While there is no degree program for roller coaster design specifically, a student can begin by pursuing a bachelor's or master's degree in mechanical engineering. A bachelor's program of this nature is designed to provide an introduction to the field of engineering. Those who are interested in pursuing higher studies may do so by enrolling in a graduate program. Through coursework in computer-aided manufacture, composite materials and mechanical energy conversion, a master's degree program in mechanical engineering can prepare students for career advancement. A Master of Science in Structural Engineering program might be another option for someone who wants to do the design for the structure of a roller coaster.
Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering
This 4-year degree program gives an overview of engineering within several areas of industry, including structural design, manufacturing and biomechanical devices. Students with an interest in roller coaster design often sub-specialize in structural engineering, dynamic systems or mechanical systems. Graduates are prepared for an entry-level job in engineering or for further education at the graduate level.
All applicants must have earned a high school diploma or received a passing grade on the General Educational Development (GED) examination prior to enrollment. Most programs feature increasingly advanced courses in mathematics, physical science and mechanics. Students engage in both laboratory and classroom experiences to master the following topics:
- Materials engineering
- Mechanical design
- Machinery design
- Hybrid system dynamics
Master's Degrees in Mechanical Engineering
Roller coaster design requires a thorough understanding of several areas of engineering, including structural, electronic and mechanical engineering. Students who decide to focus on the design of roller coaster cars for faster rides or better safety can enroll in a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering program.
This 2-year track is aimed towards students interested in pursuing doctoral degrees or teaching positions in the profession. Most students narrow their focus to one subject and complete a research project or thesis in their final year; the work is completed under the supervision of a faculty adviser. Engineers could be required to pass the Fundamentals of Engineering examination in order to qualify for licensing.
A professional engineer who wishes to advance to a more senior-level position may choose a Master of Engineering in Mechanical Engineering. This degree program emphasizes practical skills in lieu of a final research project or thesis and averages 1-2 years in length. A bachelor's degree in a related subject, such as architecture or structural engineering, is generally needed in order to qualify for admission. Most schools also request that students submit their scores from taking the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and prefer to admit students who have demonstrated a high-grade point average in mathematics, physics and science.
As mechanical engineering has such broad applications, students are able to tailor their degree to their interests by choosing elective courses. Students interested in roller coaster design could study course topics including the following:
- Computer-aided manufacture
- Composite materials
- Stress analysis
- Failure mechanisms
- Mechanical energy conversion
Master of Science in Structural Engineering
A college graduate who has a background in architecture or civil engineering and an interest in roller coaster design can decide to work toward a Master of Science in Structural Engineering. Generally completed in two years, master's degree programs in this field provide students with a thorough background in construction materials, stability mechanisms and building or structural design. Most programs allow students to choose between completing a final research project or a thesis; students can also customize programs according to their interests through electives which are taken along with the core requirements.
Applicants must complete a bachelor's degree in a related discipline prior to enrollment. In addition, most schools require prospective students to submit scores from the GRE and to take a qualifying exam to determine an applicant's knowledge of core subjects prior to enrollment.
Courses cover advanced topics in the design and construction of everything from steel bridges to concrete buildings; a student interested in roller coaster design may choose to explore the following course topics:
- Structural steel behavior
- Soil science and fluid-soil interaction
- Failure mechanisms in structural engineering
- Foundation engineering
- Vibrations and structural soundness
Popular Career Options
Graduates often seek entry-level positions in a variety of industries, including aerospace or computer parts design. Those graduates interested in pursuing a career in roller coaster design may start in the following positions:
- Ride engineering analyst
- Amusement park ride mechanic
- Roller coaster design drafter
Employment and Salary Info
A structural engineer is similar to a civil engineer; indeed, many schools offer this degree through their civil engineering department. According to the BLS, employment of civil engineers is expected to increase 8% between 2014 and 2024, a rate which is as fast as the national average (www.bls.gov). Because roller coaster design was a niche occupation, however, job opportunities were likely to be smaller in this career than in civil engineering in general. The BLS also reported that the 2015 mean annual wage of a civil engineer was $87,940.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that employment of mechanical engineers was expected to increase by 5% from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported that in 2015, the mean annual wage of a mechanical engineer was $88,190.
Continuing Education and Certification Details
State requirements for licensing of engineers vary, so graduates should check with their individual state. Upon graduation, students qualify to take the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, which is overseen by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES), as a preliminary step towards licensing (www.ncees.org). After an engineer has at least four years of work experience, he or she will qualify to take the Professional Engineer licensing exam from that same organization.
Individuals seeking a career in roller coaster design may complete their education in mechanical engineering and sub-specialize in structural engineering, dynamic systems or mechanical systems. Bachelor's and master's programs in mechanical engineering provide students with the foundational knowledge and skills needed to develop and design structures such as roller coasters.