Amusement Park Workers


Exploring this Job

Before you commit yourself to a lifelong career as an amusement park worker, why not spend some time exploring the field? Here are some suggestions:

  • Read up on the industry. An afternoon at the library or bookstore, or on the Internet, can educate you on the history, dynamics, and future of the amusement park industry.
  • Contact different amusement parks or their parent companies for research materials. Most public relations departments would be more than happy to send you press kits featuring park history, themes, and current attractions. They also may be available at organizations’ Web sites.
  • Spend some time at a local amusement park to get an idea of the different jobs available. (You'll have to convince your parents this is really for educational purposes!)
  • Does your school have a job shadowing program? Why not arrange to spend a day tagging along with different amusement park workers? You'll not only see the ins and outs of the industry, but you'll experience how hard these employees work. If you don't have access to such a program, consult with your school counselors about starting one.
  • Good news! Amusement parks hire high school students, age 16 or older, for many of their entry-level jobs. What better way to get a feel for the industry than spending a summer ushering kids onto the carousel ride, cajoling people to play the ring toss, or twirling together the biggest cotton candy cone in the world?
  • Volunteer to be a bingo caller. This will help you hone skills needed to be a good game attendant or even a carnival barker. Some places to try would be a neighborhood senior center, park district, or your local church.

The Job

Amusement parks employ a variety of workers to run their parks smoothly and efficiently. The number of employees depends on the size of the park, its attractions, and whether or not the park is open year-round.

Equipment maintenance and operation is one of the industry's largest departments. Ride operators work the control panel by monitoring the speed of the ride, accelerating or slowing down to load and unload passengers. Some operators are responsible for light maintenance of the rides—paint touch-ups, replacing light bulbs or other decorations, and refueling engines.

Ride attendants collect fares or tickets. They help passengers get on the rides and make sure they are safely fastened or locked in before the ride begins. Attendants are also responsible for lining up waiting groups of people in a quiet and orderly manner.

Some amusement parks have water-themed attractions such as the water logs or boat rides. Special attendants stationed at such rides make sure passengers load the water vehicles correctly and instruct them on certain rules for a safe and enjoyable trip.

Attendants may also be stationed at fun houses, haunted houses, or the hall of mirrors. Such attendants operate the special effects machinery and make sure patrons walk through the attraction in an orderly and timely manner.

Pony rides, petting zoos, and pig races are common attractions at amusement parks and carnivals. Animal handlers are needed to feed and care for the animals. They also help passengers mount the ponies, give children food to feed the animals, and match children who wish to ride with appropriately sized animals.

There are many kinds of concession stands at amusement parks, each one staffed by one or more attendants. Game booths are big draws at an amusement park. Games of chance using balls, milk jugs, water, rings, and bottles are just some examples of different booths. Game attendants, also called concessionaires, urge passersby to play, sell tickets, and maintain equipment needed to play. They also reward winners with prizes such as stuffed animals, candy, or small trinkets.

Some amusement parks sell ticket packages ranging from one to several days. The cost of the ticket usually covers all rides, shows, and attractions. Ticket attendants sell tickets at a booth or counter located at the entrance of the park. Their duties include calculating the amount of tickets sold, making change, and processing credit card transactions.

What's a day at the park without food and drink? Amusement parks offer a range of food—healthy and otherwise. Food concession attendants sell hot dogs, pizza, chips, popcorn, ice cream, cotton candy, lemonade, and beer, among other choices. The majority of these booths are located outside, though some attendants are stationed at indoor eateries. Food attendants are trained on the proper way to prepare and serve their snacks and make cash and credit card transactions as well.

Gift shop attendants work inside gift shops and also at outdoor souvenir booths. Besides making and completing cash and credit card sales, attendants stock and price items, help customers with their purchases, and answer any questions regarding the merchandise. Attendants also make sure displays are clean and orderly.

The performance arts are favorite attractions at amusement parks. Many singers, dancers, musicians, and other performers are hired at the larger parks every year. Parades, comedy shows, and musical revues are just some examples of the entertainment provided at parks. Performers and artists are also needed to staff drawing and photo booths, fortune-telling tents, and other attractions.

The grounds crew is an important department no amusement park can do without. They are present throughout the day, though the bulk of their work takes place after hours. Maintenance and cleaning crews tidy the concession areas, ride platforms, and common walkways. They sanitize and resupply bathrooms and picnic areas. Security workers roam the park during operating hours and are responsible for maintaining order. Parking attendants sell parking tickets and usher cars into the proper parking spaces. They are sometimes called to help families with many children, or patrons with special needs. Some of the larger parks offer transportation from the parking lot to the main park entrance. At such facilities, employees are hired to drive trolley cars, trams, or trains and give general assistance to passengers.

No park can survive without a strong business department. General managers oversee operations of all park departments and employees. Department managers are responsible for the activity of their division and the work of their employees. They make weekly work schedules, train new employees, and address any complaints of the department. Public relations specialists are responsible for sending press releases to newspapers and other media sources or using social media such as Twitter to advertise an upcoming concert, new attraction, or the reopening of the park after a seasonal closure. Human resources consultants manage park personnel, including such tasks as deciding on new hires and arranging an orientation program for these employees. The human resources department is also responsible for organizing and managing the internship program.