Becoming an ATC

A couple of days ago, I chose my career path as an ATC at SFO. I have done some research on some facts on how to become one, and I want to know if there is anything else that is required such as: training, requirements, or a resume. Is there anyone I can contact or any info. you might know?


@Tyler_Shelton can help (by PM).

Best of luck :)!


Doing some research first without making this thread would’ve saved you some time! 😉


I have, but not much websites have given me much info.

I hope this helps:


You need to apply to FAA. SFO doesn’t hire direct atc’s


If you haven’t gone to college yet, there are plants of colleges that you can find on google that are faa approved for air traffic controllers. They offer good trading and a certificate for atc

If you don’t want to go that route though, you could. You need to get 4 years of experience in the aviation industry (any thing like baggage handlers I think). Then you get a certificate

I am no expert when it comes to this. This is just my understanding. I have reaserched this online ;)

Best of luck to you and hope this helps 👌😄

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You can’t just say you’re going to control at SFO.

After getting hired you can request an area or ARTCC you desire to control in, but the FAA is known to put you wherever needed. Even if it’s nowhere near where you preferred…

Tyler would be a great resource if you have questions about ATC since that’s what he does for a living :D


I can attest to this. Had a few friends go through the academy, and get placed in an area that they weren’t hoping for. Welcome to working under government. lol. Let me also add that a few years ago the FAA was being quite picky in regards to who they wanted to accept into the academy. People who went through the basic training that you’d receive at a college/university, didn’t always make the cut. I’m not an air traffic controller, and I don’t have nearly as many answers that other ATC personnel on this forum can answer, but I’ve got some general knowledge in that field.


Also (if the US is like the UK) you won’t start anywhere near the size of SFO. You work your way up to it over your career.

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Good luck with your career path! Being an air traffic controller is a great job :)

Hey, all the best. A few months back i also applied to my local ATC and i made it past several stages of interview but fell short of the last.

I am now considering embry riddle for a bachelor in aeronautics to boost my chance when i apply to become an ATC again.

Firstly, you might want to read up on certain aspect of being an ATC.

I suggest

Im not sure about FAA but I’ll help what i can.

Theres some interview questions to prepare if you get selected for it. Prepare for some atc aptitude tests online, just try all the free ones. You may get a personality test, answer them as honestly as possiblr.

If you get a voice test, please prepare and be very confident in reading them. Read them over and over again, loud, clear but at a decent reading speed. Dont stammer like i did, dont pause for too long enough for your testers to determine you might be anxious. If you dont understand, dont stop just read it confidently as you will.

Watch videos on atc, listen into atc live and flightradar to get general understanding of what being an atc is like. Prepare alot, be confident and show them you are ready for such jobs.

As for resume, i have worked in high pressure and critical thinking jobs before like being a medic in the military, working with a hospital.

Show them you are the kind of person who is capable of working on the edge efficiently and effectively. How good you are at taking charge at a project and expediting and managing process so it is done smoothly and all.

At least thats what i had on me, different people have different stories. Tyler as well as other real ATCs in here are very encouraging. Once again, all the best, i hope you get what you want!!


Speaking of Tyler, research the Air Force and take a look at the career path that he’s currently on. Serve your country, accomplish your goals and minimize out of pocket expenses!! I count three wins.


Join the Air Force. Most guys in the FAA that I’ve met are former military.


So, should I start at my local airport, or somewhere near SFO?

That aspect doesn’t matter. If you somehow get the lucky draw when you place the bid on USAJobs to go to the academy, provided you don’t wash out during training, you’ll get a list of facilities to choose from. The top ranking trainees at the end of the course get first pick, second gets next, third gets next, and so on. Depending on what areas the FAA needs manned, your preferences may not even show up on the list or may be taken first by people who ranked higher than you. Incentive to do well.

As for when you’re in a facility, it may be possible to ask for a transfer later on in your career. @MichaelSchoelen knows way more about this.

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Good Luck. Hope everything goes well!

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Set up a profile on USAjobs. In the mean time get either work experience, or post high school education (or both), or look into the military.

We have plenty of people who were controllers in any of the armed forces (except coast guard). Even if you join the military, and aren’t assigned a career as an ATC, you still gain Veteran points for your resume. Some people say it’s better to come into the FAA without having previous military experience, because sometimes it’s hard to retrain someone rather than to start with someone fresh from the get-go. That transition could almost be a separate post (I won’t make one though).

As for becoming a controller at SFO I can tell you you won’t go straight there from the FAA Academy. When you apply, and if you are selected you will be assigned enroute or terminal. If you get selected enroute, it is highly likely you will never work at SFO tower. If you are hired and selected for enroute DO NOT, I REPEAT, DO NOT turn down the job offer, for you may never get a phone call back. From there you will go to the Academy, depending on how many in your class make it through the Academy there will be enough slots to fill all of the students who passed. They will post the facilities that are available, and you will pick from top of the class, to the bottom of the class. There will be some horrible picks on the board (places no one wants to live) and those will be required facilities. These facilities are most likely on the board because no one wants to be there, and as soon as they sign off, they bid to another facility, or people hardship out. From there once you sign off you can bid out and up. But if you start at a level 4 or 5, you can expect to have to bid up atleast to one or 2 other facilities before somewhere like SFO will pick you up.

In all, your best bet is to apply, and stick through the rough times. Just ride the wave. Good luck, and feel free to ask additional questions.


You’re the man! Thanks for the informative post.

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