The Best Route of Becoming an FAA Controller?

Todd Martin

Newcomer
Jul 25, 2016
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Good evening everyone.
This forum has been a great resource for my questions/information so far, so I figured I'd register in hopes to gain some more knowledge on my current goal towards the FAA.

I'm currently 21, and have been passionate about flight ever since I was quite young.
  • I've been flying all types of R/C aircraft over the last fifteen years, and am currently employed at Drone University USA (Commercial Drone School) as a lead flight instructor.
  • I've been a registered USHPA hang-glider and para-glider pilot for seven years.
  • I'm nearly done getting my Private Pilots License.

Last week, I was able to hang out with a few controllers at the Executive airport I fly at; It was an amazing experience to say the least, and I learned a whooooooooooole lot of information from my new friends Mark, Charlie, and Dan.

Right now, I'm attending a program at Sacramento City College for Air Traffic Controlling but I'm having second thoughts after talking to the controllers at Executive. Thankfully, I have just only finished the "Intro to Air Traffic Control" class.
There are a decent amount of things I wasn't told before enrolling, and the counselor at the college was clueless looking back at my counseling appointments at the college.
Here's what you get from Sacramento City College;
  • AA Degree in Aeronautics/ATC
  • Dispatcher License
Great! But, no CTO.
The counselor (And instructors) at the school made it seem as if I take 18 months worth of classes, then apply at the FAA school in Oklahoma. Well... That doesn't seem to be the case.
As I now know, when you go to Oklahoma it's because you've been accepted to take a job with the FAA; The Sacramento City College program isn't a free pass right into the FAA.

This brought up a few questions I haven't thought about regarding my academic future..
These are the things I would really like to know from everyone here on the forums.

  1. Should I continue the courses available at the local college for "ATC"..? I get a degree, which is always a plus. I also get a Dispatcher License, but, I'm really not interested pursuing Dispatching. It seems the FAA does a lot of flip flopping in regards to their acceptance to the Oklahoma Program.. Sometimes they pull people right off the streets, somethings they acknowledge the "ATC" degree, but recently they've wanted people with their CTO. My ultimate goal is to get into the Oklahoma Academy, and work for the FAA.
  2. Should I forget the whole program offered at Sacramento City College and apply for a school like Advanced ATC? I was told by a controller by the end of the program there, you will have your CTO and will be able to start your career off with contracted jobs while waiting for an opening with the FAA. I'm economically capable of following this route, and if it'll save time and future hassle getting in with the FAA it'd be great.
  3. Should I apply for a "Civilian for Military" Terminal Controller job, like the ones available on USAJobs.gov? Two of the three controllers I met at Executive went through military, but the major downside is that I would have a minimum contract time of (At least) three years. During those three years, the FAA could have an opening that I wouldn't be able to accept due to my military commitment.

I don't want to write a book here, but I want to give everyone an overview of my current situation.
Some of the information I have above may be in-correct, so feel free to correct me. I get my information through these forums, other online articles, and in-person conversations. I really would appreciate any and all feedback I can get, and hope to talk to some of the controllers here soon.

Sincerely,
Todd Martin
 

HenryTheAce

Senior Member
Jul 21, 2014
251
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ZMP -> D21
I really like option 2. With the FAA's whole new hiring process CTI schools don't have a big push like they use to. However if your are cti or prior military now on the application process you don't have to take the Bio-Q test is what im
hearing, still though, no guarantees of getting hired. Being down at OKC a lot of the CTI/Pior Military/Pilots had a lot more background knowledge and were able to learn quicker then OTS hires. I think option 2 would be a good route to take, getting a CTO is valuable and like your buddy said, you can get the degree, get your cross, work at a contract tower gaining experience and when you apply to FAA, you don't have to take bio-q (cti) and if you do contract tower for 52 weeks consecutive after being certified I believe you could get picked up on prior exp. bid and not even need to go to Oklahoma City and still not take bio-q (might want to double check that) but I think that would be really smart!!
 

typhoon5150

Senior Member
Oct 8, 2012
192
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I would say get a two year cti and a four year degree in something else. During this time you can also apply for the OTS bids.

