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Air Traffic Controller

Air traffic controllers co-ordinate the safe, orderly, and efficient movement of aircraft within an assigned airspace and on the ground at airports.

  • Avg. Salary N/A
  • Avg. Wage N/A
  • Minimum Education High school diploma
  • Outlook below avg
  • Employed < 1500
  • In Demand Medium
Also Known As

Area Controller, EnRoute Controller, Instrument Flight Rules Controller, Terminal Controller, Tower Controller

NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used. Here is how this occupation has been classified over time:

  • 2006 NOC: Air Traffic Controllers (2272.1) 
  • 2006 NOC-S: Air Traffic Control and Related Occupations (C172) 
  • 2011 NOC: Air traffic controllers and related occupations (2272) 
  • 2016 NOC: Air traffic controllers and related occupations (2272) 
Interest Codes
The Air Traffic Controller is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Air Traffic Controllers

Interest in controlling flow of air traffic using radar monitors, radios and other communication equipment and visual references


Interest in co-ordinating information to maintain radio and telephone contact with control towers, terminal control units and other area control centers


Interest in speaking with pilots to issue take-off and landing instructions; and in directing activities of all moving aircraft and service vehicles on and near airport runways

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 
It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn More

Updated Mar 31, 2019

Air traffic controllers help pilots keep aircraft safely separated from other aircraft or obstacles while in flight or on the ground. They can specialize in airport tower control or area control.

Tower controllers direct air traffic within a radius of 3 to 12 nautical miles around airports. They work in glass-walled rooms at the tops of airport control towers. As a group, they:

  • Make sure aircraft take off, land, and taxi safely within regulated procedures
  • Direct airport traffic so it flows smoothly and efficiently
  • Give pilots instructions, clearances, and advice
  • Use radar and communications to track flights in their airspace
  • Transfer control of aircraft to colleagues at nearby airports
  • Co-ordinate fire and ambulance services at airports if needed

Area controllers work at regional-area control centres across Canada. They:

  • Use radar and communications to track flights and provide clearances and directions to pilots en route
  • Give directions to aircraft just before they arrive or shortly after they depart from major airports
  • Transfer control of aircraft to nearby colleagues as needed
  • Provide search-and-rescue alerts for missing or overdue aircraft
Working Conditions
Updated Mar 31, 2019

Air traffic controllers work for NAV CANADA. Most NAV CANADA facilities operate 24 hours a day. All of them operate 7 days a week. As a result, they work rotating shifts, for a standard 34 hours per week. However, they can expect a lot of overtime.

On the job, air traffic controllers must make rapid decisions. They often work under a lot of pressure.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Mar 29, 2015

Air traffic controllers need:

  • Decisiveness
  • Team orientation
  • Stability and maturity
  • Alertness
  • Accountability
  • The ability to handle details quickly and accurately
  • The ability to process 2D data into 3D images
  • The ability to stay calm in emergencies

They should enjoy using specialized equipment and instruments. They should enjoy working with clear rules and organized methods.

Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2019

To work with NAV CANADA, an air traffic controller must:

  • Be a Canadian citizen or landed immigrant
  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have completed grade 12 or the equivalent
  • Pass an exam and interview
  • Qualify for security clearance
  • Pass a civil aviation medical exam
  • Have good hearing and vision, including colour perception
  • Have good speaking skills, including diction, enunciation, and voice projection
  • Speak English fluently (for jobs outside Quebec)
  • Speak English and French fluently (for jobs in Quebec and Ottawa)

NAV CANADA has a multi-step selection process:

  1. Complete an online application
  2. Complete an online cognitive test
  3. If selected, participate in an in-person skills testing session
  4. If selected, attend an in-person assessment session, which may include an interview, exercises, and simulation(s)
  5. If selected for classroom training, complete a web-based training program and meet the pre-employment conditions listed above

About 30 to 40 training positions become available each year in Alberta.

Successful applicants receive initial classroom and simulator training from NAV CANADA. This first phase of training is 5 to 8 months long, depending on the program. The last phase is on-the-job training at a flight service station or flight information centre for up to 12 months. Area controllers have an additional 6 to 7 months of specialty training between their first and last training phases. While training, students receive a training salary.

Air traffic controllers must stay up to date with regulations as they relate to traffic procedures and pilot directives.  

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2019

There is currently no provincial legislation regulating this occupation in Alberta.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 31, 2019

Air traffic controllers work for NAV CANADA. After training, they may be assigned to any air traffic control centre or tower in Canada. Area controllers work in area control centres in Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, Moncton, and Gander. Tower controllers work in control towers at 41 airports in Canada.

Air traffic controllers can move to other locations if they have the qualifications. There is a seniority bid process. Experienced controllers may move into supervisory or management roles. They may work on special projects or become instructors.

Air traffic controllers are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 2272: Air Traffic Control and Related Occupations. In Alberta, 92% of people employed in this classification work in the Transportation and Warehousing (pdf) industry.

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • Trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the Transportation and Warehousing industry)
  • Location in Alberta
  • Employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • Size of the occupation.

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

In Alberta, the 2272: Air traffic controllers and related occupations occupational group is expected to have a below-average annual growth of 0% from 2019 to 2023. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 0 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 31, 2019

According to NAV CANADA, the base salaries for air traffic controllers range from $75,000 to $151,000 a year. Trainees earn about $44,000 (2019 estimates).

Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Aviation
Other Sources of Information
Updated Mar 31, 2019

Canadian Air Traffic Control Association (CATCA) website:

NAV CANADA’s Take Charge website:

Get information and referrals about career, education, and employment options from Alberta Supports.

Updated Mar 31, 2019. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook, and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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