Roller coaster designers create plans for roller coasters at theme parks. Their designs become models and eventually full-scale rides. Roller coaster designers are typically mechanical engineers or they have backgrounds in mechanical engineering. A strong education in mathematics and physics is required to be a roller coaster designer. Salaries for roller coaster designers vary by education and experience, among other varying factors.
Basic Salary Information
According to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for mechanical engineers, which includes roller coaster designers, was $78,160 in 2010. The lowest-paid 10 percent of mechanical engineers earned less than $50,550, while the highest-paid 10 percent earned more than $119,480. The middle 50 percent of mechanical engineers earned between $62,360 and $98,150.
The Salary Expert website records salary ranges for roller coaster designers as essentially the same as those for mechanical engineers. According to the Salary Expert website, roller coaster designer salaries vary by location. For example, roller coaster engineers in Houston had the highest reported average salary of $85,576, as of July 2011, while those in Miami earned $56,857 on average, the lowest average salary by location reported by the Salary Expert website. Roller coaster designers in Chicago earned $62,987; those in Los Angeles earned $74,132; and those in New York City earned $72,782.
Some roller coaster designers, and mechanical engineers in general, are paid by the hour as opposed to being paid set salaries. According to the BLS, the median hourly rate for mechanical engineers in 2010 was $37.58. The lowest-paid 10 percent earned less than $24.30 an hour, while the highest-paid 10 percent earned more than $57.44 an hour. The middle 50 percent of mechanical engineers paid by the hour earned an hourly rate between $29.98 and $47.19.
The job outlook for mechanical engineers in general is average, according to the BLS. Job opportunities are projected to grow 6 percent between through 2018, which is less than the projected 11 percent growth rate for engineering jobs in general. Roller coaster designers need to stay current on the latest design software and technology. Those with the highest level of education and experience, as well as those who continue their education through classes or seminars, will have the most job prospects.