Theme Park Management Training Programs and Requirements

Theme park managers oversee the general operations of amusement parks, water parks and similar attractions. They create and implement key business strategies, monitor the satisfaction of visitors, observe financial operations and work with employees to ensure the overall success of the theme park. Theme park managers typically have a 4-year degree in recreation and leisure services management as well as several years of management and leadership experience.

Theme Park Management Training Requirements and Recommendations

Training for theme park managers typically begins with a recreation and leisure services management bachelor's degree program. Though business and hospitality degrees may lead to theme park management positions, a recreation management program offers specialized coursework in recreation business practices.

Theme park managers must have excellent communication and customer service skills to work with employees and provide quality services to theme park visitors. They should have a basic knowledge of marketing, advertising, promotional and financial concepts. Theme park managers should be able to clearly define a theme park's short- and long-term goals and work to meet those goals. To remain competitive, managers need to have extensive knowledge of past and present trends within the amusement park industry.

Formal Education

Theme park managers can obtain employment with a bachelor's degree in recreation and leisure services. Business administration or hospitality management bachelor's degrees also suffice.

Bachelor of Science in Recreation and Leisure Services Management

A bachelor's degree program in recreation and leisure services prepares students to work as managers and supervisors for a number of entertainment and recreation environments, including theme parks, recreational centers and resorts. Students learn how to operate recreation organizations with courses in accounting, business administration, economics and financial investing. Advanced courses introduce students to recreation-based concepts in customer service, human resources management and leisure services leadership. Most programs offer internship opportunities. Typical courses include:

  • Theories of leisure services
  • Recreation management and leadership
  • Facility management
  • Executive development in recreation and leisure services
  • Commercial recreation marketing and promotion
  • Business planning
  • Outdoor recreational programs

Job Experience

Experience requirements vary by employer. Most managers are required to have two or more years of experience in management to be considered proficient in theme park management. To gain experience, many theme park managers obtain lower-level supervisory positions and advance to management positions over time.

Licenses and Certifications

Theme park managers are not required to be licensed or certified. Theme park managers demonstrate proficiency through completion of a formal training program and intensive management experience.

Workshops and Seminars

Colleges and universities that offer recreation and leisure services management degree programs typically offer specialized courses or workshops in theme park management. These workshops address customer service, quality assurance and employee relations concepts specific to theme park management. Newly hired theme park managers may participate in workshops and seminars sponsored by their employer. Theme parks have differing operational policies, so employer workshops can familiarize theme park managers with an employer's policies, values and business goals.

The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) offers online workshops for its members. Workshops typically focus on business aspects of theme park management, such as customer retention, advertising strategies and theme park facility maintenance. The IAAPA offers a list of archived workshops and a schedule for upcoming events.

Additional Professional Development

To learn more about the industry, theme park managers can join the IAAPA. Membership allows theme park managers to access a wealth of relevant resources as well as annual conferences, symposiums and expos throughout the year. Members can access safety information, recreation legislation and career opportunities with amusement parks. FUNWORLD magazine, published in print and online, provides valuable information on current trends in the industry.

Theme park managers can also enroll in a recreation management graduate degree program to strengthen their business skills and overall qualifications. These programs allow students to gain a greater understanding of the concepts behind successful recreation and leisure services leadership and management.

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