any lingering questions. Fire away.

Update 7/31, 9:30pm CDT

Logging off for the night. Thank you all for the continued interest! For those of you who aren’t familiar with how I did my previous AMAs, I will continue to update this thread daily until the bid closes, and then periodically with any major updates. The hiring process takes MONTHS, sometimes over a year. I know a lot of you will continue to have questions as we move along, and I want to be here to help in any way I can.

If you haven’t already, check out the links below to my previous AMAs. I have a bunch of info on how this process works moving forward.

I will be back here tomorrow morning to continue the conversation, and I’ll update this thread accordingly. Also please continue to DM me with any questions you don’t feel comfortable asking publicly. I will do my best to answer every one of you ASAP.

Good night, see ya in the morning!


Update 7/31, 5:30am CDT

Back to answer more questions. Keep them coming! I will continue to respond to questions here and in my DMs throughout the day, and I’ll update here again once I’m done for the night.

HERE is the link for the medical requirements.


Update 11:30pm CDT

I’m heading to bed for a few hours. I’ll be back on in the morning to continue answering questions. A couple answers for some common questions:

I can’t answer many specific questions regarding medical requirements, but I posted a link in my 2018 and 2019 AMA’s, so check those out.

The pay listed on the job posting is your salary while attending the academy at OKC. This will be for 3-4 months depending on which track you are selected for. If you graduate the academy, your pay at your facility will be significantly higher.

See you all tomorrow! Please continue to ask questions here and in my DMs. I’ll answer everyone at some point.


Let me start off by sharing 2 AMA’s I did here for the 2018 and 2019 “off the street” hiring bids that the FAA held. I will link them below. Please take a look at those archived posts as they have a wealth of information contained in them:

2018 AMA

2019 AMA

Now on to today’s relevant information…

If you are under the age of 31 and interested in becoming an Air Traffic Controller, the Federal Aviation Administration’s public hiring bid is now open through August 2.

This job does not require a college degree, and the average salary after completion of training is $127,805.

Information on FAA website


Minimum requirements:

•Be a United States citizen

•Be age 30 or under (on the closing date of the application period)

•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

•Be willing to relocate to an FAA facility based on agency staffing needs


More information can be found on the FAA’s website HERE


The hiring process is extremely lengthy (typically at least a year from date of application to your report date to the FAA Academy in OKC), so please understand what you are getting into. That being said, this is very rewarding career which has amazing benefits, including high pay, a pension which will pay around 40% of your highest 3 year income average for the rest of your life, and a 401k with 5% match. Mandatory retirement is age 56, and you can retire sooner with full benefits if you meet certain criteria.

This job isn’t for everybody, but my previous 2 AMA’s had a lot of success and I’ve received hundreds of messages at this point from people who saw my AMA’s, applied, and have since made it into the field. Please check out my previous AMA’s linked above. Some things have changed (such as the removal of the BQ from the hiring process), but there is still tons of relevant information there.


Comments: 2119 • Responses: 71  • Date: 

DontCallMeBugsy1812 karma

This job screams "high stress." How stressful is it? Have you had any close calls?

SierraBravo261580 karma

There are definitely periods of high stress, but it’s not like that 24/7. And - this is a huge caviar depending on how each individual facility is staffed - we get a lot of breaks to refresh.

donuttakedonuts1732 karma

Wow, you get caviar on the breaks too? Damn, I’m applying!

SierraBravo26897 karma

Hahahaha! I’m leaving that.

airmandan970 karma

Sierra Bravo, Cherokee uh…Cherokee one tree fine blulu …uh, with you…uh, with you on …on 132.55. I’m uh, three miles northwest of…uh actually I’m with you on 123.55 sorry, northwest of southeast flargle southwest at uh, one two twelve thousand uh, five hundred correction one zero ten thousand, and uh, climbing for one two twelve thousand, um. With request?

SierraBravo26462 karma

This is perfection incarnate.

Ibzm548 karma

As a helicopter pilot I usually just avoid ATC unless other than the control tower at my origin/destination. The times I do talk to ATC they seem like they don't really care about us as long as we stay out of the way (but usually in a nice way). As a controller, how do you feel about helos in the airspace? Do you want us to talk to you or just stay away like I usually do?

