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Author Topic: ATC as a career  (Read 31616 times)
evilcuban
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« on: October 16, 2008, 07:29:48 PM »

Hi!

I've decided its time for a change and I'd like to get some more information about becoming an ATC.  I've gotten to the point that I'm so infatuated with ATC that I can just sit for hours and listen.  I'm a passionate type of person that has to enjoy their work otherwise I become bored and uninterested, which then leads to frustration.  I definitely feel that way about ATC; I know exacly what I want to do and where.  I want, with the utmost amount of determination, to be a local controller at JFK.

The thing I don't seem to understand is why the FAA seems to make it so undesirable to change careers into ATC.  It might be alright for young people right out of school who haven't yet acquired any assets, but I've got a house, a wife, and a family in the next 3-5 years to consider.  I'm young, motivated, hard-working, smart (enough), and feel truly passionate about becoming a controller.  I know how bad the FAA needs controllers but it doesn't seem like they're doing enough to attract them.  I'm not expecting handouts and pro-athlete sign-on bonuses, but making enough to at least cover the cost of bills while I go through training would be great.  Maybe things have changed recently, but I find it a bit frustrating.

I'd like to know a few things:

1.) For those of you who are controllers or can provide insight, what do you recommend to someone in my position?

2.) I've already done the school thing and would really prefer not to have to go back to school to get a degree in air traffic management or whatever it is.  Without a degree or some kind of training, what is the likelihood that I can pass the ATC assessment to get to Oklahoma City?

3.) What exactly is the process that I would have to go through from where I am now to get up to the tower at JFK?

4.) Can I get a tour of a control tower?  If so, what would be the best way to go about arranging that?

5.) What are some good websites or phone numbers where I can get more information?

I'm sure I'll think of more questions, but for now I'd just appreciate any help at all that you can provide.  Feel free to contact me with a PM if necessary.  Many Thanks!

Best Regards,

David
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drFinal
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« Reply #1 on: October 19, 2008, 05:37:29 AM »

all links wfs:

http://www.natca.org/about/howatc.msp

http://www.natca.org/about/career.msp

http://www.thetracon.com/atcjobs.htm

http://www.faa.gov/jobs/job_opportunities/airtraffic_controllers/
« Last Edit: October 19, 2008, 06:15:58 AM by drFinal » Logged

Air traffic controllers tell pilots where to go.
robugarte
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« Reply #2 on: October 25, 2008, 06:04:51 PM »

I feel you pain Evilcuban I wanted to be a pilot since I can remember, I even had the F14's blanket and pillow cases when little (4 to 11) went to the airforce academy in my country Peru but my family moved to NY so I couldn't continue on, now I'm 28 years old car salesman I make about 100k a year and I have a mortgage car payment and a fiance, but if someone gives me the chance to get on the program and still be able to pay my bills...I would be so in, even if I have to work 20 hour shifts I would be the hapiest pilot or traffic controler, I forgat to mention that with years of practice with sims, extensive research and talking to one of my costumers that happens to be an ATC in Austin, I developed the love for ATC as a carrier.
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evilcuban
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« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2008, 03:01:38 PM »

drFinal, thanks for the reply.  I looked over those websites.  What do you think the actual likelihood of me passing the AT-SAT is if I apply and get an opportunity to take it? I think I'm just a bit confused on CTI school vs. just taking the test.  If the test is so hard that you need a degree to take it, it doesn't seem to make sense that they'd offer it to the public.  On the flip side, if you don't ned a degree to take it why do people go get one?

Are there any courses, study guides, or materials that I could review to help preprare for the test?  Is it possible to pass the test without having all of the CTI training?

Also in regards to working in N90, specifically JFK, what is the likelihood that I'd be able to get into a place like that?  I talked to someone (a pilot based at an N90 airport, so his information wouldn't be totally accurate) who said it was seniority based.  I understand JFK is a challenging and busy airport to work at.

Look at the NATCA site, it doesn't seem like NATCA and the FAA get along too well.  Anything to keep in mind about that?

Many thanks!

David
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oreotsi
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« Reply #4 on: November 04, 2008, 06:42:39 PM »

not getting along too well would be an understatement, since right now all the controllers are working under imposed work rules and don't have a contract.

As far as taking the AT-SAT and cti schools. The reason so many people are getting a degree and paying all this money for the schooling is beacuse up until Dec 07 i believe, the FAA said the only two ways to get a job were through CTI schooling or through the military.

