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Getting a Job at Walt Disney World (Part 3 of 3)

Jack Spence Masthead


In yesterday's blog, I talked about what to expect if you move to Orlando. I realize that for many of you, this is only half of the dream. The other half is getting a job at Walt Disney World. This is fantastic! Many thousands of retirees have already done this and they couldn't be happier. But before you sign on with the Mouse, you need to understand what you're getting into " good and bad. You need to have realistic expectations. That's what today's blog is all about.

One of the first things to remember is, “You work while others play.” This means you will be scheduled nights, weekends, and holidays. So if you have fantasies of your grandkids visiting you in Orlando over Christmas vacation, think again. You will be working.

Can you stand on your feet for eight hours at a time? How do you feel about working outdoors in the heat, sun, cold, and rain? Can you put on a happy, “Disney” face when you're feeling down? Can you deal with the occasional rude guest? These are questions you need to ask yourself.

Another thing to consider, “Do you want to see the backstage areas of Walt Disney World?” Some people don't want to know how the magician accomplishes his tricks. Are you okay with seeing how the illusions of the Haunted Mansion are created? Or would this ruin the “magic” for you?

Are you okay with a job that is entirely backstage? Many people dream of interacting with guests and bringing a smile to a child's face. If you are assigned to a backstage job, you will have little to no contact with the public.

Here is a picture of me working in at Disneyland's Blue Bayou kitchen. The only contact I ever had with guests while working as a fry cook was when I walked through the park on my way to and from the job.


Backstage at the Blue Bayou


Disney has a strict grooming policy. Although it has loosened up considerably since I worked at Disneyland in the 1970's, there are still rules and regulations that must be adhered to.

Working at Disney is a real job with real challenges. Cast members work hard to make people feel the magic. Working at Disneyland for nine years was a fantastic chapter in my life. I wouldn't trade this experience for anything. I had a lot of fun. But I also worked very hard.

One of the next questions you need to ask yourself is, do you want a full or part time job. A fulltime cast member (CM) will be scheduled 32 hours or more per week. A fulltime position entitles you to medical benefits. A part time CM will be scheduled less than 32 hours per week and will not be offered medical.

In an effort to cut costs, Disney greatly reduced its fulltime workforce over the last several years. The main reason for doing so is to eliminate the cost of medical insurance. Fulltime jobs still exist, but the chance of being hired off the street into one of these positions isn't something you should count on unless you want to join housekeeping and clean rooms. This is a very difficult position to fill. Chances are good that you'll be offered a part time position.

A third category of employment is the “seasonal” position. A seasonal CM must be willing to work 150 hours per year. Many seasonal CMs will work the Flower & Garden or Food & Wine festivals at Epcot each year. But there are many other possibilities.

When you apply for a job, you can stipulate that you are not available on certain days of the week. For instance, if you have a standing doctor's appointment on Wednesdays, you can request not to be scheduled on Wednesdays. But if you stipulate you aren't available on Saturday and/or Sunday, you can pretty much kiss your chances of a job at Walt Disney World goodbye. The more availability you can give them, the better chance you have of becoming a CM.

Although some people might be hired off the street to pilot the monorail, this is the exception. Most people will need to start in a less glamorous job. I know you're saying to yourself, “But I'm an expert on all things Disney. The company would be grateful to have someone as knowledgeable as myself.” I'm sorry to inform you, you're a dime a dozen. Everyone who enters Casting tells the interviewer that they are the ultimate Disney fan. You are not unique and you will not be hired to be a tour guide because you “know everything.” If you want to work at Disney, have realistic expectations. But there is good news. Most entry level jobs only require you to stay in that position for six months. After you've completed your mandatory service, you can apply for other, more exciting jobs.

