8 high-paying, nontraditional degrees

College Finance » 8 High-paying, Nontraditional Degrees

Theme park engineering
Theme park engineering © Jessica Bethke/

Petroleum, chemical and computer engineers are known for being well-compensated, but so are the engineers who create death-defying thrills. The theme park engineering degree program at California State University, Long Beach prepares students to design rides and attractions, while the entertainment engineering and design degree at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas focuses more broadly on preparing students to "work in the design, production, installation, and operation of entertainment devices, systems, and venues."

Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services Inc., a global consulting firm that focuses on the leisure attractions industry, says future ride designers won't necessarily need a theme park engineering degree to break into the field. They will need a solid foundation of math, physics, geometry, and structural and electrical engineering.

A background in amusement parks helps, he adds. "We always recommend to young people that they look in the markets in which they live for a theme park ... where they can get some basic training operating rides and attractions and get a basic understanding of how a theme park works," he says.

Though no formal salary studies of theme park engineers exist, Speigel estimates entry-level jobs start around $50,000 and mid-career salaries hover between $70,000 and $80,000.


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