Now with the non-tract in place and all the old timers retiring, not to mention all the CTI people who are quitting due to extremely low pay; the FAA has opened the doors to try and get more people hired.

So if I was you, I'd go sign up for the AT-SAT and take the test. You don't need any aviation background to pass, let alone get a perfect score on the test.

Once you get your foot in the door, decline as many offers as you want until they send you someplace you like, because you'll most likely be there for a while.
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evilcuban
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« Reply #5 on: November 04, 2008, 08:05:29 PM »

hahaha, oreotsi the first three are so inspiring I'll sign up right now!

No seriously, though, I appreciate a realistic perspective.  I've heard similar things from my dad's cousin, an enroute controller with >24 years of experience.  Is ATC a profession you'd recommend entering now, then?

Do you think the field has significantly changed in the last, say, 5 years?  I saw what the jobs posted pay and it isn't very good.

Any other advice?

edit:

I saw several study guides, some on Amazon.com and one here http://www.atsatstudyguide.com/ .  I also read on a thread somewhere (I think it was a yahoo message board) that Sportys.com had an AT-SAT study guide, but I went there and couldn't find it.  Here are the ones at Amazon, looks like some of them are ASA guides:

http://www.amazon.com/Traffic-Control-Career-Prep-Comprehensive/dp/1560276142

http://www.amazon.com/Fundamentals-Traffic-Control-Michael-Nolan/dp/0534393888/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_b

http://www.amazon.com/ATC-Weather-Mastering-Systems-Aviation/dp/1560274247/ref=pd_sim_b_6

http://www.amazon.com/Traffic-Control-Test-Study-Guide/dp/1560272546/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1225905943&sr=1-2

http://www.amazon.com/Master-Air-Traffic-Controller-Petersons/dp/0768924758/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1225905943&sr=1-3

http://www.amazon.com/Air-Traffic-Control-Career-Prep/dp/B001F2TCCE/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1225905943&sr=1-4

I wouldn't be sure which one to choose, although I'd probably go with any one of the books from Amazon over the online guide, even though the online guide seems to be ok.

A few more questions, too.  I'm not doing this for the money, but I did see what the salary was on the posted terminal ATC position.  Is that a base salary (~$33000/year) that is subject to change depending on the facility?  I can't imagine I'd make the same at JFK as I would at a local Class D facility here in Cleveland (BKL)?  Wouldn't seem to make sense...

Does anyone have any idea how long it would take from application to the AT-SAT test?  The posted jobs don't say when the posting will close (edit: yes they do, must have been blind before) so it's hard to know, for example, if the position will be posted for another 2-4 weeks and then I could expect another 4-8 weeks after to be able to take the test.

Will I actually get selected to take the test?  I haven't applied yet but I don't really understand what would prevent me from getting selected.

Once I pass the AT-SAT, will I get offers for the facility first, THEN go to Oklahoma City?  This is the impression I got, but again I couldn't seem to confirm it anywhere.  This is when I would accept or decline offers for the facility that I want I take it.

Can anyone hazard a guess at the overall timeframe from when I complete my application to when I'd head to OKC for the FAA training?

Thanks all!
« Last Edit: November 07, 2008, 12:19:38 PM by evilcuban » Logged
FlySafe
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« Reply #6 on: November 09, 2008, 06:34:00 AM »

I've decided its time for a change and I'd like to get some more information about becoming an ATC.  I've gotten to the point that I'm so infatuated with ATC that I can just sit for hours and listen.  I'm a passionate type of person that has to enjoy their work otherwise I become bored and uninterested, which then leads to frustration.  I definitely feel that way about ATC; I know exactly what I want to do and where.  I want, with the utmost amount of determination, to be a local controller at JFK.

The thing I don't seem to understand is why the FAA seems to make it so undesirable to change careers into ATC.  It might be alright for young people right out of school who haven't yet acquired any assets, but I've got a house, a wife, and a family in the next 3-5 years to consider.  I'm young, motivated, hard-working, smart (enough), and feel truly passionate about becoming a controller.  I know how bad the FAA needs controllers but it doesn't seem like they're doing enough to attract them.  I'm not expecting handouts and pro-athlete sign-on bonuses, but making enough to at least cover the cost of bills while I go through training would be great.  Maybe things have changed recently, but I find it a bit frustrating.