OR join the military and use the GI bill and life experience; I don't know if you can be guaranteed a shot at atc with a recruiter.
 

DL0509

Senior Member
May 26, 2016
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If you go with option 2 just no that most contractors won't hire you unless you have a couple of years experience along with a CTO. Also yes some CTI students have an advantage but it's not much of an advantage over OTS students. At the end of the day it's about who can apply what the FAA has taught you, not what you learned at another school.
 

Todd Martin

Newcomer
Jul 25, 2016
6
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1
I appreciate all the responses so far!
Thank you all very much.
Looking forward to some more input.

If you go with option 2 just no that most contractors won't hire you unless you have a couple of years experience along with a CTO. Also yes some CTI students have an advantage but it's not much of an advantage over OTS students. At the end of the day it's about who can apply what the FAA has taught you, not what you learned at another school.
How do I go about getting experience as a CTO?
Advanced ATC supposedly has a tower, where you get your CTO/Experience.
Also, I've heard about a ruling in which the FAA has been attempting to hire more minorities (Women, African-Americans, etc) and they're pushing the CTI students aside.
Who knows if the bill will get repealed.

I just don't want to be stuck when everything is said and done, waiting around at my parents house in hopes of an FAA opening.
It seems that with getting my CTO, well, at least I could intern to get the "Experience" required.
One of the controllers I met said a fellow controllers son went through the Advanced ATC school, came out, and ended up getting a job in Anchorage Alaska under the same contact.
 

Todd Martin

Newcomer
Jul 25, 2016
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I would say get a two year cti and a four year degree in something else. During this time you can also apply for the OTS bids.

OR join the military and use the GI bill and life experience; I don't know if you can be guaranteed a shot at atc with a recruiter.
That seems like quite a bit of time in school, but maybe it's the most appropriate way.
Also, like I said earlier, in the military if a spot in the FAA opened up I wouldn't be able to take it because of the military commitment.
They frown upon those whom leave the military before their contacts are up.
 

rocketappliance

Junior Member
Jun 4, 2015
127
2
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A bill was just recently signed that puts ATC applicants into three hiring pools: 1) Prior experience 2) CTI graduates/VRA 3) OTS. The bill requires no more than 10% difference in number of applicants selected between the #2 and #3 hiring pools (if I remember correctly). There is a new bid scheduled to be posted on USAJobs.gov sometime in the next few weeks.

For an OTS applicant: Previous bids required either a 4 year degree or 3 years full time work experience. Additionally, you'd have to take a biographical questionnaire (Bio-q) in the beginning stages of the application process. The last few bids, I think the bio-q eliminated like 26,000 of the 28,000 applicants right off the bat (those bids had everyone lumped together, so CTI, OTS, and prior experience).

For the CTI/Prior experience applicants: You aren't required to take/pass the bio-q provided you meet all the other requirements for applying under this bid. So you'd skip a step and most likely be in a smaller hiring pool.

I would suggest either: continuing with the CTI program (if that's the program you're in now) or pursue a 4 year degree. The hiring process is a long one and having a back-up plan (i.e., 4 year degree). If you already have 3 years of full time work experience, keep an eye out on USAJobs.gov and apply. If you make it through the bio-q and subsequent hiring process, you can always drop out of the CTI program.

I have zero experience/knowledge with the Advanced ATC program, so can't really comment. How likely are you able to get 52 weeks post ATC certification experience? Does the program guarantee the 52 weeks experience? To get your CTO, you just have to pass an FAA written test. However, that CTO does nothing for you unless you have at least 52 weeks experience. And as others have mentioned, you're most likely not going to get hired at a contract tower with just a year of experience or just a CTO.
 
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NovemberEcho

Epic Member
Dec 8, 2010
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Long Island
A bill was just recently signed that puts ATC applicants into two hiring pools: 1) CTI graduates/prior experience or 2) OTS. The bill requires no more than 10% difference in number of applicants selected between the two hiring pools (if I remember correctly). There is a new bid scheduled to be posted on USAJobs.gov sometime in the next few weeks.

