Education

Best Air Traffic Control Degree Programs of 2022

Learn more about the top Air Traffic Control programs, what to expect, job prospects, and how to choose the program that’s right for you.

Air traffic control is the process of managing the movement of aircraft in the airspace around airports. Air traffic controllers use a variety of tools to track aircraft, including radar, radios, and computers. Air traffic control is a critical function in ensuring the safety of aircraft and passengers.

Air traffic control is a highly skilled and technical profession. Air traffic controllers must have a thorough knowledge of airspace regulations, aircraft performance, and weather conditions. They must be able to make split-second decisions in order to keep aircraft safe.

Air traffic control degrees can prepare students for a variety of careers in air traffic control, including air traffic controller, flight dispatcher, and aircraft maintenance engineer. Students in air traffic control degree programs learn about the different aspects of air traffic control, including airspace regulations, aircraft performance, and weather conditions.

How to Choose the Right Air Traffic Control Program

When it comes to choosing an air traffic control program, there are a few things prospective students need to keep in mind. The first is cost. Air traffic control programs can be expensive, so students need to make sure they can afford the tuition and associated fees. The second is location. Many air traffic control programs are located near airports, so students need to make sure they are comfortable with the location. The third is time to degree. Air traffic control programs typically take four years to complete, so students need to make sure they can commit to the program. Finally, students need to make sure the program they choose is accredited.

Best Bachelor’s in Air Traffic Control Programs

The best programs for Air Traffic Control ranking is based on key statistics and student reviews using data from the U.S. Department of Education. Some of the metrics influencing how the rankings are determined include graduation rate, average salary for graduates, accreditation, retention rate, and cost.

Rank 1
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Prescott, AZ

The Bachelor of Science in Air Traffic Management program at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University prepares graduates for a career in air traffic control. The program provides students with the knowledge and foundation designated for entry into the FAA Academy, where they will be integrated with others for additional air traffic control training. The curriculum at Embry-Riddle delivers fundamental traffic controller knowledge and competency through a mix of realistic lab simulations, classroom instruction, and computer-based learning.

Rank 2
Lewis University
Romeoville, IL

The Bachelor of Science in Air Traffic Control Management from Lewis University is designed to prepare students for a career in air traffic control. The program includes classroom instruction, laboratory simulations, and hands-on learning in state-of-the-art facilities. Students will be fully prepared for entry into the FAA Academy upon completion of the program.

Rank 3
Indiana Wesleyan University-Marion
Marion, IN

The Bachelor of Science in Aviation Management, Bachelor of Science in Aviation Management degree from Indiana Wesleyan University-Marion is a four-year program that prepares students to become professional pilots or aviation industry leaders through management roles. The program includes flight training early on so that students can build flight hours while completing their bachelor’s-level courses online. Upon completion of the program, students will have an FAA Private Pilot Certificate, FAA Commercial Certificate with a Single or Multi-Engine Land Class Rating, FAA Instrument Rating, and FAA Certified Flight Instructor.

Rank 4
Purdue University
West Lafayette, IN

The Bachelor of Science in Aviation Management from Purdue University provides students with the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful in the aviation industry. Special features of the program include the ability to explore additional options with coursework that can lead to the Certified Member Examination of the American Association of Airport Executives, the ability to earn both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in aviation management in only five years with a special plan of study, and the opportunity to get involved with nine different student organizations specifically for aviation students.

Rank 5
University of Oklahoma
Norman, OK

The Bachelor of Science in Aviation Management from University of Oklahoma trains students for careers as air traffic controllers or in other aviation management fields. This concentration also includes a general business minor upon graduation.

The Air Traffic Management concentration educational goals are to provide students with knowledge in all of the FAA air traffic basic learning objectives, exposure to practical application in all options of air traffic control, and to instill an appreciation for diversity and teamwork in the aviation workplace.

