New FAA Postings for Air Traffic Controllers Are a Top Federal Job Opportunity for Young People with Limited Qualifications

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The FAA plans to hire more than 1,000 Air Traffic Controller Specialist trainees per year for the next 9 years, according to a Resume Place analysis. A Bachelor’s degree or three years of work experience will qualify millions of 20-somethings to apply.

The Federal Aviation Administration announced the opening on Feb. 10 of a number of Air Traffic Controller Specialist trainee positions, creating some of the best federal job opportunities for young people, according to The Resume Place.

Air traffic control can be an excellent career choice for young people, says Kathryn Troutman, president of The Resume Place, a resume writing and federal job-search coaching firm. Trainees must begin the training program before their 31st birthday; at age 56, controllers are subject to mandatory retirement with full federal benefits. Newly hired air traffic controllers must be willing to relocate to any of the 50 states, Guam, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Trainees receive a wide variety of instruction in controlling air traffic over several weeks at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City. During their studies at the academy, Air Traffic Control Specialist trainees earn a salary of between $20,527 and $27,942, plus a per diem payment to help with living expenses. Upon successful completion of the academy training, candidates will be offered permanent employment with standard pay of $37,441. Air Traffic Control specialists eventually earn very good pay, typically between $57,982 and $82,534, according to USAJOBS.

“To maximize the likelihood of being hired as an Air Traffic Control Specialist trainee, applicants should read and follow the job announcement instructions carefully,” says Troutman. “Each of the job announcements is different in terms of qualifications and experience.”

Troutman makes the following suggestions for applicants to the ATC trainee program.

“The civil-service application process is very demanding, and it requires applicants to be clear and specific in describing their experience and education,” says Troutman. The average length of a successful federal resume is 3 to 5 pages. “Applicants should write their federal resumes with the USAJOBS resume builder and include details that evidence education, demonstrate work experience with progressive responsibility, and show an understanding of the FAA’s mission and the role of the Air Traffic Controller. Successful candidates delve into detail when discussing their work responsibilities, projects and accomplishments.”

Troutman says that the resume builder asks applicants to fill in lots of specific information about themselves, including the following for each position in the work history: job title, detailed duties, employer’s name and address, supervisor’s name and phone number, start and end dates, salary, and full- or part-time status including hours worked per week.

The online application includes a biographical assessment, a narrative of the candidate’s personal information, education, experience and other qualifications. “Applicants should be sure to describe their years of full-time work experience in a way that shows how they’ve been able to work with teams, that they have knowledge of their job and their organization, and that they’ve demonstrated responsibility,” says Troutman. “Lack of experience in aviation, air traffic or transportation apparently does not disqualify a candidate, but any work history in these fields is likely to help.”


“Applicants should be sure to describe their years of full-time work experience in a way that shows how they’ve been able to work with teams, that they have knowledge of their job and their organization, and that they’ve demonstrated responsibility.”

Kathryn Troutman,
President, The Resume Place


There are five ways to qualify for the ATC Specialist trainee program:

1. Three years of progressively responsible work experience. Full-time (40 hours per week) employment must be documented and show progressively responsible experience. Most types of employment include the required experience if the worker has learned about the organization, gained knowledge of the occupation and demonstrated responsibility.


2. A Bachelor’s degree earned with a four-year course of study. The degree must be earned at a higher education institution accredited by an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. To qualify based on education, applicants must submit transcripts that state the institution, credit hours earned and graduation date.


3. A combination of education and work experience. The applicant’s total qualifying work experience is converted to a percentage of the three-year experience requirement; the applicant’s education is converted to a percentage of the four-year education requirement. The combination must be at least 100 percent. For study at a business or technical school, 36 weeks of study is comparable to one academic year of college.


4. Previous experience as an Air Traffic Control Specialist. Applicants must provide supporting documentation such as an FAA certificate, military certificate or training record.


5. An alternative qualification for Air Traffic Control Specialist. Any one of the following can suffice:

  • An appropriate facility rating with experience actively controlling air traffic in civilian or military air traffic control terminals or centers
  • Current or past FAA certificate as a dispatcher for an air carrier
  • Current or past instrument flight rating
  • Current or past FAA certificate as a navigator or full qualification as a navigator/bombardier in the Armed Forces
  • 350 hours of flight time as a copilot or higher and current or past private certificate or equivalent Armed Forces rating
  • Experience as a rated aerospace defense command intercept director

Regardless of the means of qualifying, the candidate must be a U.S. citizen who passes a medical screening and security check. Successful candidates must also speak English clearly enough to be understood over radios and other communications equipment.

Even if candidates don’t currently meet the requirement for a combined three years of progressive work experience and college education, they can work toward that qualification with confidence that new vacancies will continue to be posted. The FAA plans to hire more than 1,000 ATCs on average each year through at least 2022.

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