For the most part, wages are low. Don't expect to get rich working at Walt Disney World. For most retirees, a job here provides some great vacation money so you can get away from Orlando and go someplace exciting. LOL

Getting a job at Walt Disney World is not guaranteed just because you have full availability, know everything there is to know about Disney, and you have a spotless work record from your last job. Just like the rest of the world, the economy is slow in Orlando. Disney is not hiring as many cast members as they once did. And many of those who are hired are part of the College Program which brings young adults from all over the country to work here for 6 to 9 months.

So far, my comments have been a bit negative, but I want to make sure you know what you're getting into before you move here and apply for a job. Most people only see Orlando through the eyes of a tourist. This can blind you to the realities of daily life here.

So now it's time to be a little more positive… Here are some of the perks you get from working at Walt Disney World.

You get to tell all of your friends and family you're a Disney CM. Now here in Orlando, this doesn't carry a lot of “wow” factor. Walt Disney World employs 65,000 people. But back home in Kansas or Illinois, people will be impressed with your new job.

As a CM, your ID card grants you access to the four theme parks year round. You will also be given a Blue Main Entrance Pass. Although there are far too many details to go into here, the Blue Main Entrance Pass allows you to get a designated number of friends and family into the parks 6 to 18 times a year. Once you've worked for Disney 15 years (full or part time), you are given a Silver Main Entrance Pass. This allows you to get friends and family into the parks every day. (Blockout dates and other restrictions apply to both passes.)

Your Main Entrance Pass is also good at Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, and Hong Kong Disneyland for admission and discounts. It is not good at Tokyo Disneyland since this park is owned by Oriental Land Company.

Depending on the season, you receive discounted admission to Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach, and Disney Quest.

As a CM, you are given a 20% discount on most merchandise for the first three years of service. After that, you are given a 35% discount.

CM's are given a 20% discount at most full service restaurants and at the counter service restaurants at the Animal Kingdom.

You can receive Disney hotel discounts of up to 60% depending on the time of year and availability. The Disney Cruise Line also offers a range of CM discounts.

More cast discounts can be found at the Company D and Cast Connection stores. Company D sells cast exclusive merchandise like clothing and pins along with other gift type items. Cast Connection sells discontinued clothing, toys, and other items originally sold in the parks. Discounts here can range from between 25% to 75%.

Many non-Disney businesses offer discounts to CMs.

Disney publishes the “Eyes & Ears” every other Thursday. This company news magazine offers information and pictures on a wide array of Disney topics. If you like Disney trivia, this is a good periodical to read.


Eyes & Ears


You will meet a lot of really nice CMs. Most of the people who work here are just like you; they love Disney and want to be part of the magic.

You will meet a lot of really nice guests " who will think you're really special just because you're a CM. LOL

If you want to work at Disney World, the first thing to do is check out their webpage by clicking here. This will get you started. As I said earlier, the more flexible you are with your availability and job preference, the better chance you have of being hired. Good luck!

This concludes my three part look at Orlando. I hope you've enjoyed my walk through time and the information I've provided will help you make better decisions if Central Florida and Walt Disney World are your dream.



The previous post in this blog was Moving to Orlando (Part 2 of 3).

The next post in this blog is Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House - Part One.

Comments (34)

Josh:

hey Jack
Thanks for the link to the job page for Disney. I am still up in the air about moving down their but thanks to these past blogs I know what I need to know now about what it is going to take if I decide to make the move. can't wait for your next blog and as always keep up the great work.

Brittany:

Hi Jack,

Great articles! I was on the H2B program from Canada back in 2006. I started out in outdoor foods in Future World and it was an extremely hard and uncomfortable job. But was very lucky to get moved over to Test Track not long after and that was such a fun and interesting attraction to work at. But it's definitely the other CM's you meet there. I have friends from all over the World and a lot of us keep in touch often and feel we will be friends for life. :)

Brittany

Jennifer:

My husband made it to the final 2 candidates out of 4000 for a position with DVC last year. Very grueling interview process over a week. He missed out landing the job by 1/10 of a point. One thing that he didn't have going for him - he didn't live in Orlando already. They much prefer candidates who are already local to the area instead of those wishing to relocate - but this may just be the case for those who are taking a high-level/non-hourly position at WDW/DVC. Perks were great, hours not so much. You're guaranteed to work nights/weekends/holidays. And by the way, we have a friend who was one of those lucky people to land a job with the monorails immediately. They asked what he wanted to do and he got it. It's highly unlikely this will happen, but it's possible.