For an OTS applicant: Previous bids required either a 4 year degree or 3 years full time work experience. Additionally, you'd have to take a biographical questionnaire (Bio-q) in the beginning stages of the application process. The last few bids, I think the bio-q eliminated like 26,000 of the 28,000 applicants right off the bat (those bids had everyone lumped together, so CTI, OTS, and prior experience).

For the CTI/Prior Experience applicants: You aren't required to take/pass the bio-q provided you meet all the other requirements for applying under the CTI/prior experience bid. So you'd skip a step and most likely be in a smaller hiring pool.

I would suggest either: continuing with the CTI program (if that's the program you're in now) or pursue a 4 year degree. The hiring process is a long one and having a back-up plan (i.e., 4 year degree). If you already have 3 years of full time work experience, keep an eye out on USAJobs.gov and apply. If you make it through the bio-q and subsequent hiring process, you can always drop out of the CTI program.

I have zero experience/knowledge with the Advanced ATC program, so can't really comment. How likely are you able to get 52 weeks post ATC certification experience? Does the program guarantee the 52 weeks experience? To get your CTO, you just have to pass an FAA written test. However, that CTO does nothing for you unless you have at least 52 weeks experience. And as others have mentioned, you're most likely not going to get hired at a contract tower with just a year of experience or just a CTO.
you do not "just pass a FAA written test" to get your CTO. You must be CERTIFIED in a tower to get your CTO, and then work 52 weeks post certification for that experience to count.
 

rocketappliance

Junior Member
Jun 4, 2015
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you do not "just pass a FAA written test" to get your CTO. You must be CERTIFIED in a tower to get your CTO, and then work 52 weeks post certification for that experience to count.
I should have clarified what I was meaning by "CTO"...I was talking about the CTO certificate.

There's actually two parts to the process (FAAO 8000.90B). The CTO written test and then the facility rating/credentialing. Without the facility rating the CTO certificate is worthless, however, you have to have the CTO to eligible for a facility rating/credentialing. New hires in OKC actually take the CTO exam within the first few weeks of the initial tower training course and if I remember correctly, they got their CTO while we were still in OKC.

You're definitely correct that without the 52 weeks experience, it's all for nothing.

The FAA stopped issuing the CTO card (looked like the FAA's Pilot License) and just tacks on the facility to the FAA credential card (orangish-red one) since having the credentialed card implies you've fulfilled both parts of the CTO process.
 
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rdyotz

Trusted Member
Feb 18, 2014
315
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Arizona
There are actually three groups for ATC applicants. Group 1 is prior experience. Group 2 is CTI and Vets. Group 3 is OTS. The less than 10% difference is between group 2 and group 3 members.
 

Todd Martin

Newcomer
Jul 25, 2016
6
0
1
Thanks for the replies everyone, they're greatly appreciated.
What do the controllers here think the least timely route would be? (To get a career with the FAA.)
Like I said earlier, money isn't an issue for schooling.
I sent out an email to Advanced ATC last night, hopefully they get back to me soon.
Advanced isn't a CTI school, it's a CTO school from what I've read. On their website, it states,
"[FONT=&quot]After you have successfully completed the CTO certificate program, you are a fully certified Air Traffic Controller with a CTO certificate issued by a FAA Examiner."[/FONT]
They also state they (have?) three towers; North Texas Regional, Houston Exec and Valdosta Regional. I'm wondering about the post-certificate 52 weeks that NovemberEcho mentioned on Page One of this thread.
 

rocketappliance

Junior Member
Jun 4, 2015
127
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I looked through the Advanced ATC website...maybe someone who has gone through the program can add to the thread but here's what I got from it...

- Completion of the program will get you a CTO w/ facility rating and 6 months of experience. Maybe there's a possibility to get another 6 months experience at that tower (in GA), but I'm not sure. They have a part time job opening for another one of their towers, so it looks like you'd have to apply for a position at those towers.
-Since Advanced ATC isn't a CTI school, it looks like you'd only be eligible for the OTS bid unless you were able to get additional controlling experience through one of their towers or another contract tower.