SierraBravo26716 karma

I don’t want to talk to any aircraft I don’t have to!

Lol on a serious note though, if you’re flying anywhere near a busy arrival or departure corridor, I’d like to talk to you. Makes my job a lot easier to issue traffic to you both rather than vector around a 1200 code whose intentions are unknown.

Ibzm189 karma

That's kind of what I figured. I generally stay away from even the shelf of Bravo airspace if I can, but under the shelf of some airports like PHL and BWI, I definitely reach out.

SierraBravo26142 karma

Under the shelf of the bravo isn’t so bad, because if you’re not talking to me, you’re not supposed to be in the bravo so it’s less of a concern. Although we can’t just assume you aren’t busting the airspace with a bad altimeter setting.

Ibzm77 karma

Good point. Part of my reasoning is simply a Navy requirement. They want us to either be on a flight plan or use flight following "to the max extent practical" and while usually its easy to argue away, under the shelf is stretching to say "I was too low anyway."

SierraBravo2690 karma

Hey when in doubt, reach out

dolfan1528 karma

How bad do you have to fuck up to create a critical error? As in, is it possible for a simple oversight to create a catastrophe, or do you basically just have to disregard all of your training and make multiple egregious errors to reach that point?

Also I read another comment about your schedule. Is it not an issue for you to be working different shifts all throughout the week in terms of your internal body clock? I'd assume it would be better to have a regular set of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd shift crews so nobody who is sharpest at 8am is trying to guide a plane in at 2am.

SierraBravo26564 karma

There are a ton of redundancies in place to prevent a catastrophic incident.

The schedule isn’t ideal, but it is what it is!

bullet50000387 karma

A few questions!

You mention average salary of ~$127k per year, why does the advertisement say starting salary of $41k per year? Does the pay just rise really fast, or does it take a while to reach that $127k per year? (I've been wanting to work in Aviation, but had a hard time financially justifying it given the kind of pay drop I'd have to hit with my current career as an accountant)

What are the physical requirements? My vision isn't great, though is well controlled with my glasses, just because I got told I couldn't apply for the Air Force because I wear glasses.


SierraBravo26581 karma

So the pay on the bid is your pay while you attend the academy. The average pay listed on my post is once you fully certify, meaning passing the academy (3-4 months), and fully certifying at your facility, which depending on a number of factors takes anywhere from 1-4 years. Different facilities also have different pay scales depending on their level. At a standard, mid-level facility you can expect to make right around $100,000/yr once fully certified.

Corrected vision is not a problem at all.

InappropriateTA345 karma

Why the age restriction?

SierraBravo26382 karma

It’s a young person’s gig

reddittisfreedom343 karma

"Great career with excellent benefits" ... "it's a young person gig". Please clarify.

SierraBravo26184 karma

Sorry, yes it is because of the mandatory retirement age at age 56, and the skills required for the job degrade the older you get.

powell2brigade27 karma

Are there waivers available for over 30 or is it set in stone?

SierraBravo2658 karma

Over 31, and without being prior ATC in the military, unfortunately not.

PeinEVO225 karma

mental health and mental exhaustion.

how often does ur job brings you towards mental exhaustion and its impact towards ur mental health?

how do u keep focus for a lengthy amount of time watching screen without ur thoughts going somewhere else

SierraBravo26339 karma

The job can be stressful at times, but your training prepares you for that. You learn techniques to keep your scan going and not lose sight of the picture. If a facility is staffed well enough (some are, some aren’t), you typically get a 30-60 minute break every hour your on position to refresh.

Dingleberry_Blumpkin48 karma

You get an hour break every hour? Lol sign me up

SierraBravo2661 karma

Depending on the facility, yes. Other times it can be 2 hours on with 15-30 off.

bravehamster212 karma

I know that being diagnosed as ADHD and taking ADHD-related medication is disqualifying for receiving a pilot's license. Does the same thing apply to ATC?

SierraBravo26151 karma


ReedsTooMuch25 karma

To piggyback on this question what about ADHD diagnosis without medication? I stopped taking mine 6 years ago because I didnt want to be reliant on medication. Just another bump in the road and I have a handle on it now . Would i qualify?

