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Air traffic, history degrees find niche at Polytechnic

July 14, 2006

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) estimates that, over the next 10 years, more than 12,500 air traffic controllers (ATC) will be needed to replace retiring ATCs.

Mandatory retirement is part of the profession. And many of the ATCs hired by the Federal Aviation Administration in the early 1980s are coming up on retirement.

To help meet the expected demand, the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) gave approval at its June meeting for ASU to implement a bachelor's degree in Air Traffic Management.

The program is tailored for traditional-age students and those wanting a career change. But it's not for everyone, according to William McCurry, ASU chair of the Department of Aeronautical Management Technology at the Polytechnic campus.

“To become an air traffic controller, spatial orientation and situational awareness skills are critical,” McCurry says. “You also need to be the personality type that thrives on stress and being under pressure.”

Because of the high-stress environment, it's conceivable that 24,000 individuals are needed to start going through an air traffic program now to be ready when demand is highest.

“We have been offering an air traffic controller class for a number of years that has been taught by an air traffic controller who also happens to be an attorney specializing in aviation law,” McCurry says.

The FAA works with schools and universities all over the country as part of the Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative (CTI), which designates an institution as an FAA partner. Such a designation gives preferential hiring to students who complete the degree program.

“We will be working closely with the FAA to have our program become the first at a state university in Arizona with a CTI designation,” McCurry says.

Another degree program approved by ABOR in June is the bachelor's in history and culture. It will be offered this fall for students who are interested in careers focused on archival preservation and digital media, environmental history and culture, history and culture of the American Southwest, history and philosophy of science and technology, history and public policy, and history for secondary education teachers.

“This program brings a new humanities subject area to the Polytechnic campus and focuses on the applied aspects of the field of history, an approach untouched by other history programs in the state,” says Duane Roen, head of the Humanities and the Arts unit.

The program provides a broad range of courses that will serve students wanting to major in history and culture, as well as for those students wanting to take the courses to complement another major.

Courses for both degree programs will start being offered this fall. For more information on the Air Traffic Management program, call (480) 727-1381 or visit the Web site ( For the history and culture degree program, call (480) 727-1515 or visit the Web site (