Rank 6
Lynn University
Boca Raton, FL

The Bachelor of Science in Air Traffic Control degree from Lynn University offers a comprehensive flight-training curriculum, with the unique option to use elective courses to attain a pilot license and ratings at Lynn’s Burton D. Morgan College of Aeronautics in Boca Raton, Florida. The program is delivered 100% online, with state-of-the-art simulators providing students with the air traffic controller training to successfully keep passengers and aircraft safe.

Rank 7
Kent State University at Kent
Burton, OH

The Bachelor of Science in Aeronautics from Kent State University at Kent is designed to prepare students for careers as professional Air Traffic Controllers. The program provides a broad knowledge of the aviation industry and the requisite knowledge, skills, and abilities to succeed in air traffic control training.

Rank 8
Central Washington University
Ellensburg, WA

The Bachelor of Science in Aviation Management from Central Washington University is designed for students with a passion for the combined art and science of aviation. The program provides students with the skills and knowledge necessary for a variety of administrative and management positions in the aviation community, including maintenance management positions. The program is fully accredited and students have access to the most up-to-date flight simulation equipment on the West Coast.

Rank 9
University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, ND

The Bachelor of Science in Aeronautics from University of North Dakota is a great choice for students interested in a career in air traffic control. The program is accredited by Aviation Accreditation Board International (AABI) and will fully prepare students for a career as an air traffic controller. The program includes coursework in aviation fundamentals, meteorology, and related fields. Graduates of the program will be able to apply for an Air Traffic Control Specialist position with the FAA.

Rank 10
Fairmont State University
Fairmont, WV

The Bachelor of Science in Aviation Administration from Fairmont State University has two concentrations: Professional Flight and Aviation Management. The Professional Flight concentration is a selective program that prepares students to be well-rounded and complete aviation professionals. The Aviation Management concentration prepares students for a career in airport management, air traffic control, airline management, or airport security.

What to Expect From a Bachelor’s in Air Traffic Control Program

Air traffic control programs at the bachelor’s level typically take four years to complete. The coursework covers topics like aviation law, weather, air traffic procedures, and aircraft performance. Students also learn about human factors in aviation, aviation safety, and emergency procedures. Most programs include an internship, which gives students the opportunity to work with a professional air traffic control organization.

To be successful in an air traffic control program, students need to be able to think quickly and make decisions under pressure. They must also have excellent communication and interpersonal skills. Air traffic control programs typically do not offer concentrations, but students may be able to choose electives that align with their specific interests.

Common Air Traffic Control Courses

Air traffic control degree programs typically include a mix of classroom learning and hands-on experience. The courses below are examples of what students might encounter while earning their degree.

Radar Principles

This course covers the basic principles of radar and its application to air traffic control. Topics include the electromagnetic spectrum, radar waves and propagation, radar reflectivity, radar cross section, and radar equation. Emphasis is placed on the types of radar systems, their components, and their functions. Upon completion, students should be able to explain how radar works, its advantages and disadvantages, and its limitations.

Communication Procedures

This course covers the types of communication used in the air traffic control system, including voice, data, and text communications. Topics include the use of standard phraseology, readback/verification, and the use of automation. Emphasis is placed on the need for clear and concise communications, the use of proper procedures, and the importance of following established protocols. Upon completion, students should be able to demonstrate proper use of voice, data, and text communications in the air traffic control system.

Emergency Procedures

This course covers emergency procedures for air traffic controllers. Topics include types of emergencies, emergency communications, airspace restrictions, and emergency equipment. Upon completion, students should be able to identify and describe types of emergencies, establish and maintain emergency communications, restrict airspace, and activate and use emergency equipment.

Air Traffic Control Systems

This course covers the theory and operation of air traffic control systems. Topics include the National Airspace System, Air Traffic Control facilities, equipment, and procedures. Upon completion, students should be able to apply the basic concepts of the National Airspace System, identify Air Traffic Control facilities, equipment, and procedures, and explain the theory and operation of Air Traffic Control systems.

