Is 26 Too Old to Try and Become an ATC?

Mapost2410

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Aug 19, 2016
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I'm 26 and 1 year away from getting my bachelor's degree in Exercise Science. I changed my mind from going to grad school and becoming a Physical Therapist. ATC is more appealing to me.

I've read that my best chance of getting into ATC is by enlisting in the Air Force but by the time I am done then I'll be past 30. So is my best bet to go to a 2 year school and get my CTI? Is it possible to get in just off the streets?

I am upset that I came to this conclusion so late but it's very appealing to me and this is my dream job. What should my next step be?
 

rdyotz

Trusted Member
Feb 18, 2014
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If you go atc in the air force, you can get a cto, and then apply for prior experience bids up to age 35. This is currently the best opportunity to become faa atc. You can also get in ots or cti, neither of which is as probable as prior experience. You need to do your own research and make your decision that is best for you, no one can give you a guaranteed way that works for everyone.
 

Mapost2410

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Aug 19, 2016
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Thanks for the reply. I'm not a fan of becoming a grunt pawn that the government can use to make themselves money fighting meaningless wars. Plus I'm in a 4 year relationship right now that I'm hoping works out for real. I'm not familiar with how the Air Force works but I'd imagine it would put a strain on my relationship. But if that's my best chance then I'll have to really consider it.
 

mrobs15

Trusted Contributor
Dec 11, 2012
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Thanks for the reply. I'm not a fan of becoming a grunt pawn that the government can use to make themselves money fighting meaningless wars. Plus I'm in a 4 year relationship right now that I'm hoping works out for real. I'm not familiar with how the Air Force works but I'd imagine it would put a strain on my relationship. But if that's my best chance then I'll have to really consider it.
 

italk2planes

Junior Member
Nov 20, 2012
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IMO your best course is to finish your degree and apply as OTS
I wouldn't do CTI. I went to beaver & the program definitely has given me an edge at the academy but that's it. I can't see it being of much benefit in the live environment. Not exactly worth the time and money considering there are plenty of OTS people who are doing fine and passing.
 

Mapost2410

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Aug 19, 2016
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No hate on anybody in the military. Thanks for giving us our freedom. I look up to them selflessly giving their hard work for us civilians. I'd imagine the Air Force is the safest of the military options? As in I won't die in a control tower right?!
 

ajmezz

Epic Member
Apr 8, 2010
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The atc schedule alone can put a strain on a relationship. Ask all the divorced controllers out there. Might want to really figure out if you're both ok with you working nights and missing a ton of family events and holidays.
 

lowapproach

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Oct 29, 2010
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Thanks for the reply. I'm not a fan of becoming a grunt pawn that the government can use to make themselves money fighting meaningless wars. Plus I'm in a 4 year relationship right now that I'm hoping works out for real. I'm not familiar with how the Air Force works but I'd imagine it would put a strain on my relationship. But if that's my best chance then I'll have to really consider it.
Life in the Air Force is "Office Space," not "Platoon." And if your SO isn't willing to support you when you move between duty stations in the Air Force, what will she do when the FAA offers you a small tower across the country from everything you know, with no insight as to when you might be able to move closer to where you'd like to be?

It's up to you to decide what your priorities are. This job represents a potential to make $100k or more, with a pension and federal benefits, and a lot of people want in. You can do everything right and still not get hired, or wash out with no future position in the FAA even if you do. There are lots of threads on here which talk about the best ways in to the FAA. None of them are a lock, and all of them will require some effort on your part.
 

Mapost2410

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Aug 19, 2016
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That money is so appealing though. Everyone says it's stressful and divorce rate is high but every job is stressful and divorce rate has increased through the years anyway. That doesn't deter me. Plus my girlfriend is interested in ATC as well. So that might work out. I grew up in a very poor family and I never want to see my kids deal with the struggle I did. Plus I never really knew what it was like to have money like that. I can handle stress. This job is my dream job for sure.
 

Mapost2410

Newcomer
Aug 19, 2016
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Life in the Air Force is "Office Space," not "Platoon." And if your SO isn't willing to support you when you move between duty stations in the Air Force, what will she do when the FAA offers you a small tower across the country from everything you know, with no insight as to when you might be able to move closer to where you'd like to be?

It's up to you to decide what your priorities are. This job represents a potential to make $100k or more, with a pension and federal benefits, and a lot of people want in. You can do everything right and still not get hired, or wash out with no future position in the FAA even if you do. There are lots of threads on here which talk about the best ways in to the FAA. None of them are a lock, and all of them will require some effort on your part.
I guess I could always try for PT if it doesn't work. I'll keep lurking this forum. Just thought I'd spark up a separate conversation that would help me figure out my life. As you can tell I'm already behind the 8 ball graduating college at 26. My life has been cloudy but this job feels like the right thing for me. I know I'm capable of handling it. I just have to get my foot in the door
 

Echo Mike

Epic Member
Apr 2, 2015
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Holy shit this thread me me laugh out loud a few times. The answers won't change for your particular situation from the majority of others on the hundreds of pages addressing your same concerns. "I can handle stress." Stress of college finals, a pregnancy scare, being sensitive to your 4year girlfriends feelings or graduation rehearsal is not the stress we are referring to or the general public is. Those meaningless wars and the grunts kept your ass nice and cozy while you drank your PBR on the weekends and went to a stressful, mentally exhausting class. Your comment earlier then going back on it has me a little revved up over your whole dumbass thread. If the money is your main motivation, good luck.
 

