How To Become An Air Traffic Controller In Australia?

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Students want to know how they can become air traffic controllers in Australia.


Do you have a passion for aircraft and enjoy technical work? If yes, a career as an Air Traffic Controller could be worth exploring.


Air Traffic Controllers ensure safe and efficient aircraft travel in controlled aerodromes and airspaces by guiding aircraft movements.


You can become an Air Traffic Controller by completing training through the Royal Australian Air Force or Airservices Australia. Additionally, you must register with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and obtain an Air Traffic Control License to work in this profession.


This comprehensive guide explores the job of an Air Traffic Controller, the necessary skills, formal training, licensing requirements, courses, average salary, job prospects, and the steps to enter this profession in Australia.



1. What Is An Air Traffic Controller?


An Air traffic controller organises the orderly flow of aircraft into, between, and out of domestic, international, or regional airports.


They communicate with pilots about adverse weather conditions and other concerns to help them keep the aircraft in supervised and controlled airspaces.



2. Tasks And Duties Of An Air Traffic Controller


The most common duties of an air traffic controller in Australia are as follows:


  • Use advanced radar equipment to track and monitor aircraft around airports.

  • Provide aeronautical information and flight briefings before the commencement of the flight

  • Use radars to identify and control aircraft movements

  • Direct traffic in the air and on the ground, including airport workers and baggage vehicles, using specialised computers, radar, or visual references.

  • Communicate with pilots and senior personnel via radio communication about weather updates, flight path changes or directions, runway closures, and emergency landing fields in poor weather or emergency conditions

  • Assist pilots by confirming their landing and take-off schedules and ensuring a safe flight path for aeroplanes

  • Optimise or modify routes to manage aircraft traffic

  • Help airlines, ground crew, pilots, and emergency respondents during emergency conditions

  • Maintain precise reports and records 



3. Air Traffic Controller Skills


Air traffic controller plays a critical role in the aviation industry. 


Having the following skills will help them effectively manage their workload and succeed in this high-responsibility role:



Technical Knowledge And Skills


  • Good understanding of the geospatial area to manage flights effectively 

  • Good knowledge of regulations, laws, and safety procedures related to air traffic control and towers

  • Awareness of the airfield and radar information

  • Exceptional computer skills

  • Proficiency in the English language 



Soft Skills


  • Strong mathematical skills

  • Consistent and high level of concentration 

  • Concise and clear communication 

  • Attention to detail

  • Highly responsible

  • Able to handle pressure 

  • Adaptable to changing situations

  • Good planning skills 

  • Self-motivated

  • Able to make confident, quick, and precise decisions to respond to changes adequately and ensure a safe flying experience

  • Able to plan and adapt to changing situations

  • Willing to do shift work 24*7*365 

  • Able to work independently

  • Active listening skills

  • Initiative-taking abilities

  • Accountability



4. Air Traffic Controller Qualifications


To become an Air Traffic Controller, candidates must undergo training at Air Services Australia or the Royal Australian Air Force. After that, they must get an air traffic controller license from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.


Here are the specific qualifications to start working as a qualified Air Traffic Controller in Australia: 


  • Complete your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education in subjects such as English, Science, Physics and Mathematics

  • 18 years of age or older

  • Must have Australian or New Zealand citizenship or Australian permanent residency

  • Pass compulsory medical and security clearance requirements to work in an aviation sector

  • Complete a Diploma of Aviation (Air Traffic Control) (AVI50115) with Air Services Australia

  • Alternatively, complete 12 to 18 months of air traffic controller traineeship with the Royal Australian Air Force

  • Apply for an Air Traffic Control Licence



5. How To Become An Air Traffic Controller In Australia?


You can become an Air Traffic Controller in two ways: either by completing a traineeship through the Australian Defence Force, the Royal Australian Air Force, or by completing a Diploma of Aviation (Air Traffic Control) through Airservices Australia.


Both pathways will prepare you to work as a qualified Air Traffic Controller in Australia. Since only these two companies offer ATC training, you must be prepared to face intense competition when entering this position.


Let us look at these pathways to help you decide on which one to get started in this profession:



Pathway 1: Complete A Diploma Of Aviation Course


Air traffic controllers must have good knowledge of radio technology, radar, airdrome structures and operations. The best way to develop the essential knowledge and skills is to complete a Diploma in Aviation (Air Traffic Control).