Regina Allen:

Thanks for a great 3-part blog. It was fascinating to learn about Orlando. Living near the Gulf Coast in Texas, humidity & hurricanes are things I can relate to!!
I've always told my husband that I want to go work at Disney and wait for him to retire!! I"m currently retired, but still working. On one of my last visits to WDW, I talked with a sales lady at one of the stores at DHS. She & her husband were both retired and from Houston. Small world, right?!? She said they came to Orlando with the intent to just stay for a few years, but it's been over 15 years and they are still here. She loved her job! It made me think, but like you said, I would probably have to start at entry level and work my way up. But between you and me, my dream job would be working the front desk at one of the resorts. How cool would that be!! Meeting folks from all over the world!
Thanks again for a great blog!

Callie:

Hey Jack,

This was a nice article! For younger folks, they should definitely look into the College Program. I was a CP last year, and it helped me to decide whether or not I want a career with the company. For me, it was very easy to get "promoted" to Seasonal after my program and it was offered quite readily to others, although I did not follow through with it due to the 150 hours required and they also expect you to work during holidays (I'm from Indiana and it's just not an option!) Several of my friends dropped college to continue to "live the dream" with minimum wage jobs at the Magic Kingdom. Unfortunately, that's the trend after the College Program. But, being a CP was an amazing experience I wouldn't trade for the world!

Mark Lyons:

Since we have moved here and now settled I have put my application in at Disney. It has been on file since the first of June and still waiting for a reply. One thing I have learned is, once you apply you cannot apply for another Disney job for 6 months or even modify your current app.

Jack's Comment:

You are 100% correct.

Wendy:

Thanks Jack! Definitely one of my favorite blog series you've done. Moving to Orlando and getting a job at WDW is certainly the dream. But sometimes I think I'd rather just live close enough, maybe within 2-3 hours, to go more often and still enjoy it as a vacation. We'll see!

Jack's Comment:

Once you move to Orlando, you can never "vacation" here again. Sure, you can rent a room at Walt Disney World for a weekend, but it's never the same as before you moved here. On the other hand, there are many perks of living close -- like being able to stop by anytime you like. It all balances out.

Leah Rollins:

You hit the nail right on the head, Jack. I was a College Program cast member who, after graduation, moved to Orlando and became a full-time cast member. Later I got a "real job" outside Disney and changed to part-time, and then seasonal status. I began by cooking burgers at Pecos Bill's, and later had the privilege of face-to-face guest service at the Boardwalk.

It is a real job, with good days and bad days, good managers and not-so-good managers, and you do work so others can play. That being said, I have fond memories of my years as a CM and I have not given up the idea of moving back down to Orlando to work at Disney again. Thanks for painting a realistic portrait of life as a Disney CM. I hope the readers who dream of this will remember - "If we can dream it, then we can do it!"

Jeff:

Hi Jack,
Thanks for writing such an informative and insightful blog. I love Disney and have often wondered what it would be like to work at WDW. I always feel that if I were to become employed there and "see behind the curtain" it would completely change my outlook. That is something I would never want to do. Having to deal with irrate / rude guests and quirks of the public take a very special kind of person.

Your article has helped to drive that point home, that there is more to Shangri-La than meets the eye.

Ellie :

Hello Jack,

My name is Ellie. I am a 15 year old girl going on 16 living in the U.K.

This blog caught my eye, as it is titled "Getting a job at Walt Disney World." Because since I was younger I've always dreamt on moving and living out in the states. I previously visited the states 4 times (2003 2005 2008 2010), and I've just be blown away on what they offer, and the theme parks are just amazing.

