Can You Be a Roller Coaster Tester?

By Eric Hammer

Depending on your definition of the term "roller coaster tester," you are very likely to be disappointed right now. If your definition of the term is someone who gets to ride in experimental roller coasters to see if they are safe, sorry to tell you, the companies that build and operate roller coasters wouldn't be dumb enough to take chances with live human beings for roller coaster testers. All roller coasters built today are tested first in a computer simulation, then in a scale model and finally with crash dummies loaded with sensors to make sure they are safe.

Putting a human being in there to be a roller coaster tester, no matter how many times you sign your name to a form that says you grant them indemnity if you get killed or injured on the ride would be just plain stupid. The park and manufacturer would be opening themselves up to litigation. Not to mention that crash test dummies with sensors can give them much more information than you could.

Now, if by roller coaster tester you mean the handful of people who get to ride the coaster first, in a kind preview, it's possible to do that. You simply have to contact the parks where they are being built and ask to be put on a list. However, this is not a job and you will not get a dime for your trouble. The parks have more than enough volunteers willing to come in for free and often, they don't bother with this at all. If they do it, it's because they want to generate some excitement by creating a news story.

Now that we've disappointed you, here's what you can do as a roller coaster tester: you can inspect the rides to make sure they are fully safe. Typically, the operator will do this and then an inspector from the park and or the state where the roller coaster operates will come in to check and make sure (though these people inspect all the rides, not just the coasters).

You may also be able to get a job designing roller coasters for the companies that build them. This is also a kind of "roller coaster tester," because you'll be checking the computer designs to make sure they are working correctly.

How Much Can You Make?

As previously noted, a roller coaster tester in the sense that most people think of one simply doesn't exist as a job. However, if you want to test roller coasters as an engineer on the design team, the salary ranges from around $65,000-$85,000 per year according to Salary Expert.

If you want to be a roller coaster tester in the sense of being an inspector (which generally means inspecting all the rides in a park, not just the coasters), the salary ranges from around $30,000-$40,000 per year.

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Keep in mind that there are relatively few companies in the entire world that design roller coasters. Therefore, becoming a roller coaster designer in order to test the rides is extremely difficult. There are also no formal schools for this. Instead, you would go to engineering school and then learn on the job.

If all you want to do is ride the roller coasters all day, you can try to get on lists to be first to ride at new coasters, however this, as we said is not a job and will not pay anything.

Editor's Note: One reader has suggested a possible business venture that essentially makes you a paid roller coaster tester. The idea is to ride coasters all across the country and rate them for various factors (comfort, thrill level, uniqueness, desire to tell others about it) and create a report that is then sold to amusement parks and ride makers. Interviews and surveys of other riders would add additional value if you try this.

Qualifications / Requirements

You'll need a degree in engineering in order to build roller coasters. Inspectors for amusement parks, who work as, among other things, roller coaster testers need to have at least a college degree, preferably also in engineering in order to be able to evaluate the safety of the rides.

First Steps

Start by going to engineering school. Then, contact manufacturers of roller coasters (there is a list below) to ask about jobs with them. You'll need to work your way up to become a designer.

If you want to work as an amusement ride inspector, you need to contact the local amusement parks licensing board to find out what their specific requirements are (each state has their own individual rules).

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