At an airport with a control tower, the pilot contacts a tower controller to obtain clearance to move from their gate to their assigned runway, via a specific path. That same controller, or a teammate, will then give takeoff clearance when the runway and airspace are clear and it is safe to do so.
Shortly after becoming airborne, your plane becomes visible on an air traffic controller’s screen in the area control centre. Air traffic controllers responsible for terminal or low level airspace issue clearance for the plane to climb and head in the right direction.
As an aircraft travels over land or sea, and at various altitudes, the airplane may pass through different pieces of airspace. Airspace is divided up into sectors. As your plane passes from one to the other, or climbs into high level airspace, it is monitored on radar screens and control is passed from one controller to another.
When a plane approaches its destination, high or low level controllers instruct the pilot on safe descent routes. The air traffic controller ensures the plane has a safe separation distance from other aircraft approaching the airport.
Low level or terminal air traffic controllers issue instructions to the pilot to line the airplane up with the runway so they are in the correct position to land.
Tower controllers issue landing and taxi clearance to get the aircraft to its parking position at the airport.
ACC controllers train and work at one of the following locations: Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto (Mississauga), Montreal, Moncton or Gander. ACC controllers typically begin their career at the ACC where they commenced training.
Tower controllers complete their initial training at the regional ACC, but are assigned their on-the-job training (OJT) and work location based on operational needs. Typically, they will be assigned to a tower in their respective flight information region. Currently, there are 42 airport control towers across the country.
Applicants do not need to have a background in aviation because NAV CANADA provides all the training necessary to become an air traffic controller. We are looking for candidates who will thrive in our operations environment and possess qualities that will serve them in air traffic control training and their careers.
Think you’ve got what it takes? Here are some of the qualities we look for in our applicants:
The selection process is rigorous and designed to assess the core competencies required to be an air traffic control professional. The competencies we assess ensure we select candidates who have the best chance of success through training and on the job.
Please note that throughout the selection process, successfully passing one stage does not guarantee that a candidate will receive an invitation for additional testing. A candidate has 36 months (3 years) to be invited to the next stage in the selection process before their application expires. After the application expires, they may choose to reapply. If at any point in the process a candidate is unsuccessful, there is a 36 month waiting period before they may reapply.
Before applying, potential candidates should take the time to review our website and learn about the different air traffic services career opportunities available at NAV CANADA.
Once familiar with the opportunities, candidates should ensure they meet all our eligibility requirements. If any requirements are not met, the application will be screened out immediately.
Candidates must complete a basic online application through our Workday recruiting system found on the NAV CANADA Careers page and provide details including, but not limited to, academic and professional history.
This is also the opportunity for candidates to select their preferred region and stream (ACC or tower control).
Candidates who meet the eligibility requirements may receive an email invitation to complete an online assessment. There are no travel requirements for this assessment – it can be completed from wherever candidates access the internet. This online assessment is timed and should take approximately 10 minutes. This is the first assessment in the selection process and should be completed promptly in order to be considered for subsequent assessments.
In-person testing sessions are held in each region based on operational requirements. The tests are typically held at our area control centres and require one full day (approximately 8 hours) to complete. The tests evaluate core cognitive abilities required for successful careers in air traffic control, including memory, working speed, spatial visualization, thinking and reasoning, attention, information processing and simple math. No preparation is required.
Within the Montreal Flight Information Region, candidates will need to undergo language testing to ensure that they are fully bilingual in both official languages (French and English). This testing is completed with a third-party company over the phone.
Full day assessment centres are held in each region based on operational requirements. These sessions are typically held at our area control centres and include various group and individual exercises, as well as simulation activities and an interview designed to assess candidates’ skills, abilities and attitudes.
Candidates should be prepared to discuss their life, academic and work experience, as well as their interest in a career in air traffic control.
Job offers are given prior to the course start date. If selected for training, candidates will be sent a web-based training program they can expect to be assessed on when they enter the classroom. Candidates are also required to meet pre-employment conditions, such as medical licensing requirements, security clearance and drug testing (including cannabis).
Information will be sent to candidates by our Human Resources professionals, either through Workday, NAV CANADA’s careers portal, or to their personal e-mail accounts.
Training to become an air traffic controller at NAV CANADA requires a lot of hard work – but it’s worth it. In classrooms, high tech simulators, and on the job, you will learn complex information regarding air traffic management, safety, and much more. There is a steep learning curve, but we supply you with all the tools you need to succeed, including a dedicated instructional team, peer support programs and cutting-edge technology.
In the section below, you will find information on what is involved in training for both ACC and tower control careers, from training duration and schedules to work locations and compensation.
The first stage of training consists of classroom and simulator training. Students start by learning basic operational rules and phraseology, while completing simulation training in a low-complexity setting before progressing to specialty-specific training.
The first stage of training consists of classroom and simulator training. Students start by learning basic operational rules and phraseology.
Upon completion of generic training, students training to be an ACC controller will move on to a specialty-specific course. This training includes working with an enhanced simulator designed to replicate the airspace to which you will be assigned.
Prior to on-the-job training, all students complete a course for their specific location. Coursework may include learning about specific procedures related to the airspace and/or specific simulation exercises.
For students assigned to a complex tower location for on-the-job training, a complex tower course may be required, where students may complete some of their training in a simulator that closely represents the specific tower environment.
The final phase for all courses is on-the-job training, where students are paired with a licensed ACC controller who will serve as their on-the-job instructor.
The final phase for all courses is on-the-job training, where students are paired with a licensed tower controller who will serve as their on-the-job instructor.
Total duration of training: 20 to 27 months
Salary range for a licensed ACC controller: ~ $112,000 to $165,000*
*These rates reflect the 2021 union pay range under the current collective agreement.
In addition to the base salary, ACC controllers can receive premiums based on location, holidays and shifts, and bonuses related to services delivered in both official languages and duties as a supervisor or on-the-job instructor.
Total duration of training: 10 to 18 months
Salary range for a licensed tower controller: ~ $81,000 to $165,000*
*These rates reflect the 2021 union pay range under the current collective agreement.
In addition to the base salary, tower controllers can receive premiums based on location, holidays and shifts, and bonuses related to services delivered in both official languages and duties as a supervisor or on-the-job instructor.