Becoming a Disney Parks Intern
Whether you choose an airborne elephant, a magic carpet or the control center of a space shuttle hurdling towards Mars, there are many ways to make dreams take flight at the Walt Disney World Resort, especially as an employee (also known as cast member.)
Each year, thousands of students from across the country interview to become a part of the magic as an intern with the Walt Disney World and Disneyland College Programs and the Disney Career Start Program, exclusively for high school graduates.
By today’s standards, the decision to become an intern for the Walt Disney World Resort is a lot like running away and joining the circus; while working to meet Walt’s magical vision can be a tedious task, cast members find it hard not to be swept up in the excitement and the enchantment of Disney.
Who is Eligible to Become an Intern?
Students who have graduated high school within 48 months of submitting an application are eligible to become an intern under the Disney Career Start Program. College Students currently enrolled and who have obtained the age of 18 years are eligible for entry in the Disney College Program. Both programs serve the Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida and Disneyland, in Anaheim, California.
The Roles of an Intern
As an intern at one of the Disney theme parks, students are engaged in a five-to-eight month long internship program that will help interns build transferable skills and leadership qualities sought in nearly every industry.
Earning at Disney
While this might be a semester away from campus, Disney interns do more than earn their keep around the parks-they earn quality skills and experiences that help them shine with prospective employers down the road. Interns participate in a paid internship, with roles available in park operations, entertainment, merchandising, food and beverage, hospitality, custodial and lifeguarding (seasonal only). These roles will be selected by Disney recruiters if you are selected to join the program.
Learning at Disney.
In addition to working with some of the best management leaders in the industry, interns also have the opportunity to learn from their successes in a number of courses available from Disney University. These courses can be taken for college credit with approval from your school and may be mandatory, dependant on your program. Mentorships and networking events may also be available to help interns learn more from company leaders.
Living at Disney.
College and Career Start interns live within Walt Disney-owned apartment complexes while participating in the program. Interns will share housing with up to five other interns, in addition to such amenities as resort-style swimming and spa facilities, gyms, clubhouses, sports fields and easy access to area attractions. Transportation is also provided around Disney property and to hot spots throughout the region.
What Can Interns Really Expect?
At the beginning of the application period, students must attend a mandatory presentation and interview at their local high school or college. An online presentation and telephone interview process also provides students at a considerable distance from where the Disney recruiters will visit with the opportunity to view the presentation materials at home.
While the Disney recruiters are honest about their portrayal of the Disney intern programs, they and their entertainment-rich presentation will not tell you:
- Interns Work Many Hours. I hope you didn’t expect this to be a breeze. Interns are required to work 30 to 40 hours a week, typically, in front of thousands of people each day. Conditions can include inclement weather and intense hot or cold environments. Weekends and holidays are especially busy and most interns should expect to work these days.
- Your Roommates Might Be Slobs. But, then again, they might not. Many interns walk away from this experience with friends for life. If your worst case scenario comes true, apartment management can help arrange your move, at cost.
- Transportation Has Limits. In addition to the occasional standing-room only situations (especially when night shift departs for the apartment complexes), the bus transportation provided for Disney interns has a short list of stops on their routes. Interns are invited to bring their vehicles with them and this remains a highly viable option for students who wish to explore these tourist destinations to the fullest.