Becoming a Controller We answer the 10 most frequently asked questions...

What qualifications do I need?

You must have at least five GCSE passes at Grade C or above (Levels 4-9). That must include English and Maths. Equivalent qualifications will be considered.

Is there an age restriction?

We don't have a maximum age restriction, but you must be over 18 to apply. More details on eligibility criteria can be found here:

Where do I train and how long does it take?

On average Trainee Air Traffic Controllers study for between 6 to 12 months in a training centre. We currently have three training centres - one in Hampshire, one in Gloucester and one in Jerez in Spain.

The initial training course course covers a variety of different subjects and is taught by instructors who have been (or currently are) Air Traffic Controllers themselves.

After initial training, students move to operational units where they hone their skills with supervision until they are ready to be assessed for validation. On validating, they are formally posted to an unit where they work as licensed Air Traffic Controllers.

How do I apply?

You apply online, the initial application form takes less than ten minutes to complete. Ten minutes to change your life? What are you waiting for?

What hours do controllers work?

This is a 365-day, 24-hour business so controllers work in shifts. A controller's working week is 10 days long with 6 days of work and 4 days of rest. Also working hours typically span day and night shifts.

How many times can I apply?

You can apply up to 3 times. However if you apply and are unsuccessful, you must wait another 12 months before you can re-apply.

How much do controllers earn?

On joining as a Trainee Air Traffic Controller, you’ll get a basic salary of £17,000, along with an attractive benefits package. This includes a contributory pension scheme and generous annual leave.

Once you pass your training your salary will increase but the amount you receive will depend on where you are posted. Controllers working in the most complex sectors of airspace can earn over £100,000.

Can I apply if I live outside the UK?

It's a requirement that you are eligible to work in the UK before you apply to train as an Air Traffic Controller. You can find out more about eligibility requirements on our website. Please note, we cannot provide assistance with obtaining a VISA.

Can I choose where I work?

No - that decision is made according to the needs of the Company. 80% of our controllers work in our Control Centres, so the chances are you'll be based at one of those in either Prestwick (in Ayrshire, Scotland) or Swanwick (in Hampshire, England).

If you are not posted to a Centre, it is highly likely that you'll be posted to an UK airport. We currently provide air traffic control at the following 13 major UK airports:

  1. Aberdeen
  2. Belfast City
  3. Belfast International
  4. Bristol
  5. Cardiff
  6. Farnborough
  7. Glasgow
  8. Heathrow
  9. London City
  10. Luton
  11. Manchester
  12. Southampton
  13. Stansted

How much will it cost me to train as a controller?

Nothing. The costs of training to become an air traffic controller are covered by NATS. In fact, successful candidates become paid employees of the Company.

And finally... an extra question that people often don't want to ask...what's it really like working for NATS?

It's probably best if we let our employees answer that one...

Find out more

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