SierraBravo2637 karma

It doesn’t hurt to try. I believe as long as you’re not on medication you should be ok, but I don’t know if the diagnosis alone would be a DQ.

nonyabusiness123168 karma

How easy would it be for me to enter this field already having a private pilot license and medical and all?

SierraBravo26276 karma

Your pilot perspective will definitely help you be a better all-around controller, but won’t make much of a difference in the hiring process.

Alexanderdaw138 karma

Do you ever make mistakes?

SierraBravo26276 karma

We can always do better, but safety is always top priority

bob742omb46 karma

What do you do if you make a mistake?

SierraBravo26137 karma

Learn from it and move on

TheSwex138 karma

What’s the medical exam like? Bunch of bloodwork?

SierraBravo26166 karma

Vision test including color blind test, hearing, etc

wellidontreally75 karma

so what if i use glasses?

SierraBravo26143 karma

No problem. I’m blind as a bat without my contacts.

Mutesiren94 karma

I applied for the off the streets bid after seeing this post back in 2018.

I'm STILL in the process of hearing back from the FAA about my application and feel like I've been really put on the back burner after being told that there is no definite timeline and waiting months between any updates. It's been hard keeping my hopes up for this position even after passing the test and getting my TOL back in early 2019. I have written down a timeline of every step of the process I've come across.

It's been now over 3 years since I've applied and almost 4 months since their last email about my application which is still under review. I am turning 31 this December and I don't know if it will disqualify me considering I applied at 27. Praying that I can get my shot at this someday.

Is there anything more I can do at this point?

If you think there is, please DM me. I'd be happy to give more details in private.

SierraBravo2675 karma

Your age should be locked in from when you applied the first time. I would definitely by calling your HR POC nonstop, though. Squeaky wheel.

PwnagePanda8992 karma

As a 31 year old I gotta ask. Where does the age limit come from?

SierraBravo26177 karma

Mandatory retirement age of 56 and mental ability decreasing the older we get

letsflyplanes85 karma

I’m an airline pilot and I just stumbled onto this AMA.

I’ve always wondered how easy it is for ATC folks to get based where they want. You don’t get much of a choice out of the academy, right? Say you want to live in Denver, Chicago, Salt Lake or another large city. Would it be easy, or would you be stuck somewhere smaller, like Boise, twin falls, BFE Midwest, etc. for years before you could move where you want?

P.S. every time this window opens I contemplate applying, seems like a fun job and I’d be home a lot more. Thanks for all y’all do.

SierraBravo26117 karma

The process to transfer right now is a little difficult, but eventually (sometimes years) you should be able to get to where you want to go, or at least the general vicinity.

Side note: I’m from Florida and ended up in BFE Midwest out of the academy. Ended up meeting my now wife there.

Life, uh, finds a way!

diffluere83 karma

I'm a commercial interior designer and I might be working on a new tower/base building project soon. The last one we did we tried to make the design energetic and fun where we could. I'm curious if you have any suggestions for how I can make the building more comfortable for y'all?

SierraBravo26109 karma

Get rid of the asbestos.

Seriously though, that’s a great question and I just don’t know of any ideas I could give off the top of my head.

diffluere43 karma

Hah, the last one I worked on was LEED certified so no asbestos there. I'm trying to make buildings safer/healthier as much as I can!! :)

SierraBravo2626 karma

Thank you!

_Fittek_79 karma

how busy is airspace you work at rn? does covid still have big impact on aviation industry or is it starting to die out?

SierraBravo26132 karma

We are back to over 100% of pre-COVID traffic at my facility

Mskorn8574 karma

Are you Approach, Departure, or Center?

SierraBravo2685 karma


HiFiGuy19772 karma

Will the testing shake people out quickly, or maybe it will take many months, or...?

SierraBravo26117 karma

Nothing about the process is quick unfortunately

Kbearforlife59 karma

I recently saw a news story that stated and I quote "FAA seeking gamers for ATC career"

In your opinion, is this warranted, do they truly believe that gamers are a great fit and how long do you think these postings will be up until the position is filled? In other words, are these jobs always looking for new hires?

