How to become a Air Traffic Controller

Air traffic controllers manage the safe and orderly flow of aircraft into, out of and between airports in Australia. They also work with overseas regions adjoining Australian airspace.

Personal requirements of a Air Traffic Controller

  • Able to make quick and accurate decisions
  • Aptitude for working with computers
  • Confident, highly responsible, self-motivated and independent, but able to work in a team
  • Good understanding and clear practical application of the English language
  • Australian or New Zealand citizenship, or Australian permanent residency
  • At least 18 years of age
  • Able to satisfy aviation medical requirements

Education & Training for a Air Traffic Controller

To become an air traffic controller you usually have to gain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education with passes in English, mathematics and a science subject (preferably physics). Airservices Australia and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) are the only trainers and employers of air traffic controllers in Australia. Applicants for Airservices Australia must undergo a comprehensive selection process, including an online cognitive ability test, a computer-based aptitude test, an assessment day involving a competency-based interview, police checks, medical examinations and a drug test. Once selected, trainees undertake extensive training, covering theoretical and practical subjects as well as on-the-job instruction at the Learning Academy in Melbourne to complete the requirements for their Air Traffic Control Licence. Trainees are employed on a probationary basis while undergoing training, gaining a permanent position on successful completion of the course. To become an air traffic controller with the RAAF you must first enter the Air Force as an officer and complete Air Force training courses in air traffic control.

Duties & Tasks of a Air Traffic Controller

Air traffic controllers:

  • maintain radio contact with pilots to keep aircraft separated in 'corridors' of controlled airspace, on air routes and near major airports
  • use radar to monitor and control aircraft movements
  • ensure aircraft operate only on pre-arranged routes and at approved altitudes
  • provide information and assistance to pilots and emergency services during in-flight emergencies.

Working conditions for a Air Traffic Controller

Air traffic controllers operate in shifts, often out of normal office hours, and are required to work on any day of the year.

Employment Opportunities for a Air Traffic Controller

Airservices Australia runs courses for air traffic control trainees in its Learning Academy throughout the year. The dates for these are advertised on the Airservices Australia website. Final selection for training is very competitive in both Airservices Australia and the RAAF. Job opportunities depend on growth in air traffic and the introduction of new technologies.


Enroute Controller

An enroute controller is responsible for the safe management of air traffic over most of the Australian mainland and on oceanic routes. The use of satellite and digital data communications is increasing in this type of control. Enroute controllers are employed in Brisbane and Melbourne.

Terminal Area Controller

A terminal area controller uses radar to manage and arrange the flow of aircraft that arrive at and depart from major city airports. They are responsible for the controlled airspace surrounding an airport out to a distance of approximately 30 nautical miles. Terminal area controllers are employed in Adelaide, Cairns, Perth and Sydney.

Tower Controller

A tower controller works from control towers at aerodromes and is responsible for all aircraft and vehicle movements on the taxiways and runways, as well as in the immediate surrounding airspace. There are 28 towers located at capital cities and busier regional airports around Australia.

Future growth:


Employment by state:

ACT ACT 1.6%

NSW NSW 27.1%

NT NT 3.5%


SA SA 6.9%


VIC VIC 22.3%

WA WA 11.5%

Hours worked:



Average unemployment

Gender split:

Male 84.6%

Female 15.4%

Education level:

Age brackets:

15-19 - 2.1%

20-24 - 6%

25-34 - 26.5%

35-44 - 24.6%

45-54 - 27.9%

55-59 - 7.1%

60-64 - 4.8%

65 and Over - 0.9%

*The data above is sourced from the Department of Employment’s Job Outlook website.

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