Earning a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree in recreation and leisure management or tourism management is a good first step toward becoming a theme park manager. A degree can provide the training you need to manage all kinds of theme parks, including water parks and large or small amusement parks. The scope of the job includes designing business plans to make the park successful, overseeing finances, working with staff members and ensuring that visitors have a safe and enjoyable experience.
A degree in leisure management or tourism will give you training specifically geared toward running a theme park. It is not the only path to a career in this area, however. Degrees in business administration or hospitality also are stepping stones if you want to become a theme park manager. Any experience in management or managing employees also could help you secure a position in this field.
Coursework should include topics that are vital to managing a theme park. Classes can include marketing, designing business plans, recreational management and best practices for outdoor recreation programs. Courses in investing, accounting, customer service and managing employees will also help you in your quest to become a theme park manager.
As with any career, there are intangible skills that you also need to become a theme park manager. First, you must enjoy working with the public. If a visitor has a complaint or a compliment he or she often will often out the theme park manager to report it. You must also be able to clearly communicate the mission of the park to employees, guests and others. Keeping up with current theme park trends and understanding the history of theme parks also is important.
Depending on a company's job description, it might be possible to become a theme park manager right after graduation. Large or high-profile parks likely will require you to have some experience. One way to get this experience is to take on a lower management position for a specific area of the park.
If you are mechanically inclined, it might be possible to get an entry-level position as a theme park ride manager. In this role, your responsibilities can include testing and monitoring all rides to make sure that they are operating safely. This often is done by examining the cars on the ride and the support structure of the ride.
This position will give you experience in interacting with visitors, because you will field many comments about the ride’s performance and questions about its safety. You might be responsible for hiring and training employees who operate the rides. Yet another area of responsibility is recording how many people ride a particular ride and when it is the busiest. All of this experience and knowledge can be helpful after you become a theme park manager.