This is incorrect!Let me see if I can put this whole, “I’m better qualified than you” theory of ATC hiring to rest.
Air Traffic Control is a very serious occupation. Unfortunately, one of the most demanding of jobs is controlled by the government. That in itself is not a overwhelming detriment, because it’s not the only downside. The Government is bound to strict hiring practices. This is fine, as long as you are hiring Mail Carriers or Secretaries or even Federal Judges. Great jobs, but those occupations, I don’t think, can hurt anybody. ATC is in too big of a job pool. And if you are not any good, you CAN hurt people. And that brings me to this observation/opinion:
There is only one safe/logical way for the system to work. This is it: The ATCS (Air Traffic Control Specialist) goes through a well-tested, well-proven timeline of events. The progression does not start with a “Hey, I think I’m going to be an Air Traffic Controller.” epiphany. It is more akin to the ATC job telling YOU that you MIGHT be a good fit. The only way to find that out is…the Military. They will put you in a program and let you know if you fit into ATC. I have done this job for a very long time, and can tell you that “under-fire” is the only way. Be damned any school (including any military school). You can have guys run around the room holding up plastic airplanes all day and it doesn’t do anything for anybody.
The Military is the only way for several reasons:
1) The training is way tougher than anything the FAA hands out. This is how the job (and you) finds out if your skin is thick enough. And it better be, or you will get spanked.
2) You get a chance to see if you like ATC. Once you are in the FAA and start making big money, if you discover you don’t like ATC, you’re screwed. You are NOT giving up that check (and neither is your spouse).
3) Keeping in line with #2: Introduction to ATC while in the Military not only gives you and the job an opportunity to see if you are compatible, you find out if you truly LOVE running airplanes. If you can stand the rhythm, the hectic pace and the multi-tasking. If you find that you do have ATC in your blood, you would not be so concerned about WHERE you go to run traffic. You just want to run traffic. All this business about wanting to be at a facility two blocks from Mommy’s house shouldn't matter to you. You just want to plug in.
By showing up with no experience in a job this demanding, or any job this taxing, is not a good idea. But in the FAA, it can be brutal. If you become the trainee of an “Old Salt”, and you have “mic fright” or you’re timid or thin-skinned, things are not going to go well for you. You are insulting your trainer. How dare you show up looking for $100,000 and you don’t know which one is number one, a C182 or a T-38.
Sports analogy: In ATC, the FAA is “The Bigs”. You wouldn't go knocking on the New York Yankees’ door because your Dad said that he thought you had a nice slider. Would you?
Final note: I’m not saying that ATC has to be 100% prior military. That would be asking a lot. But I think that the occupation needs to be heavily loaded with “under-fire” experience. No other place to get that other than Military ATC.
Some of the best controllers that I've ever seen were OTS hires. Not CTI, and not Military. I'll agree that for the most part the military provides very good experience, and is an excellent path to follow to become an ATC.
I worked as a bank teller out of high school, and then straight into ATC at N90. Many others where hired out of all kinds of random civilian jobs straight into the job like me, and did fine. About half of the veteran controllers with more than 15 years on the job that work here at N90 were OTS hires.