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Air traffic controller

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Summary of occupation

Air traffic controllers manage the safe and orderly flow of aircraft into, out of and between airports - locally, interstate and overseas - and between those regions adjoining a particular country’s airspace. This is done by remaining in radio communication with pilots to keep aircraft separated in controlled, monitored airspaces, as well as ensuring that aircraft abide by their pre-arranged routes and altitudes. Air traffic controllers in WA may work in Perth's busy domestic or international airports, or in regional airports that control the aircraft that fly into and out of our regional centres.

ANZSCO description: Ensures the safe and efficient movement of aircraft in controlled airspace and aerodromes by directing aircraft movements (registration or licensing is required).
Alternative names: Enroute Controller, Terminal Area Controller, Tower Controller
Job prospects: Average
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

An air traffic controller needs:

  • to be able to make quick and accurate decisions
  • excellent computer skills
  • to be confident, highly responsible and motivated
  • to have a good understanding and clear practical application of the English language
  • to have Australian citizenship or permanent residency
  • to be at least 18 years of age
  • to be able to satisfy aviation medical requirements.
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Working conditions

Air traffic controllers work in airports, which are open all year round. They usually work in shifts, and are required to work weekends and on public holidays. Work can be stressful due to unsavoury weather conditions, or other circumstances.

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Salary details

On average, air traffic controllers, classified under air transport professionals, can expect to earn between $1 500 and $1 999 per week, ($78 000 and $103 999 per year) depending on the organisation they work for, and their level of experience. As an air traffic controller develops their skills, their earning potential will generally increase.

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Tools and technologies

The role of air traffic controller is highly technical in nature. Familiarisation and utilisation of radiotelephony, complex computer systems and radar technology is required.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

To become an air traffic controller, you need to undertake training either through Airservices Australia or the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). 

To be eligible for the Airservices course, you need to have completed either year 12 with university entrance, a degree or diploma from a recognised Australian tertiary institution, or have obtained a current commercial or private pilot licence.

​To become an air traffic controller with the RAAF requires entry into the Royal Australian Air Force as an officer and completion of air force training courses in air traffic control.

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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Related links

Related videos

Air traffic controller Video Air traffic controller Occupation

Air traffic controllers manage the safe and orderly flow of aircraft into, out of and between airports in Australia and overseas.

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