Air Traffic Control FAQs

Q. How do I get into the program?

To enter the core aviation program, you must successfully complete one of the prerequisite classes; FLTEC 100 or FLTEC 300.  Permission numbers to enter the core program in the Fall semester are generally available by mid-June.

It’s recommended that you take one of these prerequisite courses while finishing the General Education requirements for your degree.

Q. What are the class schedules?

The core Flight Technology curriculum, which serves as the basis of all our degree and certificate programs is offered annually, beginning in the Fall semester, then continuing into the following Spring semester.

The curriculum is delivered in a series of intensive 4-week courses covering a broad spectrum of aviation topics.  Classes are normally held Monday through Thursday afternoons, from 1PM to 4:10PM.

As with any college-level course, you can expect 2 hours of work outside the class for every hour you spend in the classroom.  Your total commitment will be about 8-9 hours per day to master the subject matter.

Q. What aviation programs are offered?

Sacramento City College offers degree programs in Air Traffic Control, Aircraft Dispatch, and Flight Technology.  We also offer certificate programs in Aircraft Dispatch and Flight Technology.

The Flight Technology program serves as the core curriculum to the Air Traffic Control and Aircraft Dispatch programs. It provides a broad knowledge in aviation topics such as Weather, Navigation, Communications, Regulations, Aerodynamics, Human Factors, the National and Transoceanic Airspace Systems, Instrument Procedures, and Large and Small Aircraft Propulsion, Systems and Instrumentation.  During the program, students have an opportunity to earn instructor endorsements for the FAA Private Pilot, Instrument Rating, and Commercial Pilot Aeronautical Knowledge exams.  The program must be completed in consecutive Fall and Spring semesters.

We maintain an FAA-authorized 14 CFR Part 65 Aircraft Dispatcher training program.  An aircraft dispatcher exercises joint operational control with an aircraft’s pilot-in-command for all air transport operations in U.S. airspace, and is often referred to as the “captain on the ground.”  Aircraft Dispatchers require the same level of knowledge and judgment as an Airline Transport Pilot.  In fact, the Aeronautical Knowledge tests for the Aircraft Dispatcher and the Airline Transport Pilot are drawn from the same pool of questions.  Our program curriculum is designed to give students the same level of knowledge obtained by professional pilots who have years of experience and have passed multiple FAA written and practical examinations.  Aircraft Dispatch students complete an intensive 8-week course in the Summer term immediately following completion of the Flight Technology core curriculum.  During that course, they are required to take the FAA Aeronautical Knowledge Exam (written), and upon completion, will have the opportunity to schedule a practical exam with an FAA or FAA-designee Dispatch Examiner for issuance of a certificate or Letter of Competency (see age requirements).

Sacramento City College is one of 31 FAA Air traffic – Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI) partnership schools in the nation.  Graduates with an Air Traffic Control degree and a school recommendation letter may bypass one of the FAA’s applicant screening tools and compete for hiring and training at the FAA Academy in a smaller applicant pool than other non-FAA employees.  See the FAQ on air traffic control employment.  In addition to the core curriculum, Air Traffic Control graduates complete an additional Fall semester of intensive training on air traffic control, using lectures, control tower table-top exercises, and terminal and Enroute radar simulators.

Q. Why should I complete my General Education requirements before entering the program?

There are several reasons for completing your General Education requirements before entering the program.

First, you can’t be in the program and taking general education courses at the same time.  Even though the courses are sequenced in 4-week blocks, you’ll have a full-time academic load of 15 units in each semester.  You’ll be studying 24-30 hours per week outside of class for the program.

Having the aviation knowledge fresh in your mind when you graduate and seek employment or transfer into a bachelor’s degree or flight training program means that you’ll spend less time (and possibly money) refreshing yourself on the technical material.

Age limits and application restrictions may factor into your decision as well.  If you’re pursuing a dispatch or airline pilot career, the 23 years old licensing requirement gives you time to pursue your degree without interfering with your career plans.  If you’re interested in air traffic control, the degree is required to compete for a position as an AT-CTI graduate.  Do you want to compete against 3800 Pool 1 applicants (AT-CTI graduates) or 26,000 Pool 2 applicants (general public)? The FAA hires roughly the same amount from each pool.

Finally, though you may start with a dream of flying or controlling, there are many other opportunities in aviation.  And even if you do keep that dream alive, you may wish to move into management at some point in your future.  At that point, having the degree rather than just your licenses and certificates will be key to your success.

