Air Pilots Flight Attendants

Air Traffic Controllers

(NOC 2272)


This outlook is for the career grouping Transportation Officers and Controllers, which includes Air Traffic Controllers.

Currently your work prospects are rated FAIR because:

Over the last few years, the number of air traffic control specialists has remained fairly stable. The program of budget cuts following the privatization of the air navigation system as well as the introduction of technological innovations largely explains this lack of growth. Given the anticipated increase in air traffic and increased aviation safety awareness, the number of air traffic control specialists should increase significantly over the coming years.

Job opportunities will come mainly from employment increase and positions vacated by retiring air traffic control specialists. Given the relatively high salary level, the turnover rate is low. It is possible to obtain promotions within the occupation, for example from intern to flight service specialist in a remote area and then in a larger airport. On-the-job training may also help to obtain promotion from flight dispatcher to flight service specialist and then to air traffic controller.

Job growth in these occupations depends on the level of air traffic, the importance attached to aviation safety and technological and organizational changes.

Air traffic as measured by the number of aircraft movements increased sharply in the second half of the 1990s, according to Transport Canada data. This strong increase was due to a number of basic factors: overall improvement in the economy, increase in international trade, deregulation of the air industry with the United States, unmet demand for regional air transportation and, to a lesser degree, increase in the number of younger retirees.

Then, the number of aircraft movements decreased every year between 1999 and 2001 and increased slightly until 2004. This reversal in trend can be attributed in part to the economic downturn in the United States, but is more the result of unforeseeable events than basic trends: the events of September 11, 2001, the war in Iraq, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), etc. In fact, with no further events of this type occurring in the last years, the number of aircraft movements increased sharply between 2003 and 2007, and rose more slowly in 2008.

While the recession drove aircraft movements down in 2009, the underlying factors, which are essentially positive, should lead to a return to growth in the number of aircraft movements over the coming years.

People have become more aware of the issue of aviation safety. Each incident is widely covered by the media and results in increased public pressure to improve aviation safety from the standpoint of both aircraft maintenance and air traffic control. This trend encourages job growth in these occupations.

Technological changes affect many duties performed by these specialists: the computerization of flight planning, channels of communication with pilots and co-pilots, take-off and landing, routine air traffic checks, establishment of air lanes and weather data gathering centres. These changes have a variety of effects. On the one hand, the introduction of new systems results in more stringent requirements by employers for entry to the occupation and strengthens the need for continuing education. On the other hand, the implementation of these innovations largely explains the virtual disappearance of the positions of flight engineers (see NOC 2271) onboard aircraft and the transfer of some of these duties to air traffic controllers. Lastly, computerization speeds up the performance of these duties. Overall, technological changes have helped to restrict employment growth in these occupations.

In terms of organization, the federal government decided to privatize the air navigation system by entrusting it to Nav Canada at the end of 1996. In its first years of operation, Nav Canada had a mandate to significantly lower operating costs. The workforce of this company, including air traffic controllers, thus declined over this period. In view of the shortage of replacement workers and the need resulting from the growth in air traffic, Nav Canada undertook more active promotion of its training program. Thus, after declining until 1999, the number of Nav Canada's air traffic control and flight information employees increased significantly between 1999 and 2003, and then declined somewhat between 2004 and 2009. Given the anticipated increase in aircraft movements, the number of such employees is expected to grow in the coming years.

Overall, these trends have resulted in a certain stability in the number of air traffic control specialists, with changes that match fluctuations in the level of air traffic and the organizational decisions of Nav Canada. Given the anticipated increase in air traffic after the 2009 recession and increased aviation safety awareness, the number of air traffic control specialists should increase significantly over the coming years.

Job Seekers: 7,874
Job Openings: 11,947

Job prospects for this career are rated Good

Last Updated: May 10, 2012