Typical training path for a UK ATCO.


Educational Requirements

Regulation (EU) 2015/340 mandates no specific educational qualifications required to enter an Air Traffic Control career. However, some airports may specify a minimum acceptable standard of qualifications or experience as part of their own recruitment process.

Aside from any technical and/or educational background, what is very important is that every candidate has a high level of maturity and common sense.  Moreover, a dedication to make the most of comprehensive training, along with a determination to be successful will prove most effective and beneficial for potential candidates.

With these values, you will find a career in ATC to be both rewarding and exciting.


  • To be granted a Student ATC Licence in the UK, a candidate must be at least 18 years of age.
  • To be granted a full ATC Licence in the UK, a candidate must be at least 18 years of age.
  • ATC Licences in the UK are issued by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), under Regulation (EU) 2015/340.

Medical Requirements

Details of how to obtain an Initial ATCO European Class 3 medical can be obtained the CAA website as detailed here.

It is advisable that anyone who is thinking of becoming a controller obtains the appropriate aviation medical in the first instance. The medical examination costs around 450 GBP plus VAT and covers many aspects of health, detailed in Regulation (EU) 2015/340.

Obtaining a Medical Certificate before committing to a course of air traffic control training would ensure medical fitness and therefore, any time and investment would not be wasted.

Aptitude Testing

Prior to commencing a course for air traffic control training, it is essential as per the European requirements, to attend an Aptitude Assessment Day. During the day we assess candidates using classroom based tests as well as practical simulator sessions.

Classroom test may include:

  • Range, Bearing and Headings as well as Speed, Time and Distance exercises
  • Practical exercises include Aerodrome and Radar.


Once completed, our Instructors are able to give a clear indication of suitability for training.


If all the above prerequisites are met, then practical training can commence.

In order to become an Air Traffic Controller, you must first attend a Basic Training Course (BTC) followed by any Rating Course.

The BTC (sometimes referred to as an Ab-Initio Course), is designed as a knowledge and primary practical skills-based course, which covers Navigation, Meteorology, Aviation Law, Air Traffic Management, Aircraft Recognition and Performance, Equipment and Systems, Human Factors and Professional Environment studies, together with practical training and assessment in Radar and Aerodrome training.

On successful completion of the BTC you have a choice of three rating courses, namely; Aerodrome Control Instrument (ADI), Approach Control Procedural (APP), and Approach Control Surveillance (APS).

A BTC plus a Rating Course is known as Initial Training. During Initial Training, you would also be assessed for your English Language proficiency, which is another requirement for an ATC Licence. The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) requires a minimum of Level 4 English Language certification in order to validate an ATC Licence. Most native English speakers acquire the maximum Level 6 certification.

On successful completion of Initial Training, the regulatory body (the CAA in the UK) will issue a Student ATC Licence. This entitles an individual to sit with a qualified Air Traffic Control Instructor to gain the necessary on-the-job experience in order to validate the rating. This is referred to as Unit Training.

When the ATC unit the candidate is working/traininig decides that they are safe and have successfully completed all the training objectives, they will invite an Inspector of Air Traffic Services (ATS) from the CAA to examine the candidate’s operational competence. If the Inspector is satisfied then a full Air Traffic Control Licence will be issued entitling the individual to provide unsupervised ATC services in the chosen rating at the facility where the on-the-job training was completed.

The duration of an ATC course at Global ATS depends on the specialisation. A BTC for example is nine (9) weeks, and an Aerodrome Control Instrument Course is scheduled for nine (9) weeks. The high volume of work associated with this type of training surprises many ATC students because the course loads are very comprehensive and condensed. Students need to be prepared to commit a few hours per night, plus time at the weekend in order to increase their chances of success. This is particularly true of the BTC where there is a higher theoretical content.

All ATC courses are delivered at our Global ATS facility at Gloucestershire Airport near Cheltenham in the United Kingdom, where we provide access to the latest state of the art synthetic training platforms.

Please contact Andy Cameron (Director, Colleges & Courses) for more information on +44 (0) 1452 715630 or