If you are frustrated with the FAA now, maybe you should consider that BEFORE working for them.  As far as the job, it is the greatest job in the world.  In ATC you must be self motivated, passionate and focused.  Yes, YOU MUST THINK QUITE HIGHLY OF YOURSELF.  It is the way we are.

From what I have seen in the hiring policies lately, your location when you are hired does not come into play when you are placed in a facility.   Recent arrivals to my facility are from all over the country, only one could be considered "local" and that person had to practically quit to get a transferred to be here.

 
I'd like to know a few things:

1.) For those of you who are controllers or can provide insight, what do you recommend to someone in my position?

David, I figured I reply here since there are others also interested in ATC.  First of all before we go any further, ARE YOU UNDER the age of 31?  New hires must be in their first facility before they attain the age of 31.  There is some exceptions, one is RMC placement (retired military) but that is another box of worms and limitations.  Now .. I am assuming you meet the age restriction so I will go on.


2.) I've already done the school thing and would really prefer not to have to go back to school to get a degree in air traffic management or whatever it is.  Without a degree or some kind of training, what is the likelihood that I can pass the ATC assessment to get to Oklahoma City?

CTI is no longer required to apply.  Many CTI schools do not have anything more than a few courses that qualify them as a CTI school.  (You'd get more in a pilot ground school course).  In fact "off the street" hiring appears to be the way they (FAA) are going for a while.  The most recent arrivals to my facility, were VRA (Veterans readjustment Act) RMC (Retired military Controller) CTI and off the street, 1 out of 10 were CTI.

Study Guides, I guess they are out there.  I know years ago there were 2 and didn't cost very much..now $$$ There was a applicant recently here for their interview who arrive for the AT-SAT and did not know that there were study guides.  The score that person got was 100%.


3.) What exactly is the process that I would have to go through from where I am now to get up to the tower at JFK?

4.) Can I get a tour of a control tower?  If so, what would be the best way to go about arranging that?

Tours are available but the restrictions are based on the facility and security level at the time.  Give them a call and explain your interest.  Request to meet with the manager.  Many of the managers are being used for the PEPSI (not sure what that means but it is something like - Pre Employment Screening..)  That person should be able to provide the information you need. If you need a phone number send me a PM.

5.) What are some good websites or phone numbers where I can get more information?

Good Luck....
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Natasha  
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« Reply #7 on: November 20, 2008, 01:12:09 PM »

After a 25 year career as a controller I can offer two thoughts about the job.

1. ATC was a wonderfull and very rewarding profession. grin

2. The FAA is by far one of the worst employers you could ever work for! sad

After the FAA threw the contract in the trash they went into a self destruct mode. They intentionally drove out the "old timers" with their imposed workrules. Now many of us are getting emails and calls to come back to work part time. This alone indicates that FAA management is truly like a rudderless ship. I don't mean to discourage any of you considering the profession.... just be prepared to deal with some very inept and spitefull management!

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atcman23
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« Reply #8 on: November 30, 2008, 01:33:07 PM »

A very interesting post, for sure.  As a recent CTI graduate, I must say that if I applied off the street, I would have washed out, early.  After graduating, I now feel prepared and informed and I know what to expect at Oklahoma City when I go for training.

As for the FAA, I agree that they are a horrible employer, especially after talking to retired controllers.  Looking at your post, I do see that you have a place in mind (JFK Tower) and while that is great (you'll never be bored) realistically, they run lots of traffic daily and starting new there will be extremely stressful and overwhelming. 

First off, there are a few ways to get into the FAA as a controller: You can have recent military experience or be a veteran, graduate a CTI school OR apply off the street.  You must, of course, wait for the application to become available to do such and as of right now, there is no current public application open at this time.  Personally, I will say that going to a CTI school has many benefits and yes, you will learn MORE than a Private Pilot ground course (the schools DO teach you, especially if you do your homework and go to the right school).  Having some sort of training through a CTI school is a large benefit to you, especially after you graduate.  As long as you meet all of their requirements (basically, maintaining an 80% or better in all of the required classes), they recommend you to the FAA (in other words, your name is placed on the FAA's Direct Hire list).  Once an application for CTI graduates open, you simply apply and wait for a phone call or e-mail.  Most CTI grads are sent to Oklahoma City and most make it through.