I am a little confused by the program's timeline though. The training page says that after completing the three phases of training, THEN the student will be given a check-ride by an FAA examiner and if successful, issued a CTO w/ Facility rating. Yet in Phase 2 they earn their facility ratings, and Phase 3, work in the tower.

As for the fastest route to the FAA? Do you have 3 years of full time work experience? If so (and that requirement is included on the next bid), that'd be your fastest route. If not, would be a CTI program would be the next option.
 

DaOsprey

Trusted Member
Mar 25, 2014
490
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I looked through the Advanced ATC website...maybe someone who has gone through the program can add to the thread but here's what I got from it...

- Completion of the program will get you a CTO w/ facility rating and 6 months of experience. Maybe there's a possibility to get another 6 months experience at that tower (in GA), but I'm not sure. They have a part time job opening for another one of their towers, so it looks like you'd have to apply for a position at those towers.
-Since Advanced ATC isn't a CTI school, it looks like you'd only be eligible for the OTS bid unless you were able to get additional controlling experience through one of their towers or another contract tower.

I am a little confused by the program's timeline though. The training page says that after completing the three phases of training, THEN the student will be given a check-ride by an FAA examiner and if successful, issued a CTO w/ Facility rating. Yet in Phase 2 they earn their facility ratings, and Phase 3, work in the tower.

As for the fastest route to the FAA? Do you have 3 years of full time work experience? If so (and that requirement is included on the next bid), that'd be your fastest route. If not, would be a CTI program would be the next option.

Get the additional 52 weeks exp and you can put in for the prior experience bid.
 

DontCallMeShirley

Senior Analyst
Mar 31, 2012
838
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Pushing Tin SUCKS
Take it from someone who has a CTO without the 52 weeks experience:

Don't do it.
The FAA doesn't care that you have one.
Contract towers don't care that you have one.
Save your money and study something else.

The best route to becoming an FAA Controller is probably joining the military, followed by going to school for literally anything else and hoping that you make it in on the occasional FAA bid.
 

Todd Martin

Newcomer
Jul 25, 2016
6
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1
Take it from someone who has a CTO without the 52 weeks experience:

Don't do it.
The FAA doesn't care that you have one.
Contract towers don't care that you have one.
Save your money and study something else.

The best route to becoming an FAA Controller is probably joining the military, followed by going to school for literally anything else and hoping that you make it in on the occasional FAA bid.
Could you take an internship or something similar to build experience? I wouldn't mind doing that, you have to pay your dues somewhere along the career.
Also, how did you get your CTO?
Which school?
 

u238

Rookie
Sep 12, 2010
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Could you take an internship or something similar to build experience? I wouldn't mind doing that, you have to pay your dues somewhere along the career.
Also, how did you get your CTO?
Which school?
There's no such thing as an ATC internship as far as I know.
 

AviatorATC

Junior Member
Oct 12, 2011
119
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TX
The least timely route to take would be to go to college for something meaningful (if that's what you want to do) and apply to the "Off the Street" bids that come out "yearly..ish". (there is supposedly one coming out in the next few months although that has not been verified)

I personally went through a 2 year CTI program and finished the academy en route program a few months ago. Yes, some of the material was a refresher (the first part of the program is "basics" which is just that, basic aeronautical knowledge), but really once you get to the radar (or tower) class just about everyone should be on the same playing field because they literally walk you through everything you need to know by the time evals roll around.

Case in point, the #1 student in our class was completely off the street and just rocked the academy.

So, unless you want to spend he money to keep aviation fresh in your mind, I wouldn't recommend a CTI program. (At least while they are offering positions to off the street hires)
 

RFDATM

Trusted Contributor
Nov 27, 2009
586
1
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IL
Take it from someone who has a CTO without the 52 weeks experience:

Don't do it.
The FAA doesn't care that you have one.
Contract towers don't care that you have one.
Save your money and study something else.

The best route to becoming an FAA Controller is probably joining the military, followed by going to school for literally anything else and hoping that you make it in on the occasional FAA bid.
Concur. Previous experience military controllers have historically and will continue under the new hiring rules to enjoy much higher employment rates than other groups.