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Don't Have a Bachelor's? You Can Still Earn 6 Figures as an Air Traffic Controller

May 16, 2018
2 min read
Don't Have a Bachelor's? You Can Still Earn 6 Figures as an Air Traffic Controller
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What is the best-paid US occupation that only requires an associate's degree? Air traffic controller, according to the latest data from the US Department of Labor.

"Median annual wages of air-traffic controllers are the highest of any occupation in which workers typically do not need a bachelor’s degree," said Rachel Gillett of Business Insider. The 2016 median salary was $122,410, with no prior relevant work experience required, since on-the-job training is a long-term, ongoing commitment.

With 7,500 projected job openings through 2024, you might be tempted to quit your day job and switch careers. But air traffic control isn't just a cushy paycheck: From application to retirement, the high-intensity job takes grit, determination and resilience. The application process is open only once a year, can take months, and is available only to English-speaking US citizens 31 years of age or younger who have either a bachelor's degree or three years of prior work experience (or some combination of the two).

Successful applicants can expect months of ongoing training and evaluations, with 25-40% of hopeful ATCs washing out early on. In fact, the certification process has been compared in intensity to earning a graduate degree.

If all of that has killed your fantasy of making six figures a year, don't fret: Check out the other 24 job occupations on the "best-paid" list. Of noteworthy interest for #AvGeeks? Commercial pilots rank No. 10 on the list, with a median salary of $77,200, while aerospace engineering and operations technicians rank No. 25, with a median salary of $68,020.

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