ATCO Trainee Bursary Programme

An Air Traffic Control Officer (ATCO) is an important member of the air navigation team who ensures the safe, orderly and expeditious air travel of millions of passengers per annum by ensuring that aircraft are separated from one another and maintaining the organised flow of air traffic.

Minimum requirements

Applicants must:

  • Be a minimum of 18-years-old
  • Have Grade 12 with maths and English (HG D or SG C or level 4 upwards)
  • Be a South African citizen
  • Be medically fit

Bursary overview

The ATCO Trainee Programme consists of three phases: the Bursary Scheme (a bursary contract), the ATC Learnership (conducted under a fixed-term contract) and an ATC Aerodrome Course and Validation Phase (under fixed term contract). The study bursary provides each bursar with an opportunity to conduct their studies at the ATNS Aviation Training Academy.

Phase 1: Bursary Scheme

The following is offered as part of the ATCO Trainee bursary:

  • Transport to the guest lodge in Johannesburg at the beginning of the training programme and at the end of the programme (if the bursar is from outside Gauteng)
  • Cost of tuition
  • Accommodation, on a sharing basis, at a guest lodge arranged by the ATNS ATA for the duration of the core content course
  • Transport to and from the ATNS ATA as per study requirements for the duration of the core content course
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily for the duration of the core content course
  • A monthly allowance payable at the end of each month
  • 10 days of non-academic activities as determined by the study programme co-ordinators.After the initial and core content course (when bursars are posted to an operational control centre for operational exposure learning) they may take care of their own accommodation, meals and transport (ATNS will then increase the monthly allowance) or bursars can opt to continue to stay in the guest lodge as provided by the ATNS ATA.

Phase 2: ATCO Learnership

Once a bursar has successfully completed Phase 1 of the ATCO Trainee programme, he/she will have graduated with an ATSO license rating qualification. The next step to becoming an ATCO is to validate this rating on operational positions. The following is offered as part of the Learnership programme:


In order to validate the ATSO rating and continue with the ATCO training programme, ATNS may offer the bursar an 18 month fixed-term contract (in terms of the bursary contract, the successful bursar accepts this contract) and a salary during the term of this contract.

Bursars should please note:

  • they are no longer eligible for company accommodation, transport
  • medical aid and pension are not provided as benefits during this contract period and ATCO trainees should ensure that adequate measures are taken to provide for these
  • Should a bursar choose not to undertake the fixed-term contract, ATNS may claim the investment made to date by the company.

Responsibility of the bursar:

During the fixed-term contract the bursar must complete all of the necessary validations required to perform solo duties as an ATSO. The ATCO trainee’s performance is continually monitored during this time and feedback is provided on an ongoing basis. During this phase the trainee will be required to sign an aerodrome training contact. This agreement will cover the aerodrome exposure, rating training and validation and oblige the individual to work for ATNS for five years after aerodrome validation.In the event that an ATC trainee is not successful in the aerodrome selection process, or fails the aerodrome-related courses or the aerodrome validation training, the trainee will not qualify to continue with the bursary programme and ATNS may claim the investment made to date by the company. The trainee may apply for other positions e.g. ATSO should vacancies exist and if he/she meets the selection criteria. The fixed-term contract will end after the 18 months or upon successful validation of the aerodrome rating and subsequent offer of permanent employment, depending on which is reached first

Phase 3: ATCO

The offer of permanent employment as an Air Traffic Control Officer (ATCO) will include an ATCO salary in line with the Air Traffic Services (ATS) salary matrix and full benefits (including medical aid, pension etc.). On acceptance of the offer, the ATCO Trainee becomes a fully-fledged member of the ATNS air traffic services team.



Central Airspace Management Unit

ATFM Brief Tool, Flexible Use of Airspace, Slot Coordination, Daily Airspace Plan, Demand Forecast

View more

RSA Airspace in 3D

Airspace, routes, aerodromes and navigational facilities within South Africa

View more

Flexible use of Airspace

FUA Application Form

View more

Joining the ATNS Family

View some of the careers available at ATNS within different departments

View more

File2Fly Self briefing service

Pilot self briefing service to file flight plans and access the latest NOTAM and aeronautical information

View more