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Air Traffic Controller

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

Also Known As

Area Controller, En Route 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) 
Interests & Abilities

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2006 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Air Traffic Controllers

2006 NOC: 2272.1

Interest Codes

Interest Codes for This NOC Group
OBJECTIVE

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

METHODICAL

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

DIRECTIVE

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

Your Interest Codes

To identify or change your interest codes, complete the Interests Exercise in CAREERinsite.

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 for this NOC group 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 About Interests

Abilities

Typical ability expectations for this NOC group
Your abilities

To fill in or change the values for your abilities, complete the Abilities Exercise in CAREERinsite.

Mental Abilities

General Learning Ability

Verbal Ability

Numerical Ability

Visual Abilities

Spatial Perception

Form Perception

Clerical Perception

Physical Abilities

Motor Coordination

Finger Dexterity

Manual Dexterity

Understanding Abilities

A Quick Guide

You are born with abilities that help you process certain types of information and turn it into action. These abilities influence which skills you can learn more easily.

The abilities or aptitudes shown for this NOC group come from the General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB). The GATB measures 9 aptitudes. It groups them into 3 categories: mental, visual, and physical.

The abilities scores range from 1 to 5, with 5 being stronger.

Learn About Abilities

Duties
Updated Apr 05, 2022

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
  • Coordinate 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 Apr 05, 2022
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg

Air traffic controllers work for NAV CANADA. Most NAV CANADA facilities operate 24 hours a day. All of them operate 7 days a week. They work rotating shifts, most often 34 hours per week. They may work overtime.

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

Traits & Skills
Updated Apr 05, 2022

Air traffic controllers need:

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

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

Educational Requirements
Updated Apr 05, 2022
  • Minimum Education High school diploma

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 multistep selection process:

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

If successful, the candidate must satisfy any outstanding requirements, such as the medical exam and security clearance. 

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 5 to 12 months.

Area controllers have an additional 6 to 7 months of specialty training between their first and last training phases. Tower controllers may also have additional training. The duration will vary depending on the complexity of the tower to which they are assigned.

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.

To expand or narrow your search for programs related to this occupation, visit Post-Secondary Programs.

Completing a program does not guarantee entrance into an occupation. Before enrolling in an education program, prospective students should look into various sources for education options and employment possibilities. For example, contact associations and employers in this field.

Certification Requirements
Updated Apr 05, 2022
  • Certification Not Regulated

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

Employment & Advancement
Updated Apr 05, 2022

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 qualify. There is a seniority bid process. Experienced controllers may move into supervisory or management roles. They may work on special projects or become instructors.

Industry Concentration

This section shows the industries where the majority of people in this occupation work. The data is based on the 2016 Census.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups.

In the 2272: Air traffic controllers and related occupations occupational group, 87.1% of people work in:

Employment Outlook

Employment outlook is influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • Time of year (for seasonal jobs)
  • Location in Alberta
  • Employment turnover (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • Size of the occupation
  • Trends and events that affect overall employment, especially in the industry or industries from the previous list

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.

Note
NOC groups often include several related occupations. Although there is labour market data for the larger NOC group, this occupation makes up only a part of that group. It means data for this occupation may be different than the data shown. For example, only some of the new positions to be created will be for this occupation. It also applies to other data for the NOC group such as number of people employed.

Source: Alberta Regional Occupational Demand Outlook

Wage & Salary
Updated Apr 05, 2022

According to NAV CANADA, the base salaries for air traffic controllers range from $81,000 to $165,000 a year. Trainees earn about $48,000 (2021 rates).

Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Aviation
Other Sources of Information
Updated Apr 05, 2022

Canadian Air Traffic Control Association (CATCA) website: www.catca.ca

NAV CANADA’s website: www.navcanada.ca

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

Updated Mar 31, 2022. 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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