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Amusement Park Jobs

What's It's Like To Work At Your Local Amusement Park

For some it's a dream. For others it's just another job. Read about one individual's personal experience and decide for yourself if an amusement park job is right for you.

John Keeter
Contributing Writer

With the season quickly approaching, Amusement Parks have begun the overwhelming process of hiring their seasonal employees. Many of you may be considering working at your local park. Below I will share some of my personal experiences in park operations to help you decide if working at a park is right for you.

Friends at Paramount's Kings Island
Working at a park is a great opportunity to make new friends. Here's John and some of his co-workers at Paramount's Kings Island.

This season alone, thousands of jobs will be available in ride operations, admissions, food services, retail, entertainment and guest relations just to name a few. To fill those jobs, parks rely heavily on local students, both high school and college age that are looking to earn a few extra bucks and have some fun. However, they also welcome those who may have full time jobs and desire weekend or seasonal positions.

Few, other than those who've had the opportunity to work at a park, realize that Amusement Park employees spend countless hours in extreme temperatures and complete some grueling tasks. Often these tasks are completed for minimal pay. Much of the work is repetitious and will leave you exhausted after a long day.

But on the other hand, there is no experience that can quite compare. If you enjoy challenges, like working in a fun environment and interact well with many different people, then a park job may be exactly what you're looking for.

When I was 16, I managed to convince my father to take me to Busch Gardens Williamsburg to apply for my first "real" job. I was dead set on working at the park. Now, I had grand visions of myself as the operator of the biggest, baddest rides there. Surely I would bowl them over and immediately be placed on the "Big Bad Wolf" roller coaster. Or even better, maybe I would get lucky to operate the "Loch Ness Monster". After all, it was the roller coaster that started my addition just 6 years earlier.

After scheduling an interview appointment, I could hardly wait for the day I would become a park employee. When my interview day finally arrived, I could hardly contain myself. I traveled to the park, promptly completed the application and waited for my interview. "Mr. Keeter" said a voice "please come with me." Proudly, I marched past the other applicants, sizing up the competition, knowing I was about to have my dream come true.

QUICK FACT

Every summer more than 4,000 seasonal employees work and play at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, including 2,500 who live right in the park.

If living and working at a park sounds good, then Cedar Point may be the place for you.

Just as soon as the interview began, disappointment became imminent when the Human Resource rep mentioned that all ride positions were taken. Instead, I was offered a job either sweeping or working in a doll shop.

Sweeping? Doll Shop?

It was a crushing blow to my 16-year-old ego. Never-the less, I accepted and returned for sweeper training on a later date. Disheartened by that training session, I never again returned as an employee. It was just one of those situations we all experience where we realize some things are never meant to be. Never the less, I do claim to have "worked" at Busch Gardens.

Many years later, I finally got the chance to fulfill my dream of working in an Amusement Park. On a whim, I applied for a ride operator position at Paramount's Kings Island in 1998 to earn a little extra cash on the weekends.

The Beast Control Panel at Paramount's Kings Island
John fulfills his dream of working at a park as he operates a roller coaster at Kings Island.

After my first season there, I decided to return for a second. Sometime later, my full time employment required that I relocate from Cincinnati to Louisville, KY. I decided to take a weekend position at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom in the fall of 2001. There I was placed on Chang, the parks large stand-up coaster.

During my employment at both parks, I quickly learned that parks are looking for well-rounded individuals. When you're hired as an employee, you become part of the team. Your attitude and abilities have a direct impact on the guest experience. Parks would honestly, would be at a loss without their employees. And the pleasant or unpleasant attitudes of their staff members dictate a guest's perceptions.

When I started at Paramount's Kings Island, I wanted more than anything to have the experience of operating a roller coaster. I was placed on the "Outer Limits: Flight of Fear" roller coaster, which had an open position at the time. Since I pursued employment at Paramount's Kings Island after the 1998 season was well underway, there were more varied positions to choose from.

I dedicated myself to being a good employee and reminded myself of the direct impact I was to have on the guest's experience everyday. I wanted those I encountered to enjoy the park as much as I had over the years.

That desire and attitude paid off in the long run. It allowed me to move to the permanent crew of "The Beast" the following season. It also allowed me to become trained on over 15 different rides and attractions during my two seasons at Paramount's Kings Island. While I had wanted to work strictly on a roller coaster crew initially, I quickly found a new interest and fascination with other attractions at the park.

It is very important to work in a position you enjoy. Working in previously mentioned conditions, like hot weather, high humidity or cold temperatures can be difficult. But it has the potential of being miserable if you're doing something you dislike. It is important to remember that parks are willing to help make sure their employees are working to their full potential. They recognize that you will be interacting with park guests all day and unhappy employees equate to a negative guest experience.

