air traffic control radar

Air Traffic Controller

Helping planes to safely take off and land

How this role makes a difference

Aircraft come in many shapes and forms – from small aeroplanes to airliners, jet fighters to helicopters – and it’s fascinating to understand what enables them to fly. The UK manages one of the earth’s busiest and most complex areas of airspace, with aircraft taking off and arriving here from hundreds of destinations around the world.

Air traffic control teams contribute to the safe and efficient movement of aircraft. They ensure all equipment is working correctly and processes are followed exactly to standards set by the Civil Aviation Authority. You could be the technician who guides people and products to their destination and enables them to land safely.

Planes parked on the tarmac at an airport

The kind of work you’ll do

  • Keeping radio contact with aircraft and issuing instructions
  • Making sure minimum safe distances are maintained between aircraft
  • Maintaining surveillance contact with aircraft using equipment such as RADAR
  • Enabling and maintaining a safe and orderly flow of air traffic
  • Monitoring data systems
  • Testing equipment
  • Handling unexpected events, emergencies, and unscheduled traffic
Useful skills
Attention to detail
Useful skills
Useful skills
Problem solving

What you can bring to the role

£ 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 , 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Average salary per year *
£ 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 , 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Average salary per month *

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*according to ONS

Future career opportunities

Once you’ve gained skills in an airport or air traffic control centre, you could transfer your knowledge to working for a consultancy that specialises in aviation and helping airports and airlines improve their safety, efficiency and environmental performance.

You could also work for the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority or use your knowledge of UK Airspace to work in countries that are growing the level of activity in their airspace.

How to get into this role

There’s no perfect career path or ideal way into your dream job. But if you're interested in education and training options that could be relevant to this role, you might want to consider:  

  • An apprenticeship as an Air Traffic Controller after finishing your T-level or A-levels or a different apprenticeship

Schools and colleges each have their own career guidance plan and can provide detailed information, advice, and guidance on options and next steps.

A little more about the role

Exciting features...

You could work in several different aviation environments, including air traffic control centres, commercial airports, military bases, and aerodromes. You’ll learn about UK and international regulation that governs the management of airspace.

Other job titles...

This role can also be known by some other job titles including:

Civil Approach Controller
Civil Approach Terminal Controller
Civil Aerodrome Controller
Civil Terminal Controller
Military Terminal Radar Controller
Military Terminal Aerodrome Controller

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