Thanks ahead of time.

Edit - I mean I was asking O.P., I had no idea that all the other commenters also worked for the FAA! I'd rather listen to the person doing the AmA lmao

SierraBravo2695 karma

The FAA typically hires controllers once per year. And the majority of controllers I’ve worked with, including myself, are gamers. So there’s that.

Zero217649 karma

Hey wanted to ask on how you chose to become an air traffic controller and if there is a huge difference between civilian air traffic controllers and military air traffic controllers?

SierraBravo2673 karma

I was a college drop out working as a baggage handler. Knew I loved aviation and wanted to make more money. It was between ATC and becoming a pilot, and I just ended up choosing ATC.

mustang__147 karma

Were you really on a landline?

SierraBravo2652 karma

…………. Always.

compositeboy43 karma

You keep mentioning that certain benefits and staffing supplies and policies depend on your local facility. How do you find ((honest)) reports from ATC’s about the facility?

“It depends on the facility” is nice and transparent, but how do we figure that out so we don’t get stuck in a miserable position?

SierraBravo2651 karma

Well the pay is the pay, doesn’t matter the staffing situation. Some facilities are severely understaffed and people are working mandatory 6 day work weeks. They are getting a ton of OT, but not much life right now. Other facilities have good or decent staffing and work normal 40 hour weeks. The better the staffing, the more breaks.

Genius-Imbecile31 karma

What are your thoughts on the movie Pushing Tin?

SierraBravo2649 karma

Love it and I don’t care how many of my coworkers know it

gsharp33128 karma

You keep mentioning a unique skill set that is desired for this job. Can you describe what these skills would be?

SierraBravo2689 karma

Ability to work under stress, talk/listen at the same time, understand geometry in 3D space, confident decision-making, among others

EticketJedi25 karma

Why didn't you make this post 15 years ago?

SierraBravo2640 karma

I was just graduating high school!

mudpilot20 karma

Cactus 1529 you lost which engine?

SierraBravo2616 karma


SadCookieCrisp19 karma

Do you typically work alone or is it on a team kind of thing?

Obviously a paid training course and 6 figure job with no degree sounds like a cake walk, so what stops most people from doing it?

Whats the job outlook like?

Is it worth the money if you dont care for the job, or is it something you have to want to do for it to be worth it?

SierraBravo2631 karma

Definitely a team job.

This job requires a very unique skill set. Some people can do it, some people can’t.

Most controllers will tell you they love what they do. Whether or not the pay is worth it if your heart isn’t in it is totally subjective.

Rubrassackwards17 karma

Any drug testing in the medical exam?

SierraBravo2624 karma


piggy_bun14 karma

What should someone do if they want to do this but have no prior experience or training whatsoever?

SierraBravo2621 karma


user0006713 karma

Could you please comment on these things?

stress (do you feel every day like you are one mistake away from being jobless)

Work life balance (do you have time for family, hobbies outside of work, regular sleep schedule) or at least get those things better through seniority

Background requirements (criminal history/drug use)

Thanks in advance!

SierraBravo2648 karma

I don’t feel stress overall on a daily basis. Some days are harder than others, some facilities are harder than others, and some sessions in particular can get stressful. But if you ask most controllers they’ll tell you it’s why we do the job. We like working traffic.

Most facilities are 24 hours and run rotating shift work. The typical week is 2 evening shifts, 2 morning shifts, and an overnight. For example, my schedule is:

Thurs: 1430-2230 Fri: 1300-2100 Sat: 0700-1500 Sun: 0600-1400, and then back at 2230 for the mid shift ending at 0630 on Monday morning.

Some people love it for the longer weekends, some people hate it. Expect your off days to be in the middle of the week for your first 10 years or so.

DoesTheOctopusCare28 karma

Rotating shifts within the same week? Wow that's rough and seems really opposite of what it should be, given how circadian rhythm disruption drastically changes cognitive abilities.

SierraBravo2612 karma

Yeah, we agree lol

user000674 karma

I appreciate it. Could you also address the pay please (seems pretty low) and willingness to relocate (are there any spots that are in demand) - i.e. SFO?

