Faa Atc Pay Scale: Salaries And Benefits For Air Traffic Controllers

If you want to know how much air traffic controllers make, you’ve come to the right place. The pay and benefits for air traffic controllers (ATCs) in the United States are determined by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

ATCs play a critical role in aviation safety, managing the flow of aircraft in the national airspace system. It’s a demanding job that requires extensive training and certification. So how much does this important work pay?

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll break down the FAA air traffic controller pay scale and benefits. You’ll learn about the different roles and certification levels, salary ranges, locality pay adjustments, overtime pay, raises and bonuses, health insurance, retirement benefits, leave time, and more.

Whether you’re considering a career as an air traffic controller or just curious about ATC pay, you’ll find all the key details here.

FAA Air Traffic Controller Job Overview

Air Traffic Controller Roles and Responsibilities

Air Traffic Controllers play a crucial role in ensuring the safety and efficiency of air travel. They are responsible for directing and monitoring the movement of aircraft in the airspace and on the ground.

Their primary task is to prevent collisions between aircraft and to maintain a smooth flow of traffic. They communicate with pilots, providing them with instructions and information regarding altitude, speed, and course changes.

Air Traffic Controllers also monitor weather conditions and provide pilots with updates to ensure safe operations.

Air Traffic Controller Qualifications and Training

Being an Air Traffic Controller requires a high level of skill and knowledge. To qualify for the position, candidates must have a bachelor’s degree or work experience that demonstrates the ability to handle the demands of the job.

They must also pass a rigorous selection process, including medical and psychological evaluations. Once selected, candidates undergo extensive training at the FAA Academy, where they learn about aviation regulations, weather patterns, and communication procedures.

Training typically lasts several months and includes both classroom instruction and practical simulations.

Air Traffic Controller Certification Levels

Air Traffic Controllers progress through different certification levels as they gain experience and demonstrate proficiency in their duties. The FAA has three certification levels: developmental, certified professional, and certified professional controller.

At the developmental level, controllers work under close supervision and handle simpler tasks. As they gain experience, they advance to the certified professional level, where they have more autonomy and responsibility.

The highest certification level, certified professional controller, is achieved by demonstrating exceptional skills and knowledge. Controllers at this level are qualified to handle complex air traffic situations and serve as mentors to less experienced colleagues.

FAA Air Traffic Controller Salary Ranges

When considering a career as an air traffic controller, one of the most important factors to consider is the salary range. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has a structured pay scale for air traffic controllers that takes into account various factors such as certification level, locality adjustments, overtime pay, raises, and bonuses.

Understanding these salary ranges can help aspiring air traffic controllers make an informed decision about their career path.

Base Pay by Certification Level

The FAA has four certification levels for air traffic controllers: developmental, certified professional, certified professional with radar endorsement, and certified professional with radar and tower endorsement. Each certification level corresponds to a specific salary range.

  • Developmental: The base pay for developmental air traffic controllers ranges from $35,000 to $48,000 per year.
  • Certified Professional: The base pay for certified professional air traffic controllers ranges from $50,000 to $70,000 per year.
  • Certified Professional with Radar Endorsement: The base pay for certified professional air traffic controllers with radar endorsement ranges from $70,000 to $100,000 per year.
  • Certified Professional with Radar and Tower Endorsement: The base pay for certified professional air traffic controllers with radar and tower endorsement ranges from $100,000 to $130,000 per year.

Locality Pay Adjustments

In addition to the base pay, air traffic controllers receive locality pay adjustments to account for the cost of living in different areas of the country. These adjustments vary depending on the location and can significantly increase the overall salary.

For example, an air traffic controller working in a high-cost area like New York City may receive a higher locality pay adjustment compared to someone working in a lower-cost area.

Overtime Pay

As air traffic controllers play a critical role in ensuring the safety of the skies, they often work irregular hours and may be required to work overtime. The FAA provides overtime pay for air traffic controllers, which can significantly increase their earnings.

Overtime pay is typically calculated based on an hourly rate and is paid for any hours worked beyond the standard 40-hour workweek.

Raises and Bonuses

Air traffic controllers are eligible for regular raises based on their performance and years of service. These raises help to increase their base pay over time. Additionally, the FAA may offer bonuses for certain achievements or performance milestones.

