Theme Park Careers

Wednesday, May 5, 2004 10:03 AM
For a long time since I was around 12, I've wanted to be the General Manager of a new Theme Park or existing one. If I can't do that, I would like to work in an department around that. This september, I will be a senior and will have to start applying for colleges in California. I would like to know what type of things will I have to study for in college?
Wednesday, May 5, 2004 10:15 AM
For one thing, you're going to have to have a lot of business schooling.

Try an MBA. You're definately going to need to go for a Masters degree at LEAST...
Not to mention, depending on your age, you have to start young & get into the theme-park business NOW.

If you're 16 or 17, that's perfect... start with your local park... clean toilets, sweep paths, flip burgers, and make nicies with your superiors. Eventually you can work your way up to lemon chill guy, ride operator, shift supervisor... etc. I think that's how Dick Kinzel (sp) of Cedar Point got his start. You've really got to dedicate your life to being in the amusement industry.

Although business degrees will help... experience is just as important.

Wednesday, May 5, 2004 10:21 AM
Good question. Since there is no "General Manager of a Theme Park" Degree it isn't easy to land a job like this. Even if there was a degree like that it wouldn't be easy to land a job like that.

From my experience I have found that a lot of people who rise to the position of General Manager (or Department Head) at amusement parks did so by starting at the very bottom. Dick Kinzel worked in food services before his eventual rise. Dick Nunis worked on the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland's California as a kid and rose to the top ranks of the Disney company. Hey, maybe you should change your name to Dick.

Degrees that certainly wouldn't hurt your chances might include Business, Hospitality, Marketing, Recreation. However, many people that end up full-time at parks did so after many years of working seasonally during high school and college. And, of course, the people that climb the ranks of management at parks are generally people with experience.

You don't often see full-time positions at parks advertised in the papers. When that does happen it might be in an area like Merchandise or Foods where they are seeking applicants who might have run a restaurant or a retail store so...again...experience becomes essential.

When I worked at Disney I remember them saying they once advertised a marketing position nationally and got well over 10,000 applications for that 1 job. Those are pretty tough odds to overcome.

The best advice I can give is to go get a summer job at a local park and work there through college. Impress the folks and then let them know you are interested in the business as a career choice. Seek out their advice and guidance. Then, if you happen to be at the right place at the right time and a job opens may just get lucky.

Wednesday, May 5, 2004 10:27 AM
Thanks, I live in New York City and there's really no Theme Park around except Six Flags Great Adventure and I've tried there already.
Wednesday, May 5, 2004 10:27 AM
Absolutely - working at a theme park will be far more advantageous to you than what school you go to. That's not to say schooling isn't important - it is - but there are GM's out there who never went to college, and there are many GM's who don't have master's degree. What you gain from working at a park will be far more important than getting the most schooling possible. The vast majority of parks (including Six Flags and, I can only assume, Cedar Fair) promote mostly from within the company or at least from within the industry. This is a small industry, and also a tight-knit one, so making contacts will be vital. Really, your best option is to start at the bottom and work your way up.

What's the deal with Great Adventure? You say you've tried there...did you actually work there at some point? Why didn't it work out? I realize it's not the quickest drive to work there, but SFGAdv does have employee housing options (ie dorms for seasonal employees). Ideally, you could have your pick of which park you want to work at as long as you're willing to spend your summer there, live in employee housing, and work your ass off. Go work for Cedar Point or Disney or any other park of your choice. I cannot stress enough how important working at a park - and working hard for that park - will be if you really want an industry job. Good luck.

Edited to respond to your second post *** Edited 5/5/2004 2:38:15 PM UTC by coasterdude318***

Wednesday, May 5, 2004 11:22 AM
I know you said you were applying for colleges in CA, but have you looked at the University of Central Florida? Their School of Hospitality Management offers a specialized track in theme park operations management.


Wednesday, May 5, 2004 11:55 AM
I would give marketing a shot. An internship for a major park would get you in the front door and able to maket he necessary contacts. Public Relations would be another area to look at. If you begin working at parks while your in college you can gain operations experience then when you are ready for internship in something like marketing or public relations you could move into the front office and work on the contacts.
Wednesday, May 5, 2004 12:25 PM
No matter what you do, skill number one that must be learned?

Butt kissing.

Although this applies to just about all lines of work.

Wednesday, May 5, 2004 12:45 PM
Yuck. I disagree completely, Matt.

And I'm in PR! :)

People who kiss up are seen through easily. They're ingenuous and phoney. Hard to trust, too.

On the other hand, it's wise to be polite, respectful, sincere and supportive. But there's a big difference!

