Become an Aircraft Dispatcher

Aircraft dispatchers are responsible for creating flight plans, directing planes through high-traffic areas, calculating payload, and coordinating takeoff and landing. With the aircraft pilot and other support staff, they share a large part of the responsibility for the safety and success of each airline flight. Because of the highly technical nature of the job, including the ability to coordinate and synthesize several pieces of information on the fly, dispatchers must be certified by the Federal Aviation (FAA) Administration and must have prior experience in the aviation industry. Beginning salaries for dispatchers tend to fall between $24,000 and $30,000 opportunities for advancement are common.


  1. Earn a high school diploma.
  2. Get a job in the aviation industry.
    • The FAA requires dispatchers to have prior experience around airplanes and with flight planning. Entry-level jobs that provide such experience include dispatch clerk and radio operator; other positions, which include additional education (usually a college degree), include meteorologist or station manager.
  3. Familiarize yourself with flight planning, meteorology, and aircraft regulations.
    • Technical knowledge, such as how to craft and send a Notice to Airmen about hazardous conditions, or how to calculate fuel and weight for takeoff and landing, is required prior to taking the aircraft dispatcher test. You should be able to easily learn the relevant material as a lower-level aviation industry employee.
  4. Enroll in an aircraft dispatcher training program.
    • The FAA mandates that dispatcher courses offer 200 hours of training, which usually runs over 6 weeks. In the program, you will learn the basics of the dispatcher job, including flight diagnostics, advanced calculations, and proper communication protocol.
    • Many community colleges offer dispatcher training courses. There are also several for-profit training programs around the country. Likewise, many airlines offer the training course to current employees trying to become aircraft dispatchers.
  5. Take the FAA aircraft dispatcher certification test.
    • Contact the FAA for test dates in your area. You must be at least 23 years old at the time of the test and must take the test within 90 days of completing your training course.
    • The first part of the test consists of 80 written questions covering basic aircraft dispatcher knowledge and takes 3 hours. The second part of the test is a practical exam and requires you to demonstrate mastery of flight planning, emergency protocol, pre-flight and departure procedures, in-flight practices, landing regulations, and post-flight procedures.
  6. Obtain your FAA aircraft dispatcher certification.
  7. Apply to open aircraft dispatcher positions with private airlines and freight carriers.
  8. Maintain your certification.
    • To stay certified, the FAA requires aircraft dispatchers to fly in a cockpit at least 5 hours every year.


  • College coursework is not required for becoming an aircraft dispatcher. However, advanced study of meteorology, physics, or the aircraft industry will greatly enhance your preparation for the certification test and your employment prospects.


  • Some aircraft dispatcher training programs advertise their course as the only preparation necessary to becoming an FAA-certified dispatcher. While this may be legally true, it is highly recommended that you have some work experience with aircraft and flight planning before embarking on dispatcher training and taking the certification exam. Because of the complexity of the work, a six-week training program is seldom enough to familiarize you with the requirements of the position, and you may end up failing the test or failing to find employment.

Things You'll Need

  • High school diploma
  • Aviation industry experience
  • FAA certification