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Roller Coaster Designer: Education and Career Information

Roller coaster designers have strong grasps in engineering, and they regularly use software design programs. Learn about the education, job duties and licensure requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

Essential Information

A background in engineering is required to become a roller coaster engineer. Degree options include mechanical, structural and civil engineering. In order to be successful in this industry, students must have good visualization skills and understand the basic fundamentals of physics. Both of these skills help designers construct safe rides for the public. Hands-on experience is often required to get an entry-level job in this career. Students are encouraged to get their Master's in Engineering. These degrees offer courses in computer and structural design - which help students learn in an interactive way.

Career Civil Engineer
Education Requirements Bachelor's
Other Requirements Licensure required
Job Growth (2012-22)* 20%
Mean Salary (2014)*$87,130 annually

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education for Roller Coaster Designers

Individuals interested in designing roller coasters commonly have a background in engineering, such as mechanical, structural or civil engineering. Earning an engineering degree from a postsecondary institution accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology can prepare students for careers in roller coaster design. Designers must be able to visualize a ride and construct it so it's safe for passengers. They understand physics and create models to test their ideas. Roller coaster designers know how to use computer-aided design software, which helps them visualize and design a project.

Landing a job with a roller coaster design team often relies on having previous hands-on experience. Students can look into interning at a design company that specializes in roller coasters or working at an amusement park in order to study the rides; these experiences also lend themselves to networking with industry professionals. Roller coaster design companies encourage individuals to earn a master's degree in mechanical, electrical or structural engineering before applying for a design job. To qualify for a master's degree program, students need to have strong undergraduate grades and take the Graduate Record Examination. Job applicants who hold a master's degree in engineering show they have taken courses in computer and structural design, as well as other related topics that make them qualified for the position.

Roller Coaster Designer Career Information

Becoming a roller coaster designer can be very difficult because available jobs are limited. Since only a specific amount of roller coasters get built each year, job openings as designers are slim. According to Great Coasters International, Inc. (www.greatcoasters.com), the design of a wooden roller coaster, from conception to testing, can take about ten months. The design process involves thoroughly testing and monitoring the ride before it opens to the public, due to roller coasters potentially putting passengers' lives at risk.

Engineers who design roller coasters might also work on other projects when there are no design projects open. Networking with other engineers helps roller coaster designers see if there are any projects or roller coaster maintenance jobs available. People interested in becoming a roller coaster designer work well in team environments, and they can solve problems under tight deadlines and in stressful situations.

As stated above, prospective roller coaster designers may come from various education backgrounds. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides career outlook information for mechanical drafters (-5%), civil engineers (20%) and architects (17%, not including landscape and naval architects) from 2012 to 2022. May 2014 mean annual salaries for these careers were as follows: mechanical drafters ($55,260), civil engineers ($87,130) and architects ($80,490).

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