As for the AT-SAT, this is tricky.  Not so much the test itself, but actually signing up to take it.  Since I went through a CTI school, I didn't have to do much at all; the school sent my name to the FAA stating that I could take the test and when one was available in the area, I was notified.  It is an 8 hour test and will require you to be there all day, but they do give you two breaks and a lunch break.  It is computerized and the FAA states that you do not need to study for it.  True, but I did find that studying for it was a large benefit.  I recommend this book to you; it comes with a CD that has the AT-SAT Test prep software included:

"Air Traffic Control Career Prep: A Comprehensive Guide to One of the Best-Paying Federal Government Careers, Including Test Preparation for the Initial ATC Exams" by Patrick Mattson

http://www.amazon.com/Traffic-Control-Career-Prep-Comprehensive/dp/1560276142

I purchased this book and must say that it helped me a good bit.  It's probably the best reference you will find about the career to date.

As for the process to get from now to JFK Tower, it depends on how you apply.  If you apply off the street, they'll ask for up to 5 states to choose.  You have to choose at least 1, but don't have to choose more than that.  After that, eventually they'll contact you to set up either an interview or to take the AT-SAT.  If you take the AT-SAT first (likely scenario) and get better than an 80%, eventually they'll get ahold of you for an interview and to start background/security clearances.  At the interview, you will get offered a facility and get a tentative Oklahoma City start date.  You can decline up to two facilities.  Once you are given your third offer, you take it or find another career.  There is no decline as many as you want, you are only offered three.  If you are not given JFK tower (don't be surprised), take a facility that allows you to get your foot in the door, opportunities to transfer will arise down the road.

To tour a control tower, contact them.  Many numbers can be found on the AOPA website at www.aopa.org.

As for websites, yes good luck, there aren't many.  I did recently start a blog to address such issues.  You can get there by going to: http://atcontrol101.blogspot.com/

If you have any questions, you can reply here or leave a comment on my blog.  Again, I just started it and it does not have a lot of information just yet, but I'm working on it.  Personally, you're best bet is a CTI school for the experience and knowledge... apply now if you can.  If you would like, a good 2-year school is CCBC here in Pennsylvania, but they are backlogged with the program (CTI students aren't quitting because of low pay... believe me).  Their website is www.ccbc.edu

Mark
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Mark Spencer
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« Reply #9 on: December 01, 2008, 12:40:12 PM »

A very interesting post, for sure.  As a recent CTI graduate, I must say that if I applied off the street, I would have washed out, early.  After graduating, I now feel prepared and informed and I know what to expect at Oklahoma City when I go for training.


After you get back from OKC, you might want to come here and amend that statement. I think you'll be surprised how little the CTI schools actually prepare you for OKC and the actual job.
When I was there, some of the people who went to the expensive, longer, more indepth CTI schools were some of the worst kids in the class.
Even after getting to your first facility you'll also be surprised how different OKC is from actually working in a real tower.

Best of Luck to you though Mark, do you have a date/facility offer yet?
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atcman23
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« Reply #10 on: December 01, 2008, 08:36:15 PM »

Actually, I think I'll be OK.  I graduated from CCBC, which you may know, is the only CTI school that operates a real control tower.  And yes, students control real traffic there.  Personnaly, I think the 4 year CTI schools are a little much in both price and curriculum.  They're loaded with other classes not required by the FAA for the program.  CCBC wasn't that way, you only had a very small handful of non-related classes to take.

As for a date and facility, not yet.  The FAA just opened up a CTI application which closes on 12/10 and selection won't start until January, 2009.
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Mark Spencer
evilcuban
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« Reply #11 on: December 29, 2008, 11:24:22 AM »

Thanks to all who have replied here.  I truly appreciate all your perspectives, and the time you've taken to share your thoughts or opinions.

Just as an update, I applied to the public posting that closed on 12/16, and I'm hoping to hear back in January sometime as to whether I can take the test or not.  I picked up two study guides at the local library, one of which was Patrick Mattson's book with the CD, and have been using them to prepare.  I got my own copy of Dr. Mattson's study guid for Christmas, so I can finally let the library have their copy back, although I think I'll continue to renew Barron's guide even though it is pretty out of date.  It's got some neat information on signage, lighting, NAVAIDs, etc.