I was reading through this blog and you mentioned about getting a job in Orlando Florida, and what it takes to move there. When I was younger I have always been interested in the animal welfare and when I first visited Orlando me and my mum and dad went to Animal Kingdom, and I was just blown away with the animals there! Since then that's when I made up my mind to work round the Animals and working with them especially in Florida.

I've only got a year left at school and I want to know what I really need to do to be able to do this, because at the moment I have no idea, and hoping you can advise or pass on details to assist me. All I know is that I really want to work with animals.

All my grades at school are C-B including English and Maths.

I was just wanting to know if you have any strong advice that could help me, or get me in touch with people that could also help me if you can think of anything, your response and advise would be greatly received with thanks.

Look forward from hearing from you, if you have any information please forward to the email included;


Thank you
Ellie


Jack's Answer:

Here is my advice to you. GO TO COLLEGE and take courses related to working with animals. If you don't think you have what it takes to be a veterinarian, then how about a veterinarian assistant. And I'm sure there are many other animal related fields I'm not aware of.

Let me explain what would happen to you if you applied for a job at Walt Disney World with only a high school degree. You may or may not be hired into the Animal Kingdom. In all probability, NOT. But if you did get a job at the Animal Kingdom, the vast majority of cast members do not work with animals. And those that do, rarely get to interact with them. The cast members who drive the safari vehicles never get near the animals up close -- not really. The only cast members that really get to be near the animals are those working backstage. And one of their duties is the clean up after them. In other words, they are shoveling manure -- at low wages. Unless you have a college degree, you will never get to really interact with the animals. Over time, you might be able to work your way up into a management position without a college degree, but in all probability, you will be supervising other CMs -- still not working with animals.

If you have a viable skill in regards to animals, then Disney might consider hiring you into a decent position. But without a real skill, it just isn't going to happen.

I know this is not what you want to hear, but it's the truth. Please, listen to me and your parents. STAY IN SCHOOL.

Best wishes with your future,

Thanks for the great series Jack!

I think I would rather retire there and buy an annual pass, but not actually WORK there. I go to the world to play, not work! :D

Dan

Jim:

Great 3 part blog I was extremely interested in the Working at Disney part as I have often thought how I would love to work in the Landscaping division particularly the Floral decorating and planting. But until I retire I seriously dont think I could make enough to survive right now. I am always fascinated by how meticulous the plantings look and I can tell they are very quick to replace damaged or dying plants. Must be a huge greenhouse for back up. Is it unheard of at Disney to get hired on at a higher than entry level like a mid to upper management type or are all the promotions from within and strickly a work your way up environment?

Jack's Answer:

Disney has always had a "promote from within" philosophy. The reason? They want to make sure that management "gets" what Disney is all about. They don't want a fresh "know it all" tampering with what works. That being said, there are always exceptions to every rule. If Disney has a special need and they can't fill it internally, then they look outside the company.

Entry level management jobs are often filled from the outside. Usually, this is a recent college grad that Disney can mold in their image.

Neil Norlund:

Jack,

As usual another insightful blog. Thanks for the three-part reality check. As you said, there's more to the "magic" than the pixie dust that guests see. Rather than discouraging folks, I'm sure that your information will prepare the determined for the realities of working in the wonderful world of hospitality and leisure. And for the unsure reader, perhaps keeping the magic the way it is and not trying to work for WDW is the best course. Either way, I hope readers will heed the good advice you give, regardless of their final decision. Now, where's the best place to live, again? (Just kidding--I did read part 2.)

Neil

Paul:

Hi Jack,

i'm curious if Disney offers "workamping", or if they have in the past. workamping or work camping for those not familiar is working in exchange for a free camp site. i plan on living full time in an RV when i retire and travel the country. i would be interested in seasonal work at Disney. any information you have would be appreciated.

Jack's Answer:

I'm 99.9% sure Disney does not offer workamping. I have never heard of such a program at WDW. Such a program would open Disney up to all sorts of lawsuits if the workamper got hurt or caused injury to someone else. Not to mention, the Disney CMs are union workers and this would cause additional problems.

