What are the Pay and
Benefits of an FAA Air Traffic Controller?
Pay is one of the most enticing things about becoming an
air traffic controller. Air traffic controllers are one of the highest paid
employees in the nation. They can earn upwards of $170,000 per year before premium pay, over time, and holiday
pay. The national average for FAA air traffic controllers is around $100,000 per year prior to any premium pay.
As well as earning great pay, air traffic controllers have other good benefits. They earn four hours of sick leave
every two weeks as well as from four to eight hours of annual leave (depending on time in the FAA) every two weeks.
The amount of money each controller makes depends on many
things. Each facility is assigned a level. These facility levels are
determined by many factors; however, the biggest factor that weighs in
determining what a facility level is would be the airports traffic count. The
higher the traffic count generally means the higher the facility level. FAA
facilities are assigned anywhere from a 5 to the slowest facilities up to a 12,
to the busiest facilities. A controller working at a level 12 facility will get
paid significantly higher than a controller working at a level 5 facility.
Locality pay is a percentage of the base salary and also added on to the base
salary. Locality pay varies for each city and can be as low as 14% and as high as 34%.
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Retirement benefits are based off of the average of the air
traffic controllers highest three years in the FAA. Depending on how much time the air traffic controller has in the
FAA will determine what percentage of
their high three salary they will get at retirement. Because air traffic
controllers must retire at 56 years of age, they receive a higher retirement
than other federal workers. Air traffic controllers receive 1.7% towards
retirement for every year they work up to 20 years. Anything after 20 years is only 1% per year towards
retirement. If the air traffic controller was a member of the military, they may choose to buy back their military
time at any point throughout their career. Once this has been bought back they may add the amount of years they were
in the military to their retirement at the rate of 1% per year. An air traffic controller that had 30 years in the
FAA, all of them were air traffic control, and had 5 years of military service (which they opted to buy back) would receive
49% of their highest three years for their retirement. The first 20 years would equal 34%, the next 10 years would
equal 10%, and the 5 years of military time would equal 5%.
The air traffic controller would also supplement their retirement by contributions made to the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP)
while in the FAA. The TSP is similar to a 401k. The employee can contribute up to a certain amount of money per
pay check and the FAA and government will match up to the first 5% that the employer contributes.
These two options give the air traffic controller a great
retirement. Air traffic controllers are still eligible to draw social security
as well when the get to that age.
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