SierraBravo2610 karma

The pay on the listing is your pay while attending the academy. It will change drastically at your facility.

FelixFrancis001910 karma

I was looking at this as a potential career change from police dispatcher but when I was looking it wasnt available. I'm now 33. Is it impossible to get a job at 33 as an ATC? I work a high stress job as a police dispatcher and 911 Call Taker so I'm pretty sure I could handle that part of the job.

SierraBravo2628 karma

Unfortunately 31 is a hard cutoff.

I actually was a police dispatcher for a year while I was waiting to get picked up after college. Tough job, mad respect.

iTut10 karma

I’m blind in one eye, but my other eye has perfect vision, am I automatically disqualified?

SierraBravo2633 karma

I believe that would be a no-go, but I’m actually not 100% on that

Kotesmagotes5 karma

Guessing the answer is no, but anyway to qualify if you're a permanent resident?

SierraBravo267 karma

Have to be a citizen

saw-it5 karma

How do you get placed after training? Is a job guaranteed?

SierraBravo2618 karma

First you have to pass the academy. Upon completion, you’re given a list of the next 10-20 available slots at facilities based on national staffing needs. You pick where you want to go out of that list based on your rank in class.

Bearry154 karma

Do you get paid to go to the academy?

SierraBravo268 karma

Yes, that’s what the pay listed on the job posting is referring to. It will change drastically at your facility.

saw-it2 karma

How long is the academy?

SierraBravo268 karma

3 months for terminal, 4 months for en route

stuckonpost4 karma

How often do you come in contact with soldiers who are rated on ATC systems?

I was attached to an ATC unit, and a lot of them couldn’t t stay in because they’re an E3 making E3 pay, while a civilian makes three times as much and works three times as less.

Our soldiers were rated in things like Tower and GCA, and worked with mainly rotary wing. They had other systems, but I think those were mainly Army things. :|

SierraBravo265 karma

Lots of prior military in the FAA

TokenBlackDudeBro2 karma

Are there any physical requirements that would disqualify a candidate?

I.e. poor vision/ hand eye coordination

SierraBravo2611 karma

Corrected vision is approved. No test for hand-eye coordination.

[deleted]2 karma


SierraBravo265 karma

Yes, you just made the cut! You have to be under 31 by the time of the application closing, which is 8/2.

meg2972 karma

You a NATCA member?

SierraBravo264 karma

Since day 1

tummysticksNY2 karma

Can you be over 30 if you have military service?

SierraBravo263 karma

Prior military ATC can get in up to 36 I believe. Not sure for non-ATC vets

Cinemiketography2 karma

Does having tinnitus disqualify you?

SierraBravo264 karma

As far as I know, as long as you can pass the hearing test you’re fine.

benny20121 karma

On a scale from November to Kilo, how accurate was Pushing Tin?

SierraBravo261 karma


baermaddog1 karma

How is the selection for picking where you work. I'm not really up to moving and would only want this if I could be atcs in my city. Is this something that can be garunteed before hand?

SierraBravo268 karma

No guarantee of where you go. The academy is in OKC and takes 3-4 months. If you pass, you’re offered a list of the 10-20 slots up next on the national staffing list. They could be at any facility in the country. You pick from that list based on your rank in the class.

CIA_grade_LSD1 karma

Is there any wiggle room on the age? I just turned 33 but this sounds amazing and I fit all the other requirements to a T.

SierraBravo2614 karma

Unfortunately not

BrokeLegCricket1 karma

Where do you work, in a tower or TRACON? IF TRACON, are you an AT specialist, Radar, or DA?

SierraBravo266 karma

I’m a CPC at an up/down facility, meaning I work both Tower and Approach.

bluurd-15 karma

It is interesting how those over 40 cannot be discriminated due to age as it is a FEDEDERALLY protected class, except for this federal job...

Why is this job exempt from this discrimination?

Edit: I'm not sure why this is getting downvoted for a very valid question. I am curious about the legal standpoint of this.

SierraBravo267 karma

Don’t mind the downvotes, this question actually comes up a TON, and I got a lot of them from my previous AMA’s. All I can tell you is that the age requirement is definitely legal, though I can’t cite the order.