Aviation Weather

This course covers the study of aviation weather and its impact on flight operations. Topics include an overview of the atmosphere, weather services, weather reports and forecasts, use of weather information in flight planning, en route weather hazards, and emergency weather situations. Upon completion, students should be able to apply their knowledge of aviation weather to real-world flight planning and operations.

Career Options for Air Traffic Control Graduates

Air traffic control is a vital field, as it ensures the safe operation of aircraft. There is a need for professionals who are trained in air traffic control to work in a variety of settings, including airports, air traffic control towers, and air traffic control centers.

Air Traffic Controller

Air traffic controllers work in airports and control the movement of aircraft on and around the runways and taxiways. They use radar, radios, and visual references to ensure that aircraft stay a safe distance apart, and they give pilots instructions on when and where to land. Air traffic controllers work in air traffic control towers, approach control facilities, or route centers. The job can be stressful, and controllers must be able to make quick decisions in potentially dangerous situations.

Airport Operations Specialist

Airport operations specialists are responsible for the day-to-day operations of an airport. This can include tasks such as monitoring the airport’s security system, directing aircraft to their gates, coordinating with air traffic control, handling customer service inquiries, and managing the airport’s staff. Airport operations specialists must be able to think quickly and make decisions under pressure, as they are responsible for the safety of the airport’s passengers and staff.

Flight Data Coordinator

Flight data coordinators work in the aviation industry to ensure that all data related to flights is accurate and up to date. They may work for an airline, airport, or other aviation-related organization. Flight data coordinators’ duties can vary depending on their employer, but may include inputting data into a computer system, verifying the accuracy of flight data, researching flight information, and maintaining flight records.

Flight Service Specialist

Flight service specialists work in the aviation industry to provide customer service and support to pilots and passengers. They are responsible for a variety of tasks, including providing information about weather conditions, filing flight plans, coordinating with air traffic control, and helping passengers with special needs. Flight service specialists typically work in an office environment, but they may also work remotely.

Air Traffic Safety Inspector

Air traffic safety inspectors are responsible for ensuring the safety of the national airspace system. They conduct surveillance of airports, airlines, and flight schools; investigate accidents; and inspect equipment. Air traffic safety inspectors typically work for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), but some may work for private companies that provide air traffic control services.

Insights From an Air Traffic Control Graduate

Nyla Villegas is an Air Traffic Controller at the Federal Aviation Administration. She has a bachelor’s degree in air traffic control from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Nyla has over 10 years of experience in air traffic control.

ClimbtheLadder: What would you recommend that students do in addition to their degree program, in order to stand out to employers?

Nyla Villegas: I would recommend that students get involved in extracurricular activities related to their degree program. For air traffic control, this could include joining the student aviation association or volunteering at an airport. Getting involved in these activities can help you stand out to potential employers because it shows that you are passionate about the field and are willing to go the extra mile to learn more about it.

ClimbtheLadder: What type of person is successful and thrives in an Air Traffic Control career?

Nyla Villegas: In my experience, the people who are successful and thrive in an Air Traffic Control career are those who are able to think quickly on their feet, have excellent problem solving skills, and are able to handle high-pressure situations.

In addition, it is important to be able to maintain a high level of concentration for long periods of time and have excellent hand-eye coordination.

ClimbtheLadder: Was there anything about your Air Traffic Control program that you didn’t expect or anticipate?

Nyla Villegas: I didn’t realize how important it was to be able to multitask and think quickly on my feet. In air traffic control, you have to be able to handle multiple tasks at the same time while remaining calm and focused.

You also have to be able to make quick decisions. If you hesitate, it could result in a serious accident. I remember one time I had to make a split-second decision when two planes were on a collision course. I had to decide which plane to divert. It was a scary situation, but I’m glad I was able to act quickly and prevent an accident.

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