Education and Training Requirements
Some college education is required to be an airplane dispatcher, so if you are interested in this career you should follow a college prep curriculum. Business administration and computer skills are vital to the job, so take any courses available in those subjects. While in high school, you can also pursue a student pilot's license, which is a great advantage, though not a requirement.
Airplane dispatchers are required to have at least two years of college education with studies in meteorology or air transportation. Two years of work experience in air transportation may take the place of the college requirement. Airlines prefer college graduates who have studied mathematics, physics, or meteorology.
There are about 65 schools around the country licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration that offer dispatcher training. Visit https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/avs/offices/afx/afs/afs200/afs220/media/part65.pdf for information on these programs. Typical course work covers meteorology, aerodynamics, aircraft performance, aircraft weight and balance, navigation, dispatch resource management, regulations, international operations, the National Airspace System, air traffic control, aeromedical factors, and addressing abnormal and emergency situations.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
Airplane dispatchers must be licensed by the FAA. You may prepare for the FAA licensing examination in several different ways. You may work at least one year in a dispatching office under a licensed dispatcher, complete an FAA-approved airline dispatcher's program at a specialized school or training center, or show that you have spent two of the previous three years in air traffic control work or a related job.
Candidates who meet the preliminary requirements must also pass an examination covering such subjects as civil air regulations, radio procedures, airport and airway traffic procedures, weather analysis, and air-navigation facilities. In addition to a written test, you must also pass an oral examination covering the interpretation of weather information, landing and cruising speeds of various aircraft, airline routes, navigation facilities, and operational characteristics of different types of aircraft. You must not only demonstrate your knowledge of these areas to become a licensed dispatcher, but you are also expected to maintain these skills once licensed. Various training programs, some of which may be conducted by their employers, will assist you in staying current with new developments, which are frequent in this job.
Assistant dispatchers are not always required to be licensed. Thus, it may be possible to begin work in a dispatcher's office prior to earning the dispatcher's license.
Airline dispatchers must be at least 23 years old in order to be able to work for major airlines. Your vision must be correctable to 20/20.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
Most major airlines consider dispatch positions as senior management level positions. Candidates are often selected from within the company after they have accumulated 15 to 20 years of experience in a variety of aviation-related areas, including supervisory positions. Candidates selected from outside the company must have considerable experience—typically five years—with smaller carriers.
Airline dispatchers need to be able to work well either by themselves or with others and assume responsibility for their decisions. The job requires you to think and act quickly and sensibly under the most trying conditions. You may be responsible for hundreds of lives at any one time, and a poor decision could result in tragedy. A good memory, the ability to remain calm under great pressure and the ability to do many things at once, and to make decisions quickly are essential to a successful airplane dispatcher's career.