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Air Traffic Controller

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

  • Avg. Salary $101,122.00
  • Avg. Wage $53.34
  • Minimum Education High school diploma
  • Outlook N/A
  • Employed 2,100
  • In Demand Medium
Also Known As

Enroute 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) 
Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

Average Wage
  • Certification Not Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
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 29, 2015

Air traffic controllers specialize in airport tower or area control. Straight line of sight enable tower controllers to keep aircraft safely separated from one another. Area controllers use radar, tracking, communications and information systems.

Tower controllers direct air traffic within a three to twelve nautical mile radius around airports. They work in glass-walled rooms at the top of airport control towers. As a group, they:

  • ensure the safe separation and movement of departing, landing and taxiing aircraft
  • direct airport traffic so it flows smoothly and efficiently
  • give pilots taxi and take-off instructions, air traffic clearances and advice
  • use radar and communications to track all flights in the facility's airspace
  • transfer control of aircraft to counterparts in adjacent facilities
  • co-ordinate fire-fighting and ambulance services at airports during emergencies. 

Area controllers work at area control centres where they:

  • use radar and communications to track flights and provide clearances and directions to pilots during the enroute part of their flight (enroute control)
  • provide directions to aircraft just before they arrive or shortly after they depart from major airports across the country (terminal control)
  • transfer control of aircraft to counterparts responsible for adjacent sectors and facilities
  • alert search and rescue activities for missing or overdue aircraft.

Each area control centre is responsible for one of seven large portions of Canadian airspace known as Flight Information Regions. 

Working Conditions
Updated Mar 29, 2015

Air traffic controllers work rotating shifts so their days off don't necessarily fall on the weekend. Most NAV CANADA facilities operate 24 hours a day and all facilities operate seven days a week.

On the job, air traffic controllers must make rapid decisions and often work under considerable pressure.

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

Air traffic controllers must be:

  • decisive
  • stable
  • mature
  • mentally alert
  • team-oriented
  • able to accept responsibility
  • able to handle details quickly and accurately
  • able to take two-dimensional data and convert it into three-dimensional visualizations.

They should enjoy using specialized equipment and instruments, having clear rules and organized methods for co-ordinating information, and taking charge of situations.

Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 29, 2015

To be employed by NAV CANADA, air traffic controllers must:

  • be Canadian citizens or landed immigrants
  • be at least 18 years of age
  • have successfully completed Grade 12 or equivalent education
  • pass the Air Traffic Controller assessments and interview
  • qualify for security clearance
  • pass a civil aviation medical exam
  • have good hearing and vision (including colour perception)
  • have good oral communication skills (diction, enunciation, voice projection) and a command of the English language for positions outside of Quebec. Knowledge of both English and French is essential for positions in Quebec and Ottawa.

NAV CANADA has a six step selection process:

  1. complete an online application form
  2. complete two short online tests
  3. selected applicants are invited to participate in an assessment session which takes about 3.5 hours to complete and costs about $200
  4. selected candidates are invited to participate in an initial interview conducted by teleconference and, if successful, an in-person interview conducted by operational managers
  5. medical exam and security clearance
  6. successful candidates are assigned to area controller, airport controller OR flight service specialist training pools.

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

Successful applicants receive initial classroom and simulator training at a NAV CANADA regional training unit for four to twelve months depending on the program. Tuition costs $3,500 for the area controller program and $2,500 for the airport controller program. Then trainees move to on-the-job (paid) training at a flight service station or flight information centre for up to six months.

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

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 29, 2015

Certification is not required, as there is currently no legislation regulating this occupation.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 29, 2015

Air traffic controllers are employed by NAV CANADA. After their classroom and on-the-job training, they may be assigned to any air traffic control centre or tower in Canada. Area controllers work in area control centres located in Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, Moncton and Gander. Airport controllers work in control towers located at 41 airports in Canada. 

Opportunities to move to other locations depend on qualifications, operational requirements and a seniority bid process. Experienced controllers may move into supervisory or management roles, work on special projects, or become an instructor.

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.

Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 29, 2015

According to NAV CANADA, salaries for air traffic controllers range from $66,000 to $142,000 a year. Trainees earn about $33,400 to $38,900 during on-the-job training (2014 figures).

Air traffic controllers and related occupations

Survey Methodology

Survey Analysis

Overall Wage Details
Average Wage
Average Salary
Hours Per Week

Hourly Wage
For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $17.00 $54.31 $39.07 $42.06
Overall $21.77 $78.47 $53.34 $59.00
Top $21.77 $79.63 $56.29 $61.67

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

C: Lower Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

Lower Reliability, represents a CV of between 15.01% and 33.00% and/or if fewer than 20 survey observations and/or if survey observations represent less than 33% of all estimated employment for the occupation.

Industry Information
Transportation and Warehousing
Public Administration

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years


Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties


Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months


Vacancy Rate

Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Aviation
Other Sources of Information
Updated Mar 29, 2015

Canadian Air Traffic Control Association (CATCA) website:

NAV CANADA's Take Charge website:

For more information on career planning, education and jobs call the Alberta Supports Contact Centre toll-free at 1-877-644-9992 or 780-644-9992 in Edmonton, or visit an Alberta Supports Centre near you.

Updated Mar 29, 2015. 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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