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Amusement parks are usually home to a great many jobs, both seen and unseen by the visiting public. Some of the most visible amusement park jobs include ride operators, ticket sales staff, and restaurant or food concession workers. Parks with hotels are also home to check-in staff, concierge services and housekeepers, and those with water features usually have lifeguards. A whole range of amusement park jobs happen behind the scenes, as well. Ride engineers, for instance, plan the mechanics of each amusement long before it becomes a reality, and business planners, accountants, and lawyers all work to make sure that the park operates profitably and in compliance with all national and local regulations.
Most amusement park jobs can be broken down into three broad categories: those that interface directly with the public, those that serve the public in a more as-needed way, and those that are concerned with internal park operations. Jobs usually grow more prestigious moving up the ranks. A job that requires dressing up as a themed character, for instance, or a job selling popcorn at a concession stand is usually considered a minimum wage, low-tier opportunity. Serving as a security guard or customer service officer requires more training. Employment with the amusement park as a corporation — that is, working in an office, performing a desk job, and keeping more regular hours — is usually the most prestigious of all.
Some of the most popular amusement park jobs fall into the first category. Many of these positions are temporary or seasonal. They are commonly taken by high school and university students who have dependable breaks, more flexible schedules, and the need for work that does not require a lot of skill.
There is usually a place in the lower rungs for most any talent and interest. Some theme parks have parades, which require dancers, singers, and costumed characters. Rides at amusement parks require operators to control starts and stops and regulate the number — and sometimes also the age — of visitors riding. Concessions workers and ticket sales staff must usually be good at handling petty cash and quickly calculating sums on the spot.
Most of the time, amusement park management will shuffle beginning employees through a range of entry-level jobs before allowing the new recruit to choose a final position. This way, the worker gets a taste for the larger operation and can identify personal interests with some confidence. Rotation also makes the employee better equipped to answer visitor questions about the park’s services, schedules, and layout.
Intermediate level amusement park jobs include security guards, lifeguards, and chefs, to name a few. These employees work on site, but only interact with visitors when the need arises. People in these positions must usually have more specialized training.
Working at amusement parks does not always involve actually having a presence in the park. In order for a park to function, a lot of work must be done on the back end. Parks usually employ entire staffs of business people to help keep operations profitable. Engineers and digital design specialists are also important components. These people work on the inside to create the concepts and blueprints that will one day be new rides or attractions.
Depending on the park, there may be more people employed behind the scenes than are ever seen at work amongst the people. Both sets of employees need each other, though, and depend on each others’ success. No one group would not do well without the others.
I worked a few booths in the midway of an amusement park, and I can't say I enjoyed it much. I didn't officially work for the park. The park just rented the spaces to the game operators. My pay would come from the day's total income, minus expenses. If I didn't hustle customers all day, I wouldn't make much money. I started wishing I had applied for one of the regular amusement park jobs instead. My friend was a lifeguard at the water park and loved every minute of it.
I remember when I was in college, a lot of my musical theater friends would get summer jobs at a local amusement park. They would perform a live show eight times a day in a small theater. It wasn't as glamorous as it sounded, but they said it was good experience for working in front of a live audience.
Other friends got jobs as ride operators, which turned out to be more like working in a factory to them. They basically ran a machine for eight hours a day, but the machine happened to be carrying live people. They told me it could get a little monotonous after a few hours, but they were usually in the shade and it wasn't physically demanding work.
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