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Military Jobs that Could Lead to a Career as an Air Traffic Controller

A large portion of air traffic controllers received much of their training through the United States military.  They may not have started out in the service knowing they wanted to become an air traffic controller, but the experience and training they received made them prime candidates for the FAA program.  So, the question you might be asking is what kind of training in the military can prepare you for employment in air traffic control? We will cover this question and more in this article.

All of the armed forces offer air traffic control training (ATC), but they may differ on their eligibility requirements for this special training.  If you are interested in pursuing a future in one of the military branches it is best to start by taking the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB).  The ASVAB is a series of tests that help determine your aptitude for certain careers within the military.  This test can help you understand your strengths and identify which jobs in the service are best for you.  The testing takes approximately three hours to complete and includes questions regarding standard school subjects like English, math, writing and science.  Each branch of the military uses a custom combination of ASVAB results to produce scores related to different career fields.  The ASVAB scores may be used for enlistment for up to two years after taking the testing. One of the military branches requires an ASVAB score of 100 in aptitude area ST, while another requires a general score of at least 55 to be eligible for the air traffic controller training. They all require the ability to obtain a Secret Security clearance.

To enlist in any of the armed forces an individual must be 18 years old or 17 and have a parental consent form.  They must have graduated from high school, although a GED may sometimes be acceptable, and pass a physical.  For training as an ATC, you will be required to have a high school diploma.  While this may vary, most of the armed forces require a 6-year enlistment for air traffic controller training.

For the Army, soldiers wishing to become an air traffic controller must meet the Army’s Class 4 medical fitness standards, have normal color vision and be able to lift more than 50 pounds, with occasional 100 pound requirements.  Job training for an Army ATC will require 10 weeks of Basic Combat Training and 15 weeks of Advanced Individual Training with on-the-job instructions.  There will be continuous upward training as a soldier progress through the program.  The Navy training is very similar to the Army’s training

Airmen in the Air Force will complete basic training prior to being assigned to ATC training.  The ATC training includes attending a 72-day Air Traffic Control operator course at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi, where the airmen will learn ATC principles and procedures.  Included in these are: flight characteristics of aircraft, International Civil Aviation Organization and United States federal and military air directives, the use of aeronautical maps, charts and publications and the interpretation, use, and limitations of ATC radar, navigational aid and communications systems.

The training for Marines includes the basic recruit training, after which Marines eligible for ATC training will complete the Air Traffic Control Basic Course in Pensacola, FL.  Next they will complete the Air Control Electronics Operator Course at Quantico, VA or Twentynine Palms, CA.

Military ATC’s can work longer shifts than civilian FAA air traffic controllers.  The typical military shift can last anywhere from 8-10 hours and during deployment or in a crisis can work 12 or more hours in one shift.  The military requires ATC’s to be in flight physical shape to continue working as an air traffic controller.  There are annual physical exams which include eye exams, hearing exams and heart and blood pressure testing among other things.

Air traffic controllers in the armed forces will commonly deploy to places throughout the world and have ideal working conditions; usually working in an air conditioned or heated facility.

Military ATC’s are highly sought after for civilian positions within the FAA and other companies.  A Control Tower Operator (CTO) certificate is required to work as an ATC within the FAA.


Comment from Casper
Time May 1, 2012 at 4:23 am

I spoke with my recruiter today, Air Force. He said because I am 17, I can NOT have the CTO job, even if I qualified for it in all other ways. Bummer.

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