Ground controller

Flight controller
Transport, distribution and logistics

Career outlook for ground controller

Average UK salary


Currently employed in Scotland


"LMI for All" supplies our salary and employment status information. "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures. Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

What's it like?

You'd be led by a flight director to help plan, execute and train for space missions. Imagine playing a critical role in a pioneering voyage. You could help a probe visit unexplored regions of space or land the first astronauts on Mars!

During missions, you'd stay on Earth and work within the control centre. You'd help operate and look after the different systems that support space missions. This could be:

  • propulsion
  • flight dynamics
  • guidance, navigation and control
  • communication
  • medical equipment and data
  • electronics

Your tasks might include:

  • taking part in planning meetings ahead of missions
  • learning and testing software
  • carrying out mission simulations
  • instructing others in how systems and software work
  • monitoring flight data during missions
  • communicating with other controllers and the flight director
  • reacting to issues or emergencies and solving problems

Working conditions


During missions, controllers work at a console that’s operated 24/7. You’d work in shifts to keep your console staffed. You'd work nights, weekends and holidays depending on the needs of the mission.


You'd work for a space agency, in a busy mission control centre. You'd be sitting at a desk for long periods of time monitoring technical data. It's a fast-paced environment where you'll need to stay alert. You'll have to react to any issues or complex situations that arise.


You'd likely work from a set base of operations but may need to travel occasionally depending on the needs of the mission. This could include international travel.

UK employment status





Self employed


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Here are some of the skills needed for this job. Sign in to see how your skills match up.

  • Adaptability
  • Cooperating
  • Verbal communication
  • Working with technology
  • Written communication
  • Problem solving
  • Working with numbers
  • Attention to detail
  • Developing a plan
  • Understanding

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Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you'll need.

Foundation Apprenticeships

Choosing a Foundation Apprenticeship as one of your subjects in S5 and S6 can help you get a head start with this type of job.

You'll get an SCQF level 6 qualification (the same level as a Higher) plus valuable work placement experience and skills you can't learn in a classroom.

Interested? Find out what's on offer at your school on


To work in this role, you'd need at least a bachelor's degree in a relevant field, such as aerospace engineering. Other engineering subjects, maths and physics are also useful.

If you're not quite ready for university, consider an apprenticeship or college first. You can gain skills, experience and a qualification that could lead on to a degree course.


You can start learning the skills you'll need in this career through a Foundation Apprenticeship. While you're in S5 or S6, you'll gain work experience while you study.

Have a look at this Engineering apprenticeship on It could set you up for further study or to get into a job where you can develop your skills.

If you’re 16 or older, a Modern Apprenticeship will let you work and earn while you study for a qualification. After you qualify, you'd be able to study further or move into a role where you can build experience.

Check out this Engineering Modern Apprenticeship.

You could also earn a degree level qualification through a Graduate Apprenticeship. Check out this course:


There are many subjects where you can learn useful practices. Some cover engineering from a general perspective and others offer more specialised knowledge. You could study:

  • aircraft engineering
  • civil engineering
  • electrical engineering
  • engineering
  • engineering systems
  • mechanical engineering

Entry requirements will depend on the subject and the level you're studying. For HNC or HND courses, you'll likely need 1 or 2 Scottish Highers at Grade C. Courses value school qualifications in maths or physics.

Search for courses relevant to this role.


Degrees in aerospace engineering are particularly valuable. Some subjects you could study include:

  • aerospace systems
  • aircraft engineering
  • civil engineering
  • computer science
  • electrical engineering
  • engineering
  • mathematics
  • mechanical engineering
  • physics

The qualifications you need for degree courses will depend on the subject. You'd likely need either:

  • an HNC or HND in a relevant subject  
  • 4 Highers at BBBB or above

Courses value qualifications in maths, science and technology subjects.

Search for relevant undergraduate courses

Useful subjects

  • maths
  • physics
  • engineering science
  • Foundation Apprenticeship: Engineering
  • design and technology
  • design and manufacture
  • application of maths
  • practical craft skills
  • practical electronics
  • Skills for Work: Engineering
  • computer science

You will also need

You’ll need to get some industry experience before moving into this role. That might be in an engineering role or working elsewhere in the space industry.

You'd do further training while working for a space agency to prepare for this role. You'd gain certification to work as a flight controller.

Before you start work, you'd need to pass background checks and a physical examination.

Helpful to have

It’s helpful to have strong technical knowledge related to your field.

Competition for jobs in the space sector is very high. Check out the Space Placements in INdustry scheme (SPIN). It offers placements each year to students considering working in the sector.