It is a nationally recognised qualification that takes 12 to 14 months to complete. The course comprises in-person delivery of theoretical and practical components from experienced tutors at the Learning Academy in Melbourne.


The best thing about it is that no prior aviation experience is needed to complete this course. Additionally, this is a paid course where you earn during your training. Competent candidates who pass the assessment may even get hired by Airservices Australia.



Pathway 2: Complete a Traineeship With The Royal Australian Air Force


Another entrance into the profession is to get trained with the Royal Australian Air Force. To be eligible to enrol in this training, candidates must undertake the following:


  • A cognitive ability test

  • An aptitude test

  • An assessment day that includes a face-to-face interview, a police clearance, and medical examinations


Those who meet the above requirements are eligible to get the training that comprises extensive training on theoretical and practical topics combined with on-the-job training experience. 


It is again a paid training program where trainees work on a probationary period and earn while doing the course. After getting trained, candidates can apply for an Air Traffic Control License and may gain a permanent position with RAAF.



6. How To Become A Trainee At Air Services Australia?


The air traffic control training at Air Services Australia provides an excellent opportunity to receive world-class training that leads to the AVI50115 Diploma of Aviation (Air Traffic Control).



Program Benefits


  • Earn while you train

  • Relish a career with fabulous working conditions 

  • Receive competitive rewards and perks 



Training Eligibility Criteria


  • Be at least 18 years of age

  • Should hold an Australian/ New Zealand citizenship or be an Australian permanent resident.

  • Must have passed the year 12 secondary school certificate in English and Mathematics 



Recruitment Process


To get selected for a trainee role, you must complete the online application form, pass the online ability assessment, and do a video interview. 


When selected, you must provide references and pre-employment medical and security checks.


Candidates who fulfil the training eligibility requirements will get an officer assigned to become an ATC trainee. 


Click here for more details on the Airservices recruitment process.


Air Traffic Controllers need to know that the number of times someone can apply for an ATC training position is a maximum of two. Every successful submission is one attempt and counts as one.





Selected candidates will take Air Traffic Controller training at their training facility in Melbourne


The training comprises theory and practical components in an "in-person" teaching format. You can train extensively in air traffic control simulators to get practical experience. If they select you through the Tower path, the training duration is 12 months, and in the case of the Enroute path, it is 14 months.


During training, candidates will work towards a nationally recognised qualification, mainly for the Australian aviation industry, such as the AVI50115 Diploma of Aviation (Air Traffic Control).





Suppose they select you for the Enroute training. In that case, you will train in Australia's Melbourne-or Brisbane-based training facility.


In the case of the Tower path, you will go to any of the 28 control towers for field training and employment.



7. How To Become An Air Traffic Controller In Sydney?


Safety Training Academy is a recognised institute that offers a face-to-face one-day air traffic controller course in Sydney


If you are interested in this course, click here for more details.  



8. How To Apply For An Air Traffic Control License In Australia?


All Air Traffic Controllers must hold an Air traffic control licence (ATC licence) to work legally in this profession.


After training from Airservices Australia or RAAF, you must apply to Civil Aviation Safety Authority to obtain the ATC licence. You must meet the eligibility requirements and apply for an Australian ATC licence.



Eligibility Requirements


All aspiring Air Traffic Controllers must meet the requirements of the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations Part 65, as mentioned below.


  • Be at least 18 years old.

  • Hold a class III medical certificate.

  • Proficient in speaking and understanding the English language to an appropriate standard

  • Have completed the training and associated assessment for the licence with at least one rating and one endorsement suitable to the rating.



Application Procedure For A Licence


Those who complete their training with Airservices Australia must apply to CASA to obtain an ATC licence. The application process is as follows:


  • Apply online to get an aviation reference number

  • Complete form 906 or "Air traffic controller initial licence / additional rating and exchange application" and get a trained workplace assessor to sign it.



9. Working Conditions For An Air Traffic Controller


Air traffic controllers work indoors in control centres located in towers at airports. Some also work in airports to control the arrival and departure of aircraft and vehicles.


