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Two- and Four-year Air Traffic Controller Programs

While many air traffic controllers receive much of their training in the military, civilians can also pursue training for air traffic control. There are three paths to becoming an air traffic controller with the FAA. The first path is for individuals with prior experience as an air traffic controller. This path is commonly the one used by former military ATCs. These air traffic controllers must have a minimum of 52 weeks of air traffic control experience at a control facility. The second path is for individuals with no prior air traffic control experience. The requirements for path 2, are that you must be a U.S. citizen, not have reached the age of 31, pass a medical exam, pass a security investigation, have a minimum score of 70 on the FAA pre-employment test, speak English clearly, and have a four-year bachelor’s degree and/or three years of progressive work experience. Path three is to enroll in an Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI) Program. Many colleges and universities have a partnership with the FAA and offer two-year and four-year non-engineering aviation degrees. These programs teach basic courses in air traffic control.

So, what can you expect from these FAA approved AT-CTI programs, and what is the difference between a 2-year program and a 4-year program? We will discuss both a 2-year program and a 4-year program below and show examples of two schools.
We will start with a 2-year program that offers an Associates of Applied Science degree in Air Traffic Control. Broward College is located in Ft. Lauderdale, FL and is an FAA approved school. This program is designed to provide qualified applicants to fill developmental ATCS (Air Traffic Control Specialist) positions within the FAA. Broward College has a state-of-the-art facility and laboratory that includes radar, enroute and tower simulators that provide students with technical and academic training. Entrance requirements for this program include a HS Diploma or GED and completion of the PERT test. The following is the curriculum for Broward College’s ATC program.

The first semester includes: Aeronautical Science, Navigational Science, Environment of the ATC, Introduction to ATC, Computer and Internet Literacy, or an Aviation elective. The second semester includes: Aviation Weather, Aircraft Engines, Structures & Systems or Aerodynamics, VFR Tower Operations with Lab, Aviation elective, and Intermediate Algebra. The third semester includes: ATC Radar Procedure with Lab, Aviation elective, Psychology/Physiology of Flight, Introduction to Speech Communications, and Humanities/Fine Arts. Semester Four includes: ATC Enroute Operations with Lab, Aviation Safety, Aviation elective, English Composition I, Social Behavioral Science and ATC Capstone Project. Broward College’s Associate of Applied Science Degree (AAS) program in Air Traffic Control was developed by industry Air Traffic Operator professionals and follows the FAA standards to ensure success in the field.

Kent State, located in Kent Ohio, offers a Bachelor of Science in Air Traffic Control degree. This program is one of their aeronautics programs located within their College of Technology. The mission of Kent State’s air traffic control program is “to prepare students for success at the FAA Academy and beyond by providing a broad knowledge of the aviation industry while honing the requisite knowledge, skills, and abilities to succeed in air traffic control training”. Students must have a minimum of 39 upper division hours and 124 total semester hours to graduate. The following is a cross section of the curriculum for the Bachelor’s degree in ATC for Kent State.

The first year in this program you can expect to take the following courses: Introduction to Aeronautics, FAA Orientation, Elements of Flight Theory, Algebra for Calculus, Trigonometry, IT, Materials and Processes, and Elements of Aviation Weather. In your second year you will take some of the following courses: Introduction to Human Communication, Principles of Microeconomics, College Physics I, General College Physics with Lab, Engineering Graphics I, Technical Writing, World Geography, Physics II with Labs, and Survey of Electricity and Electronics. Year three the curriculum will include the following courses: Intuitive Calculus, Aircraft Propulsion Systems, Airport Management, Air Transportation Systems, Air Traffic Control, En Route Air Traffic Control with lab, Principles of Management, Hydraulics/Pneumatics, and Physiology and Human Factors. Courses included in your senior year will include the following courses: En Route Air Traffic Control with Lab, Aviation Law and Safety, and Avionics.

If you are considering a job as an air traffic controller and have reviewed the three pathways, enrolling in an AT-CTI might be the right path for you.

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