These raises and bonuses provide further opportunities for air traffic controllers to increase their earning potential.

Total Compensation Examples

To provide a better understanding of the overall compensation package for air traffic controllers, let’s consider some examples. A certified professional air traffic controller with radar and tower endorsement, working in a high-cost area like Los Angeles, may have a base pay of $110,000 per year with a locality pay adjustment of 20%.

This would result in a total compensation of $132,000 per year.

On the other hand, a developmental air traffic controller working in a lower-cost area like Dallas may have a base pay of $40,000 per year with a locality pay adjustment of 10%. This would result in a total compensation of $44,000 per year.

It’s important to note that these examples are for illustrative purposes only and actual salaries may vary based on factors such as experience, certifications, and location.

FAA Air Traffic Controller Benefits

Health Insurance

One of the major benefits of being an air traffic controller with the FAA is access to comprehensive health insurance coverage. Air traffic controllers have access to a range of health insurance plans, including medical, dental, and vision coverage.

These plans offer a variety of options to suit different needs and provide coverage for both the controller and their eligible dependents.

Life Insurance

Another important benefit that FAA air traffic controllers receive is life insurance coverage. Air traffic controllers have access to life insurance policies that provide financial protection for their families in the event of their untimely demise.

The coverage amount can vary depending on factors such as years of service and salary, ensuring that the controller’s loved ones are taken care of in the event of a tragedy.

Retirement Benefits

The FAA offers a generous retirement plan for air traffic controllers. Controllers are eligible to participate in the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), which includes a defined benefit pension plan, as well as the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), which is a tax-deferred retirement savings plan similar to a 401(k).

These retirement benefits provide a secure financial future for air traffic controllers after they have completed their service.

Paid Leave Time

Air traffic controllers also enjoy generous paid leave benefits. Controllers accrue annual leave based on their years of service, allowing them to take time off for vacation, personal reasons, or illness.

In addition to annual leave, controllers also receive sick leave, which can be used for medical appointments or when they are unable to work due to illness. These paid leave benefits help to ensure a healthy work-life balance for air traffic controllers.

Career Growth and Advancement

Working as an air traffic controller offers excellent career growth opportunities. As technology continues to evolve and air travel increases, the demand for skilled controllers also rises. This means that there are ample opportunities for advancement and professional development within the field.

Ongoing Training Requirements

Air traffic controllers are required to undergo regular training to stay updated with the latest procedures and technologies. This ongoing training ensures that controllers are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to handle the complexities of the job.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) provides various training programs and courses that are designed to enhance an air traffic controller’s abilities.

These training programs cover a wide range of topics, including airspace management, radar operations, communication protocols, and emergency procedures. By continuously participating in these training programs, controllers can stay up-to-date with industry standards and advancements, which can enhance their career prospects.

Supervisory and Management Positions

For those who aspire to take on leadership roles, there are opportunities to move into supervisory and management positions within the air traffic control industry. These positions involve overseeing a team of controllers, coordinating operations, and ensuring the smooth flow of air traffic.

Supervisory and management positions not only come with increased responsibilities but also higher salaries and benefits. Controllers who demonstrate exceptional leadership skills, decision-making abilities, and a strong understanding of the industry’s regulations and procedures are often considered for these positions.

Additionally, pursuing additional education or certifications related to aviation management or leadership can further enhance one’s prospects for advancement into these higher-level positions.

It is important to note that career growth and advancement in the air traffic control industry is also dependent on an individual’s performance and experience. Controllers who consistently demonstrate exceptional performance and a strong work ethic are often considered for promotions and opportunities for further career development.

For more information on career growth and advancement opportunities in the field of air traffic control, you can visit the FAA’s official website https://www.faa.gov/.


In summary, FAA air traffic controllers earn competitive salaries based on their certification level, along with excellent federal government benefits. While the job involves major responsibilities and intensive training, the pay scale makes it a secure career choice.

Air traffic control offers the opportunity to earn $100,000+ with salary increases over time, plus robust benefits and paid leave. If you’re considering a career managing America’s flights, understanding the FAA ATC pay scale provides helpful insight into the profession’s compensation and career potential.

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