They may be required to work any day and time of the year, including weekends and public holidays. They do a lot of shift work outside of standard business hours.


Working under adverse weather conditions during high-pressure situations requires taking quick and precise decisions that could make the job stressful.


Considering the highly technical nature of this job, Air traffic controllers usually work with a range of tools and technologies. These include radiotelephony, radar technology, and complex computer systems to perform their duties.



10. What Is The Air Traffic Controller's Salary In Australia?


Air Traffic Controllers' salary in Australia depends on the level of training and the amount of responsibility involved. It implies that as you gain more experience and take on greater responsibilities, you may expect a higher salary than a trainee air traffic controller.


According to PayScale, the average salary for an Air Traffic Controller is AU$95,732 per year or equivalent to AU$32.00 per hour. 



Air Traffic Controller Salary Based On Experience


According to Glassdoor, the trainee's average air traffic controller salary in Australia is $50,204 per annum. 


  • Entry-level Air Traffic Controller (< 1-year experience): AU$77,670 per year

  • Early career Air Traffic Controller (1-4 years of experience): AU$87,077 per year

  • Mid-career Air Traffic Controller (5-9 years of experience): AU$102,458 per year

  • Experienced Air Traffic Controller (10-19 years of experience): AU$99,504 per year



Salary Based on Work Location


Some of the top-paying cities for Air Traffic Controllers are:


  • Sydney, New South Wales: $148,089 per year

  • Melbourne, Victoria: $108,202 per year



11. Air Traffic Controller Jobs In Australia


Job opportunities in this sector depend on the emergence of new technologies and the rise in air traffic.


The Royal Australian Air Force and Air Services Australia hire Air traffic controllers yearly. It is a lifetime opportunity to be part of a brilliant team that manages 11% of the world's airspace.


Working in these companies, you will use world-class technology to ensure airspace's safe, efficient, and reliable use. Check their websites to learn more about current job openings, application dates, and procedures.


Qualified Air traffic controllers may also find opportunities in private and military air traffic control companies.



12. Areas Of Specialisations For Air Traffic Controllers


After working for several years as Air Traffic Controllers, many choose to advance and specialise in the following roles:



  • Enroute Controller: Use digital data and satellite communication to manage Air traffic over the Australian sea and the mainland routes.


  • Terminal Area Controller: Use radar to manage and arrange the movement of aeroplanes that arrive at and depart from key city airports.


  • Tower Controller: Work from control towers at airfields to guide the movements of all aircraft and vehicles on the runways. 



13. Job Prospects For Air Traffic Controllers In Australia


ANZSCO Occupation Group: 231112 Air Traffic Controllers (Very high skill level).


According to Labour Market Insights June 2022 data, the profession predicts Stable demand in the future. 



Working Arrangements


Around 88% of employed Air traffic controllers in Australia work full-time hours for 40 hours per week. It is 4 hours less than the average of all jobs, 44 hours. 





The transport, postal, and warehousing industry is the primary industry that recruits Air Traffic Controllers. Other hiring industries include: 


  • Manufacturing

  • Construction

  • Public Administration and Safety



Work Locations


Air Traffic Controllers work throughout Australia. Many work in Queensland and Victoria, particularly in Melbourne – Inner, Melbourne - North West, Brisbane Inner City, Brisbane – North, and Moreton Bay – South.



Employment Percentage of Air Traffic Controllers Across Australia


  • Queensland: 34.7%

  • Victoria: 29.7%

  • New South Wales: 16.5%

  • Western Australia: 8.3%

  • South Australia: 4.7%

  • Northern Territory: 3.4%

  • Australian Capital Territory: 1.8%

  • Tasmania: 0.9%



Worker's Age and Gender Profile


  • The average age of employed workers: is 42 years (All jobs average: 40 years)

  • Female share: 16% (All jobs average: 48%)



14. Conclusion


The job of an Air Traffic Controller is highly technical and demands a high level of responsibility and concentration. 


Guiding pilots on efficient aircraft routes to ensure a safe flight journey is an emotionally fulfilling experience. Furthermore, the feeling of serving the nation is indescribable in words.


Despite stressful work conditions, demanding work hours, and a highly competitive selection procedure, follow the above steps to pursue this rewarding career.


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