Civil Engineer: Roller Coaster Designer

Education and Training

  • Most jobs in the field require a bachelor’s degree in engineering.
  • It is helpful to get a strong science and math background in high school.
  • Roller coaster designers need computer modeling skills.
  • It can be important to have a marketing and sales background, along with good communication skills and ability to work within a team.

Earnings

Median annual wages for civil engineers are $74,600, or about $36 per hour.

Job Prospects

  • While job prospects for civil/structural engineers are very strong, roller coaster design jobs are extremely scarce.
  • Candidates who demonstrate early interest and enthusiasm (learning about the field and getting to know people in the field) are likely to have an edge in the market.
  • Internships are valuable.

Job Duties

  • Working with team members and client to create preliminary computer models of coasters
  • Visiting site to help finalize blueprints and scale model
  • Staying on site to oversee construction and make on-the-fly adjustments to coasters
  • Being present prior to opening rides to do final testing, resolve problems, and answer technical questions.

Working Conditions

  • Much of work time is spent in an office working on a computer.
  • Workers may have to travel to work sites during development and construction.
  • Examining construction details and helping to test a new coaster may be physically demanding and even dangerous.

Jeff Pike, Roller Coaster Designer

Courtesy of Jeff Pike

Jeff Pike has always loved roller coasters. “I grew up around amusement parks in Cincinnati,” he says. “When I was in third grade, my dad told me roller coasters were designed by engineers. From that moment, I wanted to become an engineer.”

He worked toward this dream energetically, reading books and articles about coasters. He researched roller coaster companies, wrote letters to them, and got some responses.

During high school, he joined a national club called American Coaster Enthusiasts. Members met at parks, rode coasters, and brought in speakers. “I attended the meetings from the fifth grade up,” Jeff says.

In high school and college, he wrote more letters, attended trade shows, and introduced himself to people there. He got an internship in California with a company that made big steel coasters. People in the field got to know him.

Five months before Jeff finished his engineering degree, a wooden coaster company called him with a job offer. He was able to accept the job and finish his degree, too, by taking some courses near his work and on the Internet. Today, he is Vice President for Sales and Design for the same company, Great Coasters International.

A Favorite Project

“We built a coaster in Finland,” he says, “the northernmost coaster in the world. The buyer was a Finn who was a self-made billionaire. He wanted to be involved in every step of the process and even came to the job site wearing a tool belt. Together, we made a great coaster.”

To see the coaster, go to http://www.greatcoasters.com/?p=projects&id=9 and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6zIDqH_1CI.

Roller Coaster Careers

“If you want to design roller coasters,” Jeff advises, “do what I did.” Be persistent in learning about the field and meeting people. Study math and science.

Jeff also invites you to visit Great Coasters International. “I’m looking for kids with desire and fire,” he says.




Civil Engineer: Roller Coaster Designer

Education and Training

  • Most jobs in the field require a bachelor’s degree in engineering.
  • It is helpful to get a strong science and math background in high school.
  • Roller coaster designers need computer modeling skills.
  • It can be important to have a marketing and sales background, along with good communication skills and ability to work within a team.

Earnings

Median annual wages for civil engineers are $74,600, or about $36 per hour.

Job Prospects

  • While job prospects for civil/structural engineers are very strong, roller coaster design jobs are extremely scarce.
  • Candidates who demonstrate early interest and enthusiasm (learning about the field and getting to know people in the field) are likely to have an edge in the market.
  • Internships are valuable.

Job Duties

  • Working with team members and client to create preliminary computer models of coasters
  • Visiting site to help finalize blueprints and scale model
  • Staying on site to oversee construction and make on-the-fly adjustments to coasters
  • Being present prior to opening rides to do final testing, resolve problems, and answer technical questions.

Working Conditions

  • Much of work time is spent in an office working on a computer.
  • Workers may have to travel to work sites during development and construction.
  • Examining construction details and helping to test a new coaster may be physically demanding and even dangerous.

Jeff Pike, Roller Coaster Designer

Courtesy of Jeff Pike

Jeff Pike has always loved roller coasters. “I grew up around amusement parks in Cincinnati,” he says. “When I was in third grade, my dad told me roller coasters were designed by engineers. From that moment, I wanted to become an engineer.”

He worked toward this dream energetically, reading books and articles about coasters. He researched roller coaster companies, wrote letters to them, and got some responses.

During high school, he joined a national club called American Coaster Enthusiasts. Members met at parks, rode coasters, and brought in speakers. “I attended the meetings from the fifth grade up,” Jeff says.

In high school and college, he wrote more letters, attended trade shows, and introduced himself to people there. He got an internship in California with a company that made big steel coasters. People in the field got to know him.

Five months before Jeff finished his engineering degree, a wooden coaster company called him with a job offer. He was able to accept the job and finish his degree, too, by taking some courses near his work and on the Internet. Today, he is Vice President for Sales and Design for the same company, Great Coasters International.

A Favorite Project

“We built a coaster in Finland,” he says, “the northernmost coaster in the world. The buyer was a Finn who was a self-made billionaire. He wanted to be involved in every step of the process and even came to the job site wearing a tool belt. Together, we made a great coaster.”

To see the coaster, go to http://www.greatcoasters.com/?p=projects&id=9 and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6zIDqH_1CI.

Roller Coaster Careers

“If you want to design roller coasters,” Jeff advises, “do what I did.” Be persistent in learning about the field and meeting people. Study math and science.

Jeff also invites you to visit Great Coasters International. “I’m looking for kids with desire and fire,” he says.

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