Because I’ve been to Disney World so many times, I sometimes feel like I’m an honorary Cast Member. But, if you want to become an actual Cast Member, knowing how to work at Disney World is your first step. Here’s how to make
magic it happen:
What is a Cast Member?
A Cast Member is an employee who works for the Walt Disney Company, including Walt Disney World. Whether you are “friends with” a character at the park or checking bags at the front gate, all of Disney World’s employees are called Cast Members.
Generally speaking, the term cast member refers to an “actor who performs in a theatrical production, movie, or television program. This makes more sense when you consider that Walt himself thought of the Disney parks as a production. The term has stuck around ever since!
Disney College Program
If you want to work at Disney, but are still in college, you may want to consider applying for the Disney College Program.
The Disney College Program, or DCP as you’ll commonly hear it called, is a national program available to college students throughout the United States who want to get paid for working at Walt Disney World.
In order to apply, you must first be an active college student currently enrolled and taking classes at an accredited college/university, OR you must have graduated from said college/university within 24 months of the application posting date.
Other basic eligibility requirements for the Disney College Program include:
- Being 18 years or older at the time of application
- Having completed at least one full semester at an accredited college
- Having legal authority to work in the United States
- Having availability to work Sunday through Saturday, as well as on holidays and overtime
- Being comfortable working in all weather conditions including heat and rain, as well as being okay standing or walking for long periods of time
- Being comfortable wearing personal protective equipment such as masks, face shields, and goggles (depending on current COVID-19 guidelines)
- Accepting of the posted rate of pay
- Being comfortable with Disney’s appearance guidelines (i.e. clean nails, trimmed facial hair, neutral makeup, etc)
Students may need to adhere to additional guidelines based on their school, such as having a certain GPA in order to apply. This will vary depending on the educational institution.
Once accepted into the DCP, students will have to pay a housing fee that could range from $175 to $235 a week depending on the type of apartment they select. While this is a bit pricey considering DCP members make anywhere from $11-$13.25 an hour, keep in mind that this housing fee does include the cost of utilities, as well as high-speed Wi-Fi.
On top of the weekly housing fee, participants are required to put down a non-refundable deposit of $415-$435 upon receipt of invitation to participate in the Disney College Program.
To apply to the Disney College Program, click here.
Disney Internship Program
If you’re not interested in the Disney College Program, but still want to obtain top-tier, on-the-job experience from an industry expert, then the Disney internship program may be better suited for you.
The Disney internship program gives you the opportunity to work side-by-side with a leader from various industries, including but not limited to consumer goods, production, entertainment, innovation, business, marketing, finances, culinary, and various creative roles. Just like the Disney College Program, you will get paid. Most professional internships are available in Orlando, New York, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay Area.
You can apply for a professional Disney internship here. Keep in mind that while you may not be totally game for an internship now, doing so can open up a lot of opportunities for full-time work later on. It’s a great stepping stone to bigger and better opportunities.
Disney International Program
Likewise, if you live in another country, you can apply for the Disney International Program. Like regular internship opportunities, students can gain invaluable experience fostering the Disney brand on a global scale. Learn more here.
One of Disney’s popular international programs, the Cultural Exchange Program has recently returned and is currently available in the following countries:
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom
- Hong Kong
In order to be eligible for this program, students must be actively enrolled at an accredited college, be at least 18 years old, and speak fluent English.
Benefits of Working at Disney World
Aside from being able to be on Disney property, Disney Cast Members have a slew of amazing benefits they can take advantage of such as complimentary theme park admission after at least two weeks of employment. Best of all, this benefit is available to both full-time and part-time Cast Members!
That’s not all, though. Cast Members can also reap the following benefits once they become employed for the Mouse:
- On-site fitness classes and wellness programs
- Tuition assistance for full and part-time employees
- Child care support
- Volunteer/charitably involvement opportunities through Disney VoluntEARS
- Retirement plans
- Weekly paychecks with direct deposit
- Health insurance including medical, dental, and vision to eligible full-time positions
- Paid time off (PTO) and sick leave for full-time employees
- Online tools and programs to foster career development
- Commuter assistance, including options and incentives
And of course, discounts. While Disney is a little tight-lipped about the kinds of discounts they offer, I’ve done some research to give you the secrets. As of publication, Disney Cast Members receive a 20% discount on most merchandise throughout the parks. For example, some shops in the World Showcase may offer different discounts, whereas any purchases at Cast Connections may be as high as 70% off. This is because the inventory at Cast Connections may be slightly imperfect, like having a straw missing from one of those collector tumblers. Cast Connections is located on Disney property near the Walt Disney World Tree Farm, but it’s only open to you guessed it – Cast Members.
Disney Cast Members also save 50% on resorts, whereas friends and family of theirs can enjoy 40% off, regardless of whether or not you’re staying the night. Want to head over to Aulani – Disney’s Resort & Spa in Ko Olina? A discount of up to 50% off makes doing so a lot more possible.
