Terminal controllers manage the coming and going of aircrafts into an airport. First a plane is given a flight plan which the controllers put into a sequence. They then guide the aircraft to the active runway and give the pilot clearance to take off as soon as they are sure of the safety of the departure. Terminal controllers are broken up into two main sects: tower local controllers and terminal radar controllers. Tower local controllers use visual observation to grant arriving airplanes the go ahead to land and departing planes clearance to take flight. They may also provide guidance for aircrafts in taxiways. Terminal radar controllers monitor the arriving and departing planes by radar imaging. Using the radar they can determine if the distances between planes are safe and can also keep an eye on weather conditions.

En route controllers take over after a plane has left the active runway and is soaring through the air. There are twenty air route traffic control centers in the United States, all assigned to different sections of airspace. The plane is passed to different controllers within the center and then in between centers as it moves through its designated flight plan. If a problem arrises and two planes are heading towards one another, it is up to the en route controllers to switch one of the planes onto a different path or altitude, making sure that this change does not interfere with any other aircrafts. 50 miles from the airport destination, an en route controller puts the plane in a sequence for arrivals and passes the plane off to a terminal controller.

The educational requirements of terminal controllers and en route controllers are identical, and both can benefit from courses in aeronautical engineering. But their duties vary significantly, with terminal controllers controlling the arriving, departing, and taxiing of the aircraft, and en route controllers monitoring the aircrafts movement through airspace. Their responsibilities, however, are the same. They both are responsible for keeping the aircraft and its passengers safe.