Q&A – Working at a Theme Park

We have already outlined many of the pros and cons that you should consider before pursing a theme park job, whether it’s work at Disneyland or jobs at Cedar Point. It could be that a career in this industry better suits you than a summer job. Here’s even more food for thought:

Can I afford to live comfortably on a theme park salary?
A big part of this depends on where you live and how much you are getting paid. For the most part, with careful budgeting, a person can live comfortably on a theme park salary. Additionally, most parks offer overtime paid at time-and-a-half, especially during the busy seasons like spring break, summer vacation, and winter holidays.

What are the chances of advancement?
Mid-level management is usually a fluid entity in a theme park, meaning that there are frequently openings in areas such as food and beverage/restaurant management, custodial management, and merchandise management. Other theme park career avenues to explore are park entertainment, administrative services, advertising/marketing, labor and finance, and IT support. While working an hourly position, employees are encouraged to shadow alternate areas and network with managers. At the same time, employees seeking promotions can learn first hand what qualities and training other positions require and meet the recruiters for those areas.

What are the hardest aspects of theme park jobs?
Many employees will say that the hardest part of working in a theme park is handling the difficult guests. No matter how nice you are to the guest, some people just want to make a scene and/or get free stuff. It takes a person with well-developed social skills and firm problem solving abilities to withstand guest onslaughts.

What is the best thing about working in a theme park?
There are some people who truly enjoy the excitement and ambience of the theme park – the fireworks, special events, guest interactions, and complimentary park admission. Others claim the hotel, merchandise and dining discounts as the best perk. However, the best part, as one theme park employee argues, is that, “A lot of people are in good moods when they come here. So that positive energy permeates this place and puts things in perspective.

It’s easier to do a job when everyone all around you is happy.”

What kinds of people can I expect to work with in a theme park?
There are all sorts of people who work in theme parks, just as there are in all walks of life. Traditionally, you’ll find a younger employee base in many theme parks, as these jobs provide flexible schedules for students, summer employment options, and college internships. You might also find a good number of retirees working part-time as a hobby. But, regardless of your age, theme parks hire people from all backgrounds, ages, races, educational backgrounds, and abilities, as stated under the Fair Employment Laws.

If I accept a theme park internship, where will I live?
Some of the larger operations (like the Walt Disney World College Internships) provide inexpensive off-site housing with bus transportation to and from work locations, local supermarkets, and other nearby attractions. If not, the recruiter may be able to provide a list of local apartment complexes where interns have lived in the past. In these areas, the apartment complexes understand the nature of internships, and have tailored their lease agreements to reflect that.

What should I do if I don’t like my position or my supervisors?
All theme parks have a Human Resources department that you can contact. However, before going that route, try talking to a manager about your current theme park job, and what the two of you can do to make the experience more enjoyable, or see if there is a chance of transferring departments. Most areas have multiple managers, so you have more than one person as a resource should you need to talk to a different individual.

If the park closes for any reason (such as emergency situations), will I still get paid?
If your shift has started when the call to close comes through, then you will get paid for the hours you worked. If the park plans ahead of time to close (for example, if a hurricane is coming through the area), then everyone is told not to come in and thus no one is paid. In the case of storms, many parks have “Ride Out Crews” that ensure everything is tied down and secured before the storm hits, stays on site in a safe location during the storm, then works to restore the park to operational standards once the All Clear is given. Ride Out Crew is not a scheduled position, but it is paid, usually at time-and-a-half. If interested, talk to your manager. Additionally, many of the on site resorts need extra help during these times in the restaurants and housekeeping areas. Overtime pay is offered, and in the case of severe inclement weather, will provide sleeping rooms for those working. Keep in mind, both these and the Ride Out Crew shifts demand long hours, sometimes around 16 hours a day.

What if I am injured on the job?
Safety is a primary concern in all of the theme parks and active steps are taken to prevent injury. However, if you are injured, most of the larger theme parks have on-site health professionals available to treat topical wounds. For more serious injuries, an ambulance will be called to take you to the nearest hospital. If you are injured, contact your manager immediately to receive the help you need.

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