DontCallMeShirley

Senior Analyst
Mar 31, 2012
838
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Pushing Tin SUCKS
I think it would be fair to point out that if Air Traffic Control is anyone's "dream job", the FAA is one of multiple ways to do it. If you've reached a certain age and had this epiphany that this is the one field you want to get in to, it's not FAA or bust.

If it's the money you're passionate about, and honestly I don't have a problem with that, then there are other careers that I would argue are easier to obtain and thrive in than ATC.

At the rate the FAA is opening hiring to the public (1 per year), realize that next year you will be 27, if you fail the next year you will be 28, if you fail again (like MANY people have) you will be 29, and soon you will find yourself aged out wishing you had gotten that non-ATC degree. It sounds like it sucks, and that's because it does. Two year CTI might be worth it at 26 years old, 4-year I would say absolutely not. Military is the best option, but as you appear to be completely opposed to that notion, I would say the best choice would be move on with something else, apply to the public openings and be pleasantly surprised if you happen to get selected.
 
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Mapost2410

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Aug 19, 2016
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If it's the money you're passionate about, and honestly I don't have a problem with that, then there are other careers that I would argue are easier to obtain and thrive in than ATC.

At the rate the FAA is opening hiring to the public (1 per year), realize that next year you will be 27, if you fail the next year you will be 28, if you fail again (like MANY people have) you will be 29, and soon you will find yourself aged out wishing you had gotten that non-ATC degree. It sounds like it sucks, and that's because it does. Two year CTI might be worth it at 26 years old, 4-year I would say absolutely not. Military is the best option, but as you appear to be completely opposed to that notion, I would say the best choice would be move on with something else, apply to the public openings and be pleasantly surprised if you happen to get selected.
What careers are you referring to?
 

DontCallMeShirley

Senior Analyst
Mar 31, 2012
838
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Pushing Tin SUCKS
That link brought me to bachelors degree jobs that aren't as highly pay as ATC and they are specialized jobs, like engineering, so I'd have to go back to school for 4 more years
Each of those jobs has a median starting salary equal to or greater than ATC, and none of them have an age cap for hiring, or mandatory retirement at 56. As far as ATC pay goes, the median salary is skewed by center controllers living in some of the most expensive cities in the US, with pay to match. These jobs are fairly comparable to your "average" controller's salary.

As for them being specialized, of course they are. So is ATC. However each of those jobs you can become specialized in before getting hired. ATC doesn't have that luxury.

You say you don't want to go back to school for these careers, but you're willing to abandon an almost complete degree for a job with an extremely low chance of getting hired. Forgive me for thinking this, but that's incredibly foolish. Especially when a 4 year degree of ANY kind is enough to qualify for an ATC opening.

I don't know what to tell you, unless it's exactly what you want to hear. So go ahead, leave school, place all of your hopes and dreams on getting hired by the FAA, apply with no success like the other ~27,000 people that have and will get rejected this year, repeat ad nauseam, turn 31 and age out, and then wish you still had that physical therapy degree.
 

Echo Mike

Epic Member
Apr 2, 2015
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I don't know what to tell you, unless it's exactly what you want to hear. So go ahead, leave school, place all of your hopes and dreams on getting hired by the FAA, apply with no success like the other ~27,000 people that have and will get rejected this year, repeat ad nauseam, turn 31 and age out, and then wish you still had that physical therapy degree.
And now we get to the meat and potatoes. This guy is clearly very impressionable. If he is taking advice from complete strangers on his life changing career choice, then I dont believe he is the type person the FAA or a contract tower for that matter would even want. The only reason im wasting 2 minutes to type this and laugh at this shit is because its a saturday and there is zero flying going on so im passing the time with this guys humorous discussions. Oh you want to give me examples of decently paying careers with no age out? Well it requires some more education and I dont want to do that. Oh you suggest joining the military? Oh I dont think I should risk "dying in a tower" for a worthless country that I freely live in. Oh you want to tell me something other than what I initially wanted to do? WTF is the point in this dumbass thread? You want suggestions or someone to come clean your ass for you and give you reassurance that ATC is the one and only career path for you. Tell you that your not an idiot for dropping everything on a hope and prayer you get picked up over 27,000 others that are the same or more qualified than you? I mean hell im all for dreams and aspirations but not for people who come to discussion boards with the weak shit you have brought. Do yourself a favor. Break up with that "dream girl", go to some CTI 2 year school, then sell your soul to satan for a deal of getting a level 6 tower. Hope this makes someone else laugh and doesnt hurt your feelings too bad but this is what OUR generation needs some times. A little kick in the nuts to make sure you still have them.
 

ATCWAI

Junior Member
Jan 21, 2015
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I applied when I was 26. I am now 42 and am waiting on medical for the clearance.