Adam August:

Re: Ellie's post above, Santa Fe College (Gainesville) has a zookeeper education program that's placed many grads at Animal Kingdom.

Wendy Crober:

Fantastic blog as always Jack!

It still hasn't taken away the dream but alas I will always be a vacationer I think.

I look forward to your next blog.

Wendy

Reagan:

Jack,
What an interesting series! I especially liked Part 2 because I have thought about retiring near WDW. Unfortunately, that will be many years from now, and when I do retire I won't want to work but just play at WDW! Keep up the good work!

Jeff:

Hi Jack - Part 3 sure is an eye opener - lots to ponder, though we still plan on moving to Orlando a few years down the road. The resume will be in the laptop - available if I decide to try to test the waters seasonally when we are there next month. Maybe visiting frequently to work on improving my camera skills is a better idea. Time will tell.

Thanks for a great series (and all the rest of your wonderful blogs and videos)!

- Jeff

Jacki:

Hi Jack!

Great blog entry as always! Thank you for highlighting the difficulties of being a cast member. I do have to say that saying "the occasional rude guest" is definitely looking on the bright side, depending on where you work of course.

However, I do have to concede that it is still an amazing experience. I always tell people that my college program was the hardest I've ever worked, the most I've ever sweat, and the most sore I've even been in my life (and I had a pretty easy job). Yet, I would do it again in a heart beat. I've never had more fun or met more amazing people in my life. I would go back (and plan to go back) in a heartbeat.

To add to an earlier commenter, I agree with Jack, stay in school!! For most management positions, you must have a degree. As everyone told me, the resort will always be there, but school will not always be. Once you finish school, the resort will be there. Don't worry!!

Dave:

Hey Jack,
This has been a terrific group of articles about an area that we thoroughly enjoy.
Keep up the great work.

Lisa:

Awesome triogy of articles, Jack. I always appreciate your insights and frankness when it comes to my favorite playground. Cheers!

Lisa

Sarah:

“Do you want to see the backstage areas of Walt Disney World?”

Jack, I think this is an important thing to think about and something most potential CMs don't give a second though to.

When I was a CM at the Magic Kingdom one of the first things I saw in the utilidors was something that kind of bummed me out (I don't want to get specific). It wasn't bad, it was just backstage reality, but it took away some of the magic for me at that moment. It made me remember that even though I was working in a magical place, it was still a business and work had to be done. It was a very different perspective than going to WDW as a guest. That's why I worry about people that take the tours backstage. While seeing the utilidors can be cool, seeing the "work" can take away some of their magic too.

I don't regret my time as a CM. As you have stated it is an incredible experience and it's definitely a conversation starter when people find out I have worked there. I also think it has impressed employers on interviews. But it's something that should be considered when thinking about becoming a CM.

Thanks for the great article!
Sarah

Julie:

Thanks for the 3-part blog series Jack! I'm moving to Orlando and starting the DCP in less than 3 weeks and I can't wait! I loved reading your insight on living in Florida (yikes the humidity, but oh well!) and working at WDW. Like so many others, it's been my dream to work there for as long as I can remember, and your articles made me even more excited. As a recent college grad, I'm looking forward to finally being a CM as I've always dreamed of!

This is creepy! My fiance and i were in celebration and at disney for dinner on saturday and talked about living in orlando and working at disney or retiring there. We live in tampa and dream about it all the time. :)

ClareC.:

Jack,

Great series! Being a CM was always on my list of dream jobs I wanted to try. I don't know if being a CM will ever happen for me but at least now I have unbiased information on what it's really like.

