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Is Education or Experience More Important for a Career in the Theme Park Industry?

My dream career is to manage and operate a Theme Park. Although I am well aware that this will require some work in existing amusement park contexts, I am uncertain whether it would be best to first attend four years of college and graduate with a business management degree in hospitality management, or start working my way up the corporate ladder. What skills and education do Disney, Six Flags, Busch Gardens, and other entertainment companies want me to have? #business #management #entrepreneurship #higher-education #communications #entertainment #communication #training #international-trade

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Troy’s Answer

Wow good question,


I would go with both and by that I would try and directly contact some people that are doing that now and ask them what kind of field they would recommend.


Business is always a good bet I believe, but really figuring out if there are more specific degree plans out there go for it and learn about them. Also trying to intern at some point and gain experience even if it's at a position you may not desire at first could be very useful. Also you can meet other managers and see which individuals will see your desire and actually offer some advice to you and help you on your journey!


Feel free to let me know if you have any ideas or want to know anything else.


My best!


Troy

Thank you comment icon Hey Troy, Thanks so much for posting an answer to my question! Like you said, it makes a lot of sense to get a well-rounded business education while also angling for a position in an actual organization. I'll be doing some job shadowing, which is a good way to rub shoulders with managers and ask them questions about their positions. In the business world, networking is half the battle. Kent
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Rob’s Answer

disclaimer: i have never worked at anything like this.


Is your goal to be an executive there? If yes, then almost all of them will have college degrees, period. Managing parks with $100m's in revenues typically require diverse skills incorporating finance / business / legal. HR is also likely to be VERY important as they employ so many people and so many seasonal people.


One idea would be to go to a college / university very close to a major park, and try to combine internships and co-op type programs alongside your 4 year degree. That would typically get you a huge leg up in terms of experience - and might help pay the costs of college as well.


Lastly, I'm not sure going to an expensive or super-selective college would make that much of a difference.

Thank you comment icon Thank you, Rob! I already have a job opportunity/internship lined up with a Southern California theme park, but I would agree that a Business degree with a significant amount of finance and strong communication skills will be necessary, as well. Kent
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Kiirsten’s Answer

Hello Kent!

Great question you have asked (although it was asked a bit ago). I work at a world class theme park and LOVE it. I started off in the park in a guest facing position, and now I have moved BOH in sales! For me, my education (degree in Hospitality Management) was important, as well as my experience actually working in the park. Through my career, I have made many connections that have helped me grow professionally and personally-- networking is also important, and finding a mentor.
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Tiffany’s Answer

Hi Kent!

Great question! Both education and experience are helpful when it comes to a career in theme parks in different ways.

I majored in Theater with a minor in Film. My experience at UCF helped me understand putting together large scale events and stage management, which have been crucial to both my career at Walt Disney World and at Universal Orlando. I currently work as a part of Entertainment Production at Universal working on large scale events like Halloween Horror Nights. Because of my time at UCF, I had a base knowledge that really helped me fit perfectly into this role.

But, I will also say that I started out in theme parks about 14 years ago working in Attractions at Walt Disney World. Being in a guest facing position taught me so much about theme parks. That time helped me network and move up to work in departments like Adventures By Disney, Entertainment Talent Casting, and Traditions. Knowing the history and heritage of the places you work is important in the theme park industry, and getting your foot in the door at any park is the best way to do that.

So, overall I think education can provide a great base of knowledge and experience can help you grow in the field you choose.

Good luck!
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