Regarding preparing for a career in the industry, it is an excellent idea to start working at a park at the ground level as a teenager. Most of our directors here at Holiday World worked their way up through the ranks.

The other reason for this is that you'll find out if this is truly the best career choice for you.

Good luck! Paula (who does not plan to retire soon...Bill and Moosh!)

Wednesday, May 5, 2004 12:51 PM
Hehe, it all depends on how you look it at. I'm only 20 but a lot of kids now adays consider being polite, respectful, and sincere as kissing up to begin with, unfortunately. ;)

I do agree with your point about starting at ground level early. There are many people that think they want a job in the industry only to find after one season that its the last thing they want to do. Remember, loving amusement parks is a great thing, but working at one is going to greatly limit your ability to get to the parks the way you used to. And even if you did have the time, often going out and riding coasters is that last thing you would want to do after 60+ hours at the park.

Good luck. ;)

Wednesday, May 5, 2004 12:53 PM
LOL Paula! I'd never be able to fill your shoes [I can't walk in pumps] ;)
Wednesday, May 5, 2004 12:55 PM
With all of the recent shuffling in the Cedar Fair ranks, one of the degrees Wahoo mentioned would help you for sure. It's my understanding that Bill Spehn has an MBA, which he actually left for a period of time to do (not sure if that's the exact story, but it's something like that). He and two other people at CP worked there for a similar time span, and I have to think that the degree certainly qualified him with a certain edge over the others to get VP of park op then Geauga Lake. At the very least, it showed Kinzel and the board that he wanted to better himself in business.
Wednesday, May 5, 2004 1:26 PM
CoasterDude318: I was saying that I tried applying for a job there since I was 14, now 16, and they didn't hire me yet. I'm still gonna try to find a job there if possible.
Wednesday, May 5, 2004 1:38 PM
Moosh--'ve tried?

Paula :)

Wednesday, May 5, 2004 2:00 PM
Paula - once, for Halloween about 10 years ago. NEVER AGAIN! Ouch!

I have a pic of my costume...I'll have to scan it and email it to you ;)


Wednesday, May 5, 2004 2:13 PM
I'd like to see that too...

I've often thought of working @ a theme park, just for kicks and giggles. I always seem to have a full time job to support me, and a part time job to support my habits(coasters, alcohol, fashion, janet jackson, etc...). I've done part time jobs @ a movie Theater(free movies any time I wanted), a resturaunt(waiting tables for tips, best part time job ever), GAP(great clothing discounts). My only other "dream part-time jobs" are Amusment park and Bar Tending. Hopefully I'll be able to do both when I move to S.C.

I personally would like to work in Personell @ a park(actually anywhere, but a park would be my first choice). I'm great with people, which has helped me to get supervisory positions in most of the places I've worked at. But office jobs are better for me. My dream would be to have a full time mon-fri. 9-5 office job, go to school in the evenings for a degree, and work parttime @ an amusmnet park, but oh well.

Good luck on whatever you do, though. I'm sure you'd be able to find a job at atleast one of the parks in CA if thats where you are going to school.

Wednesday, May 5, 2004 2:15 PM

Starintraining said:
CoasterDude318: I was saying that I tried applying for a job there since I was 14, now 16, and they didn't hire me yet. I'm still gonna try to find a job there if possible.

I'm curious as to why they didn't hire you. I'm not trying to say they'll hire everybody, but there are a heck of a lot of jobs at a theme park and pretty much always a shortage of employees. Additionally, there are a lot of different areas you could possibly work in, and I can't imagine they can't find some place that would work for you. Regardless, I agree with much of what was said above. An MBA would be a good idea, as would be starting work at a park ASAP.


Wednesday, May 5, 2004 2:21 PM
Oops, I'm late to the party...again....;)

Paula, you can keep your job for as long as you enjoy it...and in Santa Claus, that seems to be for a LONG time, at least judging by some of your employees who seem to be *rooted* at HW...;) When you *do* decide it's time to become a GUEST at HW, that's when I'll ask Will about your job...:)

On a SLIGHTLY more serious note, I do have a couple friends at UCF, one enrolled in the School of Hospitality Management...if only I'd known "back then" what I know now...not even sure they HAD that program when I went off to college, after all they were JUST discovering fire...;)

Wednesday, May 5, 2004 2:54 PM
I'm working on my creative and writing skills to someday get in at WDI. That's my dream job location... to be a show writer. :)
Wednesday, May 5, 2004 2:55 PM

TeknoScorpion said:

my habits(coasters, alcohol, fashion, janet jackson,

Scary, my habits are coasters, parties, fashion, and Jill Scott. Remarkably similar Clint....(eerie music)


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