Air Traffic Control

Becoming a controller

Becoming a controller


The below information is based on NATS (UK Air Traffic Controller path) – The path to becoming a Controller is not a quick and easy one. It takes time and commitment but the rewards at the end make it all worthwhile.

Do your research
Research what the role involves. Does it interest and excite you? Could you see yourself doing it? Do you understand what’s involved in the recruitment and assessment process? Could you commit 100% to training if selected? If the answer is yes, then check your eligibility!

Check your eligibility
Before you apply you must check you are eligible. Do you meet the legal, health, academic and security requirements? If you don’t we will reject your application from the outset. If you do – register online! You must be:

  • 18+
  • Eligible to work in the UK. If you’re unsure, check the Home Office guidance.
  • 5 GCSEs at Grade 4 or Scottish National 5’s Grade A-C including English and Maths. -Equivalent qualifications are accepted.
  • Fit enough to meet the necessary CAA medical standards.
  • Register Online
  • Complete the online application form and register your details. The form takes 7-10 minutes to complete.

Complete stage 1 online assessments
Having successfully registered and been approved, you’ll be invited to sit nine online tests. These are designed to test cognitive and decision-making skills that are important to Controllers. If you don’t pass this stage, you can reapply after 12 months. You can apply to become a Controller a maximum of three times.

Complete stage 2 online assessments
If you pass the stage 1 assessments, you’ll be invited to an online Situational Judgement Test and Personality Questionnaire. If you don’t pass this stage, you can reapply after 12 months. You can apply to become a Controller a maximum of three times.

Attend an assessment centre
If you pass the stage 2 assessments you’ll be asked to attend a 1 day assessment centre where you’ll take some further ATC-related tests, have an interview and partake in a group exercise. If you don’t pass this stage, you can reapply after 12 months. You can apply to become a Controller a maximum of three times.

Complete the college-based training
If you pass the assessment centre, you’ll be invited to join NATS as a Trainee Air Traffic Controller and attend one of our colleges in either Hampshire, Gloucester or Jerez in Spain. The length of college-based training varies depending on a host of factors, including the specialism you take and how quickly you can complete different phases. Most college-based training is completed within a year to eighteen months and includes a combination of practical and theory-based sessions.

Complete the operational training
Once you have passed college-based training you will be posted to an operational unit where your hands-on training continues until you validate and are issued your Air Traffic Controller license.

Operational unit posting
Now you are ready to play your critical part in advancing aviation and keeping the skies safe! You will be posted to an Operational Unit. This may or may not be the unit where you did your operational training. Please remember that Air Traffic Controllers are mobile grades, which means that you may be required to work anywhere in the UK and ultimately this will be determined by the needs of the Company.

Apply here


Do you want to become an air traffic controller in europe with Eurocontrol?

If you’re passionate about aviation and have great spatial skills, we can offer you an exciting opportunity to train as an air traffic controller, with the prospect of a rewarding career in a dynamic organisation to follow. Eurocontrol are looking for people to join their multinational team of air traffic controllers at their Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre in the Netherlands.

A selection procedure is currently underway to find suitable candidates for the student air traffic controller training which are scheduled to start in February and October every year. Specialized training is required before you can join this team of professionals. Eurocontrol will pay for that training, and they will also pay you a monthly allowance while you learn!

Being safety-critical, the job carries a high level of responsibility, so the selection procedure is rigorous and the training is intensely challenging. But if you succeed, you will have an enormously rewarding and interesting career!

Apply here