Becoming an Air Traffic Controller

Information on becoming an ATCO and the CAA's role in the licensing process

How do I become an Air Traffic Controller?

The CAA does not regulate the recruitment of ATCOs, or provide training to become an ATCO. If you are considering a career in Air Traffic Control (ATC), you are advised to contact the organisation that provides ATC at your local airport, who should be able to put you in contact with relevant training organisations.

There are two major stages towards gaining an ATCO licence:

  • Initial training leading towards the grant of a Student Air Traffic Controller licence; and
  • Unit training leading towards the issue of an Air Traffic Controller Licence.


There are no entry requirements to the ATC training courses but applicants for a Student licence must hold at least one 'GCSE' level pass or equivalent and hold any educational qualification which would enable the applicant to gain access to university or a similar educational institution. In certain circumstances, the CAA may grant an exemption to requirements if the person concerned has sufficient experience and education to give the applicant a reasonable prospect of completing air traffic control training. If you are intending to finance your own training you should seriously consider undertaking the aptitude testing offered by ATC training organisations.

Medical Assessment

You are also advised to undertake an initial medical assessment for an ATC licence before committing yourself to a training course. The medical assessment only determines your medical fitness at the time of the examination, but you will be required to maintain a minimum medical standard throughout your career. Your eyesight or hearing could be within the limits of the required standard, but may deteriorate with time. You should seek advice on the likelihood of your maintaining the required medical standard for your proposed career span.

Language Proficiency

The UK requires all applicants for a Student Air Traffic Controller licence or Air Traffic Controller licence to have demonstrated the ability to speak and understand the English language to at least level 4 of the ICAO Language Proficiency Rating Scale. You will be required to maintain at least this level of proficiency in order to exercise the privileges of your Licence. In some cases you will be required to undertake periodic reassessments of your English language proficiency.

Initial Training

Initial training courses are provided by a number of ATC training organisations that have been certified to do so by the CAA.

The CAA does not set the examinations. Successful completion of an approved course of training and the associated examinations is the only method by which you can apply for the grant of a Student Air Traffic Controller licence. If you fail an approved course of training you are permitted to retake the course.

Other Employment Opportunities in ATC

Many air traffic control units employ Air Traffic Service Assistants (ATSAs). ATSAs provide support to air traffic controllers and provide administrative functions necessary for the air traffic service system to continue working.

Air traffic control units also require engineering support (Air Traffic Engineers) to ensure that the equipment and navigation aids are maintained and operate correctly.

You should contact your local airport directly to enquire about employment prospects as an ATSA or Air Traffic Engineer.