I get many letters and e-mails from people asking for advice on how they can make a career as a designer of theme park attractions, but I'm afraid I cannot reply to these so the following is the best advice I can give.
Most are from enthusiasts, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with pursuing a career in something you thoroughly enjoy. But often an intense enthusiasm for a subject gives one a false perspective of the true nature of the industry behind it. Firstly, I must stress that I do not actually DESIGN rides myself. I come up with basic ideas for the concept, and it is then over to others (architects, civil engineers, structural & mechanical engineers, etc. etc.) to actually create a ride which is safe, reliable, and operationally practical.
Designing rides is a serious business which requires much restraint, dedication and self-discipline. It IS fun and exciting work, but most of your time is spent doing calculations, preparing budgets, solving problems and attending planning meetings. The designs of amazing terror machines which I get sent may seem wonderful in the fantasy-world of the enthusiast, but frequently ignore the realities of:
Local planning restrictions
As with almost all industries, there are many different avenues along which you can proceed - design and development, operations, marketing, finance etc. etc. There are three main ways of approach here - (a) technical, (b) artistic or (c) commercial (operations). Let's consider each of these in turn:-
For this approach you would need an engineering degree, and then get a job with one of the main ride manufacturers (of which there are few in Britain) or one of the specialist consulting engineers. Jobs are few and far between. Information on the latest developments in the theme park industry are carried in the monthly magazine PARK WORLD. All the major ride manufacturers advertise in this publication, so you will get addresses from this to write to them for information on their products. Alternatively, your degree could get you a job in the maintenance department of one of the theme parks, and from there you could move across to design.
You would need experience in either stage, TV or film design, and then come to work in the art department in one of the theme parks as a designer or model maker.
This is perhaps the most direct way of getting a "foot in the door". You would probably start working in a theme park as a ride operator on a seasonal basis, then progress to a fulltime supervisory role within ride operations. From there you could move across to design and development having had a thorough practical background and understanding of the types of rides you would be designing.
The finest way to prove to a prospective theme park employer that you really do have an understanding of the theme park industry in which you want to forge a fulltime career is to get a job in a theme park in your school or college holidays. Learn all you can about the business. Join the two roller coaster societies in Britain and go on their trips
I hope you find this information useful, and wish you every success in the future.
Please note: The above advice is the best I can give, and I'm afraid I can't enter into any correspondence on this (so PLEASE don't e-mail me). Neither can I offer work experience placements (which you should discuss with your local theme park management).