How To Determine the Best Theme Park Design Job For You

One of the most asked questions I receive is, “How do I figure out what the best job is for me in the theme park design business?” If you are considering a career in theme park design, you may be wondering how to determine the best role or job for you.

Theme park design jobs can be highly competitive and require a combination of creativity, technical skills, and a deep understanding of the industry. We will provide some tips on how to identify the best theme park design and implementation jobs for you!

Theme park designer jobs can vary greatly in their scope and focus. Some design roles for theme parks may involve creating concepts for new attractions or themed areas, while others may involve overseeing the construction of rides and other features. To determine which design roles for theme parks are the best fit for you, it is important to first understand your strengths, interests, skillset, and passion.

Person on ladder Sketching Figuring Things Out on a wall
Person On Ladder Sketching Strategy

Where to Begin?

One of the most important factors to consider when evaluating theme park designer jobs is your level of experience and where on the journey to landing a position with a theme park design group.

Are you in high school now or beginning to declare your major in college? Perhaps you’re just starting out in your career, you may want to focus on entry-level roles that provide opportunities to learn and develop your skills. On the other hand, if you have more experience, you may be ready for more advanced design roles for theme parks that involve leading teams and overseeing projects.

When researching the best theme park jobs, it can be helpful to look at job postings and descriptions to get a sense of the qualifications and responsibilities required for different design roles for theme parks. You may also want to network with other theme park designers and professionals to gain insights and learn about job opportunities.

Determining the best theme park design job for you requires careful consideration of your skills, experience, interests, and the specific types of parks and attractions you would like to work on. By researching different design roles for theme parks and networking with professionals in the industry, you can identify the best theme park designer jobs and take steps towards achieving your career goals.

Start Here

So, to assist in finding what role is best for you, I would start with asking yourself:

  • What art form(s) or work related tasks are you truly passionate about? 
  • What type of artwork do you produce most or what do you enjoy doing the most? 
  • Out of all the various types of artwork and mediums you may create, what are the 1 – 3 that you find yourself creating or doing the most?
  • What do you find yourself gravitating towards – in terms of work related activities or creative related outlets – the most?

Once you have the answers to those questions – once you drill down and figure out what your true passion is – then finding a role or several roles that align with that will become easier.

The beauty of it is, at Walt Disney Imagineering and Universal Creative, there are over 100 different roles that are utilized to bring their theme park projects to fruition. I would suggest, at this early stage in your path to becoming a Walt Disney Imagineer or a Universal Creative Team Member, not limiting yourself to just one of the roles that may be listed; consider a group of roles that speak to you. 

Here is a list of some of the more popular jobs / roles that assist in bringing theme park design and construction to fruition:

Art DirectorCreative Director
Concept DesignerMaster Planner
Landscape ArchitectProject Manager
Show DesignerConstruction Manager
Show WriterLighting Designer
Show Set DesignerSound Designer
Ride EngineerRide Controls Engineer
Animator / IllustratorModel Maker
Graphic DesignerVisual Effects Designer
Multimedia DesignerIndustrial Designer
Audio-Visual DesignerProduct Designer
Safety ManagerSignage Production
ArchitectSpecial Effects Designer
Civil EngineerConstruction Superintendent
Mechanical EngineerConstruction Supervisor
Electrical EngineerShow Programmer
Structural EngineerDesign Manager
Plumbing EngineerInterior Designer
Low-voltage Systems Engineer3D Modeler
Audio EngineerProjection Mapping Designer
Fire Protection EngineerShow Technician
Character Facade PainterRock work Design
Concept ArchitectConcept Designer
Kitchen DesignerFood & Beverage Specialist
FinanceProject Estimator
AccountantWater Effects Designer
Payroll AdministratorProduction Management
Administrative AssistantProject Scheduler
Show ProducerPublic Relations / Marketing
Real Estate ManagementThematic Stylist
Costume DesignDocument Control
Contract AdministrationContract Lawyer / Counsel
Copy Writing / EditingData Management
IT SpecialistAcoustician
Animated Props DesignerResearch Development
Animation DevelopmentAnimation Artist
Art & Stained Glass DesignAudio Recording / Mixer
Audio Installation DesignAudio Special Effects
Art Conservationist / CuratorCharacter Design
Character DevelopmentCharacter Finishing
Character Paint Field DirectionEvent Planner
Facilities ManagementFigure Finishing
Software EngineerSpecifications Writer
Staffing CoordinatorProducer
Storyboard ArtistMural Painter
Music ProductionShow Quality Standards
List shown is representative. Not all roles listed.