I was also lucky enough to be granted a tour at my local Class B facility, and was able to spend about a half hour in the TRACON (it's a level 9 facility) and then 2 hours plugged in and listening to the ladies and gentleman working in the tower cab.  It was without a doubt one of the highlights of this year.  If I needed ANY convincing that was it.  Despite the pay and current poor relations with the FAA, I still feel very strongly that this is what I need to do.

As far as CTI vs. non-CTI, my situation exists and I'm going to go with that and hope for the best.  I'm just going ahead one step at a time, so if the posting doesn't work out then I'll reevaluate and see if I need to go to a CTI school.  I'm a smart guy (full academic scholarship to college, graduated .04 shy of Summa Cum Laude), and I'm positive if I'm given the opportunity and the information I can do it, but I understand the system may not always be fair or set up for us guys coming in off the street.  Like I said I'm studying now and I'll give it my best shot.  If it doesn't work out, we'll go from there.

I realize, especially coming off the street, that I have a lot of hard work ahead of me.  Getting selected to take the test and then passing with a good score is just one of MANY steps I'll need to take to get up to a ATCT as a CTO.  I've also started controlling on VATSIM to try to get used to working traffic, so if any of you fly on VATSIM, please stop by and see me over on tower at KCLE, I could use all the practice I can get.

Thanks again to all and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
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admissions
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« Reply #12 on: December 31, 2008, 12:01:38 AM »

Consider getting quality technical training at www.advancedatc.com
Our training is focused on technical training rather than 2 to 4 years of academics.
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nfredrich
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« Reply #13 on: January 04, 2009, 03:01:12 AM »

Quote
Consider getting quality technical training at www.advancedatc.com
Our training is focused on technical training rather than 2 to 4 years of academics.

This is a gimmick....after looking over the site..... I have a few respectful comments regarding that "program". (I posted the same comments in a more recent forum)

If they are sending VRA and RMC hires to OKC you can count on graduates from this type of program going as well. CTO certificates are issued after passing a very easy written test at the academy. Most of the material was gone over extensively in weeks previous to test day. This shouldn't be confused with your actual CTO (Control Tower Operators License). This is issued for the specific tower you work in, have had documented OJT time in, and a certification check-ride with the appropriate staff member. Even then there is a waiting period for all the paperwork to be processed before you obtain your actual control tower operators license. Keep in mind a CTO license is only valid for the facility you have been checked out at. Read the fine print.

This site says first year salarys are in the low to mid $40k's. nope. The ATC academy salary is $ 19,293/yr .. which computes to $9.24/hr. You get an additional ~$80/day in per diem which is supposed to cover your lodging, meals, and incidentals. Most FAA approved housing places are $45-$70/day. You will get a raise when you arrive to your facility. an ATC-7 with the standard locality rate is $37,463/yr. Your next raise will not come until you get checked out on a certain number of positions. This is a variable that is different from facility to facility. It depends on staffing, number of trainees, number of CICs, and schedules of essential staff members in the facilities training department.

I would like to point out that the FAA does hire applicants off the street for both terminal and en route facilities without charging a fee. The classes in the academy at the MMAC in OKC can be transfered over to college credits along with other training courses provided by the FAA.

The best options out there if you don't already have a degree is going to a CTI school. If it doesn't work out for you, at least you didn't throw your money away, you got a degree in something right? If you have a degree in something already try applying off the street. You would be amazed at the career backgrounds you'll run into at the academy, and be weary of gimmicks like this.

All of this information isn't geared to scare anyone away from the profession, its simply the fact of the matter and the more information someone has before they get into this fantastic profession the better. I know I wish I had all this info when I was getting started.
« Last Edit: January 04, 2009, 03:14:13 AM by nfredrich » Logged

Nick Fredrich
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« Reply #14 on: January 07, 2009, 11:25:53 PM »

I would say change your handle from "evilcuban" if you want a chance at getting hired! And as others have said, work up to JFK Approach or Tower. We've had many trainee failures lately & it's not like it's getting easier. If you have brains & can think on your feet, you'll do well. When I applied in late 1984, I just used some study guide I found in Waldenbooks & then made my way to OKC in mid-1986. I did well on the test but had some difficulty with things I'd rather not put here. I think some recent trainees have come straight into the building & skipped OKC altogether. We've had a few who were intimindated & left. Sad cases, to be honest. Good luck & PM me if there are any specific questions you have. I used to live & work in Oberlin, OH. That ZOB/Cleveland Air route Center has a similar salary structure to NY Approach.
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