Working at the Parks: The Backdoor to the Industry

You'd be hard-pressed to find an employee in the entertainment industry that has remained untouched by Disney magic. They may have been inspired by the stories growing up, visited the theme parks, or even worked in the Parks at one time or another. This is especially true when you walk into any Disney-owned entertainment conglomerate like ABC, ABC Family, Disney Channel, Marvel, and even ESPN. Obviously, there is some kind of correlation. Disney is a company known for hiring its own, however Disney jobs really do look great on any entertainment resume. There is a sense of fascination that these jobs and internships inspire that are virtually unmatched by any other job with a similar pay scale (retail, waiter, etc.). 

Now, how do you go about getting these widely competitive jobs on your resume? 

1. The Disney College Program

Everyone always asks me to write about the Disney College Program. I haven't for a number of reasons, namely I have no applied and it isn't a "Professional Internship." However, it is a great way to take off a semester from school and discover new friends, get work experience, and have a whole lot of Disney in your life.

Overview: You will be working full-time in the many positions at Disney World Resort or Disneyland. The pay is often around minimum wage and you will be working in Attractions, Character Attendant (Disney World only), Food Service, Hotels, Costumes, Custodial, Lifeguarding, Retail, Character Performer (audition required), etc. Although you can request one, you will find out what and where you will be working the first day. You also take classes through Disney University like Human Resource Management and Hospitality Advanced Studies. Some of these classes are even all about Disney. However, you HAVE TO check with your school to see if you will get credit for these classes. For one, Chapman University does not allow credit. You also live in Disney College Program housing. #dormlyfe

The Application Process:

First, when do you apply:

Walt Disney World: 

  • Students should apply/interview late August – late October
  • Program begins mid/late January and ends in early/mid May
Spring Advantage
  • Students should apply/interview late August –late October
  • Program begins late January/early February and ends in early/mid August
  • Students should apply/interview February – late March
  • Program begins mid/late August and ends in early January
Fall Advantage
  • Students should apply/interview February – late March
  • Program begins late May/early June and ends in early January
There are also specialized program time frames for students who attend schools that follow a quarter or trimester academic calendar.
There is not a summer-only program session for first-time participants.

Disneyland Resort

  • Students should apply/interview late August – late October
  • Program begins mid January/early February and ends in mid August
  • Due to extremely limited number of positions, applicants for this session are restricted to Disney College Program Alumni who meet certain criteria.
  • Eligible Disney College Program Alumni will be contacted via email with specific details about this opportunity approximately in early February.  Alumni are encouraged to opt-in to receive information as it becomes available.
  • Opportunity begins in May and ends in August.
  • Students should apply/interview February – late March
  • Applicants for the session spanning May – January must be able to provide their own housing accommodations in the Disneyland Resort area.  This session does not offer housing.
  • Students should apply/interview February – late March
  • Applicants for the session spanning August – January must reside in the provided housing.

You do not need to supply a resume and this is many of the applicant's first internship or job. That being said, try to express interest in your top 3 roles as if you don't you may be stuck with one you didn't want. You also have to live in expensive housing and your courses may not transfer- please take this into consideration. The application process is intense: a survey online and two phone interviews. 

That being said, this can be a great stepping stone to an entertainment internship or job - especially with the Walt Disney Company/ Disney ABC TV Group Professional internships. If this sounds like something you will be interested in, please apply during the above dates. More information and the application can be found on 

2. Part Time or Seasonal Disneyland/Disney World

If you live in Southern California or Florida, getting a job at the Parks can be an amazing stepping stool into the company. Many Disney employees at corporate and ABC have worked in the parks! It's a great thing to talk about in an interview and get you noticed.

How to Get a Job:

1. Figure out what you are applying for. 

Seasonal: You must have full availability during Holiday periods. These periods are June-August, Thanksgiving, and Christmas and New Year's weeks. The downside: You have limited hours the rest of the year. You also have 5 days of corporate training (called "Traditions"). The upside: If you are looking for a summer job, you can't go wrong. However, there is a limited number of positions free.

Casual Regular P/T: This is the part-time position. You must be free during Holiday periods and during the year on Friday Night, Saturday, and Sunday. The downside: Hard life/work balance. The hours are dictated by the union seniority (+ union dues). Training schedules are unflexible. The upside: After a couple months you can cross-train on another ride or transfer to another position (i.e. tour guide, character attendant, etc.).

Regular: This is full-time. You must have full availability.

2. Choose Your Role

Most people start out in one of five roles.

1. Attractions: You are controlling the rides, greeting guests, setting up the parade routes/shows (World of Color, etc.), and keeping the magic alive.

2. Merchandise: You are working in retail. Unless you are places in Downtown Disney or Main Street, you often rotate around to different stores/pin-trading areas.

3. Food Service: You are cooking, ringing up guests, and working in the many restaurants and stands in the parks or Downtown Disney.

4. Entertainment: You are a Character Attendant, a costumer, or even a character (audition required).

5. Custodial: Pretty self explanatory.

Other roles include Photo Pass Photographer, Greeter, Tickets, or Parking Lot. However, these are less common.

3. Application Process

I'm not going to lie to you, the application process is long and it widely varies. Some people can apply and not hear back for an online interview for 8 months. Others can hear back in 2 weeks. However, I'm going to breakdown the entire process for you. 

1. You apply on You have the highest chance of getting an interview if you apply the DAY the position is posted. These positions are very competitive and see a huge number of applications. I would recommend checking every day. Keeping in mind they post a position in March to hire for Summer (May). You will also see a post in October to hire for the Holiday Season. It is very similar to entertainment internship scheduling, but with higher stakes. 

2. Days or Weeks or Months goes by and you hear back for an online interview. It is an interview testing your customer service skills and moral aptitude. The best advice I can give you is just to be consistent. They will ask you pretty much the same question multiple times in different ways. Also answer the same way as you did the first time. 

3. If you pass, you will immediately be asked to schedule an in-person interview online. 

4. The day of your interview, you must arrive about 20 mins ahead of time at the Disney Casting Center. You will get the name of your interviewer and asked to take a seat. When they are done interviewing another applicant, the interviewer will lead you inside their office. First off, they will ask why you want to work at Disney. Then they will ask you a series of questions pertaining to your work experience and the role you applied for. 

For attractions, they will ask you where you would like to work. Don't be afraid to say your favorite land, park, or attraction! They will also ask if you are afraid of heights and can swim. 

You must be in Disney look. This means no crazy hair color, neat natural colored fingers, no piecings, and covered tattoos. You must dress in business wear. If you do not do so, you WILL NOT get the job and will have to wait 6 months to reapply. 

5. At the end of the interview, they will tell you that you did not get the job OR give you a blue sheet of paper that indicates you are on the waitlist OR give you a yellow sheet of paper that indicated you got the job now. 

If you are on the waitlist, you will be called in about a month or longer if positions become available. They will email before they call. If you do not answer this call, you will likely not be hired. 

If you got the job, you will be sent to fill out a drug test authorization form. You will then have to take a drug test in 48 hours at a specified clinic. You will also schedule an on-boarding appointment and fill out paperwork online. At the appointment you will finish filling out paperwork and get the picture for your ID taken. You will then get the schedule for your three corporate training seminars ("Traditions")! 

Congrats, you're a Disney employee now. 

3. Disney Professional Internship Program

We've been over this...many times. :) 

Working at the Parks: The Backdoor to the Industry Working at the Parks: The Backdoor to the Industry Reviewed by Unknown on 4/29/2015 Rating: 5

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