You may begin in a position that you think you will enjoy. However over time, you may discover that it was not what you enjoy or initially thought it would be. Park's recognize this and are more than willing to help you find the area in which you are better suited. Rather than loose good employees, they will redirect you to a position you are comfortable with and capable of. This acts as a great training period for young employees and helps prepare them for their future.

You can bet that park supervisors and managers will monitor all employees to ensure that work is being completed and guests are being properly treated. If you plan on operating a ride, then you can expect to be required to pass a training course. Ride supervisors train employees as soon as they begin, but you should not expect to operate a ride until the supervisor and manager are 100% confident of your abilities.

Change Crew at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom
John hangs out with the rest of The Chang roller coaster crew while working at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom.

One of the biggest challenges of working in an amusement park is dealing with upset guests. There may be a number of guests who will have a bad experience and let you know about it, sometimes confrontationally. Since I have been fortunate enough to work at two entirely different parks, I am aware of some distinct differences in these areas.

Both Six Flags and Paramount spend time training their employees of how to deal with grievances. If the situation gets out of your control then managers or supervisors are there to take over. Yet the largest difference between working at Paramount and Six Flags Parks involves dealing with disgruntled guests.

I personally had the most difficult time adjusting to the differences in these policies. Where Paramount Parks train employees to stand firm yet listen and explain things to guests, Six Flags requires that employees apologize to the guests when they are upset. The ideal reaction to Six Flags is to act as a sympathetic ear.

John's Six Flags Name Tag
John's Six Flags name tag indicates that he is a "certified operator" for the Chang roller coaster.

Now, while these delicate situations and challenges will arise, plenty of rewards exist as well. As I said, if you enjoy interacting with the public, then you're in the right place. You'll be in contact with different people all day long. You'll have the opportunity to meet lots of folks from every walk of life.

Another fun part of the job is that you'll work with many other people. You will have the chance to meet people with shared interests, make friends, and maybe even meet a significant other.

Park employees also receive many rewards while employed. Benefits vary from park to park, but some of the perks you can expect are:

- Free admission on your day off
- Free tickets for your family or friends
- Discounts on food and merchandise
- Employee "after-hour" parties

Some parks will even pay a bonus to employees who stay the entire season. Just recently, I received two free season passes that Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom offered their 2001 fall employees who worked all scheduled shifts on time and without conflict.

Six Flags Employee Manual
Every employee that works at a Six Flags Theme Park will receive an employee handbook.
© Six Flags, Inc.

Above all, those that choose to work at a park have the knowledge that they helped create a day of memories that kids of any age will remember for years to come. Probably the greatest gift I received from being employed was seeing the joy, and excitement of the guests. I witnessed many first coaster rides, and many special moments that guests shared while at the park. That, in turn, created lasting memories. I thank Paramount Parks, Six Flags and yes, even Busch Gardens for those experiences they offered me.

I wish, back when I first applied for employment at Busch Gardens, I had realized some of these things. My fondest moments when I finally got to work in a park came not from what I was doing, but rather what was going on around me while I did it. In turn my experiences helped prepare me for things to come, and gave me an awareness of exactly all that it takes to become a successful employee. By the time I had discontinued working at Paramount's Kings Island, I found that my favorite job was working on White Water Canyon or the King's Mill Log Flume. I never expected that when I first started, and thought only working a coaster would interest me.

If you are contemplating working at a park, I would highly recommend it. The rewards are likely to make up for all of the negative aspects and, like me, I am sure you'll leave with some lasting memories. For now, my time of working at any park is over, but who knows? Perhaps when I retire in 35 years, you may find me back again. I sure hope so.

Currently parks are hiring for the 2002 season. If you're interested contact your local amusement park or check out their Web site for details. Six Flags, Cedar Point and Paramount Parks each allow you to apply online. Many parks also have positions open for International applicants as well. Good luck, and have fun!

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WHO'S HIRING

Many parks have information about seasonal jobs on their web site. Some parks even allow you to apply online.

Here are some parks that are hire thousands of seasonal workers every year.

Paramount Parks
Seasonal positions listed on site. Apply online.

Six Flags
Search for open jobs. Apply online for jobs at their theme parks and water parks.

Cedar Point
Apply online for seasonal positions. Housing available at the park.

Knott's Berry Farm
Seasonal positions listed on site. Print out job application.

COLLEGE CREDIT

Did you know that you may be eligible to earn college credit while working at an amusement park?

Many park jobs can serve as internships. In fact, some parks often have special summer internships in departments such as:

  • Marketing
  • Human Resources
  • Group Sales
  • Guest Services
  • Hotel Front Desk

Contact your local park to inquire about internships.