Roller Coaster Engineer: Job Description and Education Requirements

Roller coaster engineers are designers responsible for many aspects of the ride's functions and construction. Typically, a degree in mechanical, structural or electronic engineering provides training in the foundational sciences of designing and building a roller coaster or other amusement park ride. Engineers in this position require licensure, though specific requirements vary by state.

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Roller Coaster Engineer Job Description

Engineers work with a design team in a variety of tasks concerning the construction of roller coasters. The main duties involve deciding what type of roller coaster to use, determining how to place the track, developing the controls systems and verifying that the ride is safe for the public. Generally, engineers try to make rides exciting by including special arrangements that enhance some element of the ride. Loops in the track, embankments and the use of natural scenery are some examples that may add to the thrill of a roller coaster.

To accomplish these endeavors, roller coaster design teams are comprised of engineering and drafting professionals who are responsible for all facets of the ride development process, including structure, electronics and layout. Design teams are sometimes limited by predetermined conditions, such as park size or budget.

Safety is a major concern for a roller coaster engineering design team. Engineers are often required to test rides many times to make sure they meet the right speeds, weights and forces set forth in the design. For example, engineers working on a roller coaster that launches the cars out of the station need to make sure that the launch speed is within a certain range so that the train achieves speeds high enough to mount track hills, but not cause rider whiplash.

Mechanical engineers, including roller coaster engineers, earn a median annual income of $80,580 as of May 2012 and are expected to see five percent job growth during the 2012-2022 decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). For roller coaster engineers, the job outlook will naturally depend on the amount of new and renovated roller coasters at amusement parks and the financial success of the park in general.

Education Requirements for Roller Coaster Engineers

No specific major exists in roller coaster engineering, though a design team is typically made up of structural, electrical and mechanical engineers. Many universities offer bachelor's degree engineering programs in these disciplines. Students interested in designing roller coasters should consider including additional physics, mathematics and drafting courses to their curricula.

According to the College Foundation of North Carolina, securing a job on a roller coaster design team is competitive (www.nfnc.org). For this reason, earning a graduate degree in engineering might offer engineers an advantage over other applicants. Master's degree programs provide advanced studies in relevant topics for the profession, such as heat transfer, system dynamics and fluid mechanics.

Licensure Requirements

Roller coaster engineers need to obtain state licensure. Graduation from a state-approved bachelor's degree program typically qualifies engineers to begin the path to becoming licensed. New engineers take an entry-level licensure test that allows them to work under the supervision of a fully licensed engineer. With at least four years' experience in the field, a final professional test completes the licensing process. While only one engineer on a roller coaster design team is necessary to supervise all other engineering team members, full licensure might help in obtaining employment in the field.

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