Q. Do I have to have any aviation experience?

The Sacramento City College Aviation programs assume no prior knowledge of aviation.  Because of the intensive coursework schedule and time requirements, you do have to have the desire to learn and succeed.

Q. Are there any age requirements or limits?


To apply for FAA hiring and Academy training as an Air Traffic Controller, applicants can be no older than 30 years of age as of the closing date of the FAA hiring announcement for which they apply.

Q. Are there any citizenship requirements?

There are no citizenship requirements for enrolling in the programs.

Visits to operational air traffic control facilities require U.S. citizenship.

Training at the FAA Academy or employment in the U.S. as an air traffic controller, does require U.S. citizenship.


Q. Are SCC’s Aviation programs FAA “Approved”?

“Approved” is a designation the FAA reserves for Flight Training organizations (14 CFR Parts 141 and 142) and Maintenance Training organizations (14 CFR Part 147).  SCC does have an approved Part 147 Airframe and Powerplant training course.  See the Aeronautics program.

Our Aviation programs are subject to FAA oversight and inspection.  All SCC Aviation program courses are taught by FAA certificate holders appropriate to the courses they teach.

The Air Traffic Control program is part of the FAA AT-CTI Partnership program.  One of the criteria is that our program must train and assess our students on all the FAA-required learning objectives for the FAA Academy AT-Basics course.  So far, SCC graduates who have had the opportunity to be hired for training at the FAA Academy have passed the Academy at better than an 80% rate.  All the Air Traffic Control simulations and specialty courses are taught by former FAA Certified Professional Controllers, with experience in some of the busiest tower, terminal, and Enroute facilities in the country.

All the Flight Technology core courses are taught by FAA certificated Flight and Ground Instructors with commercial and airline flight experience.  The faculty is authorized to give the instructor endorsements required to take the FAA Aeronautical Knowledge tests.

Q. Will an Air Traffic Control degree guarantee me employment with the FAA?

Graduates of an FAA AT-CTI Partnership program are not guaranteed employment as an air traffic controller.  The FAA hires based on its staffing needs, which varies year-to-year and according to traffic levels in the national airspace system and technology implementations. A person does not have to complete an AT-CTI program to be eligible to apply for an entry-level
FAA air traffic control specialist position.

By Congressional mandate, hiring is done from two sets of applicants.  The first set consists of former controllers and military controllers with at least one year’s experience controlling air traffic within the last two years.  If there are not enough experienced controllers to meet the hiring needs, then the FAA hires from two pools of applicants from public hiring announcements.  The FAA is Congressionally-mandated to hire roughly equal numbers from those pools.

The first pool consists of veterans with federal hiring preference and AT-CTI graduates who have a school recommendation letter.  This pool is relatively small.  Applicants from this pool also bypass one of the FAA’s applicant screening tools.  The second pool is for members of the general public.

All applicants must be U.S. citizens, pass pre-employment medical screening and background security check, have the ability to speak English clearly enough to be understood over communications equipment, not exceed the maximum age limit, and have the required minimum progressively responsible work experience.

Q. I already have a Private Pilot license. Do I still need to take the prerequisite course?

To receive a degree, you will need to complete the prerequisite course.  You may be granted “credit by examination” for FLTEC 320 Private Pilot Ground based on your certificate and current biennial flight review.


Q. What is an AT-CTI School Recommendation Letter and How Can I Get One?

The AT-CTI School Recommendation Letter is required by the FAA to allow an applicant to compete for entry-level Air Traffic Controller positions in the CTI Graduate/Preference Veteran applicant pool.  The letter must be uploaded to your applicant profile on  If you already have a letter and have loaded it to your profile, you do not have to get a new one for each application you submit.

To receive the letter, you must have received your Sacramento City College A.S. Air Traffic Control degree and, in accordance with our AT-CTI Partnership agreement, have maintained a “B” average or better in all non-elective Flight Technology and ATC courses.

The first step is to check your transcript and verify that you have been awarded the degree.  If you have completed the program and all your general education requirements, but don’t have a degree awarded, check with the Admissions and Records office.

Once you have verified that you have been awarded the degree on your transcript, contact the Advanced Technology Division office.  The office will verify your degree and grades with Admissions and Records, then issue you a letter.  Please allow at least three weeks for the processing.  If there are any questions regarding your eligibility, office staff will contact you.



For more infor­ma­tion about these require­ments, please visit the FAA website.