Once you have a short list of the various roles that seem interesting – and potentially align with your talents and passion – then research what is involved with each of those roles. For example:

  • What type of education it might take to land those particular roles?
  • What types of personal artistic talents are required of someone in those various roles, etc.?
  • What are the post-college requirements to obtain or maintain a license or certification in a particular role (for jobs where this is required)?
  • What is the salary range for those specific roles?

All of this will begin to help you refine your search, and will help guide you once you start applying to colleges and universities if you are at that point in your career path.

Animated brooms with water buckets at Disney Hotel Resort
Animated Broom Figures from Fantasia Movie – Walt Disney World

Tips To Assist in Obtaining Your Preferred Job

Create Your Personal Portfolio

If you haven’t already, start formulating a portfolio of your artwork and creations, regardless of what type of artwork or creative items you generate begin pulling this together in a clear an legible format. Why? Firstly, it’s a good idea to archive your personal work.

Second, to get into just about any architecture or design-based college program you will need to provide a portfolio of your work as a part of the application process.

Thirdly, over time – as you keep generating artwork (regardless of the medium) – you will want to update your portfolio with the best-of-the-best of your efforts.

Fourth, to eventually land a job at an architecture firm and/or Walt Disney Imagineering, Universal Creative, etc. you will need to provide a portfolio of your work for most creative or design based roles.

✳️Here’s a great book I recommend to everyone to help create your portfolioStand Out by Denise Anderson

Learn the Software of the Business/Roles You’re Interested In

There are specific computer software/programs that are industry standards within the industry (also used by Disney, Universal, etc.). It’s never too early to begin learning these so that once you get to college (and then graduate) you will in the least have awareness and a set of skills that are industry and creative specific.

Here are some (not all) of the computer programs you may want to consider learning for creative and design roles: SketchUp, SolidWorks, Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office suite, NavisWorks, BlueBeam, AutoCAD, and Revit.

Dumbo Scene 1 BIM Navisworks Coordination
NavisWorks BIM Coordination Model

High School and College Courses/Subjects

As you prepare for your journey to get into architecture school, become an Architect, and then an Imagineer, there are subjects that I always recommend for individuals such as yourself.

I have a saying, “Know a lot about something, and a little about everything.

Meaning to land a position in the theme park design and themed entertainment industry (certainly the case for Imagineering and Universal Creative) you need to be a well-rounded individual.

I would suggest being creative across multiple mediums, not just those specific to being an Architect, Engineer, etc.. Learning and knowing history – American and World History – is important because remember, theme park design is all about storytelling and most of the stories are either solely based on or are inspired by historical events.

Become a Well-Rounded Individual 

Let’s face it, Disney and Universal can hire who they want – they have the pick of the litter since thousands of people apply to work at their companies each year. I’m not going to sugar coat it, it’s tough to land a position at these companies.

How do you stand out then? Become a well-rounded and multi-talented individual. Become the best you can be in your primary focus, BUT also advance your other talents regardless of what they are; become well-read in multiple subjects, be able to speak to various topics intelligently, become multi-faceted in your personal bag of skills. This is the type of people Disney, Universal, and even colleges & universities are looking for to either hire or accept into their academic programs.

Also, I would suggest becoming knowledgeable about theme park design – learn the history of it, learn how they are designed, read….read….and read some more on the subject.

Here’s a great book to learn more about the history of amusement and theme parks: 

✳️The Amusement Park: 900 Years of Thrills and Spills, and the Dreamers and Schemers Who Built Them by Stephen M. Silverman

Be Passionate / Bring Your Passion

One of the things that is important is to be passionate about your future role as a Disney Imagineer, Universal Creative Team Member, etc. Be enthusiastic and knowledgeable of your craft.

Convey your passion for your craft – regardless of what it may be – when you’re applying to architecture schools at colleges and universities and during your interviews with future architecture firms you may work for and most certainly when you interview with Walt Disney Imagineering.

Express to others in a genuine manner your particular passion that defines you, that you are passionate about landing a role to help design theme parks, learn as much as there is to know about being in the role(s) you desire, and certainly convey that passion during your interviews with future design companies, and Disney or Universal. They want intelligent subject matter experts who are well-rounded and passionate individuals!

Looking for more information about theme park design? Check out these other articles:

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