LA:

In regards to Ellie working with animals, my son-in-law is a zoologist and spoke with one last time we went to Animal Kingdom. She said that like most accredited AZA zoos, zoology positions are extraordinarily hard to find. There are a ton of qualified candidates and very, precious few positions. That being said, AK is even tougher because it has a super high "cool factor". These jobs are not "promote from within" because they require at least a masters degree in zoology, most have PhDs and a LOT of experience at other zoos. They are the only ones who really handle or work with the animals. When the zoologist we talked to gave us a list of her credentials it was jaw-droppingly amazing. She said there were more than 20 interviewees with the same skills. She joked that AK is where outstanding zoologists go to retire. Her advice to my son-in-law was to work about 20 years in the best zoos he could find before thinking about Disney.

Heather :

Thanks for the info Jack! I really appreciate it as someone who is new to the Orlando community!

Jenny Sperandeo:

Hi Jack! What a GREAT series. I really enjoyed it.
My family and my husband's family all live in Florida (St Pete, Clearwater and West Palm). We are the only ones in Illinois, so we go down to visit family often and visit our beloved WDW.
I loved all the Orlando history you provided, and think it would be awesome to work for Disney in some capacity. I was actually granted an interview at one point a year ago. But, unfortunately, had to turn it down. I often wonder where it would have led to...

Sharon Record:

Hello Jack,

I USED to think I would like to live in Florida. I currently live in Maine, about 15 miles outside of Portland. We have all climates throughout the year, but the one I enjoy the least...the hot, humid days during the summer! A friend who grew up in Florida described to me some of the pitfalls of life in the sunshine state. Like you, painting a realistic view rather than the one we see when we are on a Disney vacation, and it changed my mind. If I had the meens to purchase in the Golden Oak neighborhood, well that's a different story,(playing the lottery like everyone else). Living within the magic, central air, a pool, and all the perks would change my mind!
As far as working for the Mouse...on Christmas day in 1991 I was forced to go behind the scenes of Main Street. Because of the HUGE crowds waiting for the candlelight procession, we were escorted,(gulp), behind the right side of Main Street! I WAS MORTIFIED, and held onto my sister so I could close my eyes,(I did peek for a split second, and it wasn't a good thing)! So needless to say I wouldn't be a good candidate for employment,LOL!

Ruth Woodhouse:

Hello Jack
Lovely to meet you at the AllEars Meet and Greet today - what a lovely gentleman you are. Thank you for chatting to us about the prospects of our daughters coming out from UK to work over their summer school vacation period. We had a great time this morning meeting the AllEars team and looking around the Art of Imagination. We are always impressed with Disney's fine attention to detail. We were also impressed with the level of Anthony's (the man who showed us around)knowledge. I am a Disney fan but don't profess to be anywhere near the most knowledgeable but I do know much more than I did just from reading your blogs.
Thank you so much
Ruth (in the purple hat) and Brian

Cindy:

I loved all three blogs. Having spent the first 21 years of my life growing up in Orlando, I thought I knew just about everything about the city. You proved me wrong. The early history was neat to read and learn.

Wishing there was an Allears meet and greet in September when we're at WDW!

Gabriella L:

Hi Jack,

Thanks so much for this series! It has come at the perfect time for me. I'm a student from Australia who is looking into the Disney International program and your honest account of working as a CM was much needed. I asked myself all the hard questions and I think that if I were offered the opportunity to work at WDW, even in a backstage role, I would have to grab it with both hands!!!

Thank you for all the dedication that you put in your blogs. I really appreciate it!!

Gabriella.

Craig:

One benefit of working at Disney that you didn't mention -- it's a great dating service! Having worked at Disney for a long time, I know many couples who met while working at Disney. In fact, I'm half of one such couple! Of course, this is probably more of a benefit for the younger set.

Jennifer:

This was my retirement dream until this past summer. We experienced Orlando and surrounding areas out of the Disney zone and it just wasn't the same! :( We made a vow then that anytime we come to Orlando it will only be pure Disney Magic from the airport to the resorts! Therefore my retirement plan will only be to visit WDW and not work there! :)

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on July 25, 2012 9:56 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Moving to Orlando (Part 2 of 3).

The next post in this blog is Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House - Part One.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.