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Overview

Next time you’re flying, say thanks to the air traffic controllers below—they’re the ones tracking your plane, marking its progress, and clearing a flight path to assure the safe travel of thousands of passengers just like you each hour. Sound like a stressful job? Well, it is. It’s an occupation with tremendous responsibilities, partly because air traffic controllers have life and death in their hands every day and partly because they help move people all over creation, which has exponential effects on the health and growth of an economy.

As an air traffic control major, you’ll learn exactly how to keep planes flying safely and how to ensure that air traffic runs smoothly and without delay. Most controllers monitor traffic in and out of airports and alert pilots to changing weather conditions.

You’ll study all aspects of flight and how to communicate with pilots and ground crew members. Technology plays a vital role in today’s aviation industry, and your curriculum will have you working with radar—the primary tool of the air traffic controller—radio, and other electronic scanning equipment. You’ll also learn how to plot a flight path, and your studies will likely include a cooperative stint at the Federal Aviation Administration Flight Control Center.

Along with the stress of the job however, comes the satisfaction of controlling a 747 with the mere wave of your arm. What you say goes. And they better listen. Air traffic control requires a Zen-master’s ability to focus one’s attention and it doesn’t hurt to possess nerves of steel. If you work well under pressure, are detail oriented, can multitask effectively, and are well organized, you’ve got the right stuff to succeed as an air traffic controller.

SAMPLE CURRICULUM

  • Advanced Radar

  • Aeronautical Science

  • Air Transportation Analysis

  • Airport Management

  • Aviation Communications

  • Aviation Human Factors

  • Aviation Law

  • Geography of Transportation

  • Meteorology

  • Principles of Air Traffic Control

  • The National Aviation System


HIGH SCHOOl PREPARATION

Since careful attention to detail and supreme organization are key to this field, almost all of your high school courses can serve as useful preparation for this major. Consider also the importance of computer classes—the more you know, the easier it will be to learn the advanced technology knowledge required of an air traffic controller. Upper-level math courses, as well as English, languages, and business courses, could prove valuable in college and beyond.