Disney World employees can also receive discounts on other Disney products such as Adventures by Disney, Disney Cruise Line, and Disney-based tours such as Disney’s Keys to the Kingdom tour and Behind the Seeds at Epcot. Cast Members can also receive anywhere from 10% to 35% off eligible merchandise and dining experiences at Disney Springs. Since the restaurants at Disney Springs are not owned by Disney, your employee discount may only be available at certain locations.
So far, we’ve confirmed Earl of Sandwich, Girardelli, Enzo’s Hideaway, Morimoto Asia, Paddlefish, Paradiso 37, Starbucks, Wine Bar George, The Boathouse, and Rainforest Cafe/T-Rex (to name a few).
Read more: 75 DISNEY DINING TIPS
Important Cast Member Lingo
The lingo used at Disney World is part of what makes the experience. Think about it: would you rather be nearby listening to a Cast Member talk about someone vomiting on Space Mountain or a polite Code V?
I, for one, would prefer the latter.
As you probably guessed, Code V stands for vomit clean up (yuck), but it’s just one of the many ways Disney refers to unpleasant experiences throughout the parks. Here’s some other Cast Member lingo you should know about:
- Code H: Horse poop (probably from Main Street, U.S.A) that has to be picked up
- Treasured Guest: A “Karen” or an unruly, difficult guest
- Code 100/101: A ride has been closed (unexpectedly) all day, whereas the latter refers to an attraction being closed but most likely will be back up and running throughout the day. Fun fact: a Code V can cause a code 101 (the more you know).
- Signal 70: Refers to a lost child
- CM: Cast Member
- On-Stage: Any area that is open to guests
- Backstage: Cast Member-only areas
- TTC: Transportation and Ticket Center
- Alpha Unit: First responders
- Signal 25: Refers to fire emergencies
- White Power Alert: Refers to a guest’s attempt to spread their loved one’s ashes on their favorite ride or anywhere throughout the parks
- Memory Maker: A prepaid photo package you can use throughout your trip
- Magic Bands: Refers to the RFID bracelets you wear that act as your ticket, key, and wallet throughout your stay
- DVC: Disney Vacation Club
- Minnie Vans: Rideshare vehicles you can take throughout Disney World property
- “Friends With”: When you work at Disney World, you’re playing a role that keeps the magic of storytelling alive. As such, Cast Members will refer to an employee who works as either a face or fur-suited character as being “Friends With.” For example, you can’t say that you “play” Elsa. Instead, you have to say that you’re “Friends With” her.
Disney lingo isn’t just limited to Cast Members. During your stay or in the early process of planning your vacation, you might hear the following terminology:
- MK – Magic Kingdom
- DAK – Disney’s Animal Kingdom
- Tower – Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- Splash – Splash Mountain
- The Poly – Disney’s Polynesian Resort
Read more: HOW TO SAY THANK YOU TO A DISNEY CAST MEMBER
How to Find a Disney World Job
The easiest way to find a Disney World job is to visit their website, https://jobs.disneycareers.com/. Here, you can filter out available career opportunities by country, state, and career type. As someone who has inquired about employment opportunities with Walt Disney World, I’ve also had some luck on career boards such as Indeed.com. Keep in mind, that job postings on Indeed will take you back to the link listed above, but it’s another great resource to sift through job opportunities faster.
If you want to become “friends” with one of the famous characters at the parks like Chewbacca or Elsa, become a parade performer, stunt performer, or vocalist, then you’ll want to visit https://jobs.disneycareers.com/auditions. You’ll be able to filter the type of role you want to audition for, as well as for what Disney location, and where.
Like all job applications, you’ll have to wait and see if you get called back for either an audition or an interview. However, keep in mind that Disney recruiters are looking for applicants who are eager to demonstrate their willingness to go the extra mile. Think about your own experiences at Disney. How much extra magic was made from that employee who took the time to add a little bit of pixie dust to your day?
How to Increase Your Chances of Working at Walt Disney World
Walt Disney World is one of the largest employers in Florida. And, as you can probably imagine, the competition can be pretty stiff. Luckily, there are a few ways you can increase your chances of working at Disney World. The easiest is to demonstrate your understanding of Disney and how the company operates.
As we mentioned above, Disney recruiters are looking for employees who are willing to go the extra mile, but they also want someone who is passionate about the company and the products they offer. To work for Disney, you have to think like Disney. Show up to interviews and job recruitment events with the appropriate “Disney look” we described above. Also, be very honest about your true desire to work in less-than-ideal conditions.
While it may seem like all fun and games, working at Disney World is a lot of hard work. Knowing Cast Members myself, it’s not uncommon for them to start work in the wee hours of the morning, as well as long hours into the night – especially with extended park hours and after-hour events. You will work holidays and weekends, so if you’re not 100% okay with this, then a career at the House of Mouse may not be for you. But, if this all sounds great, then let your recruiter know you have open flexibility to meet their scheduling needs. This will go a long way!
Another tip is to network with existing Cast Members. If someone who works there can vouch for you, then it’ll be a foot in the door that gives you a boost above other applicants.
We wish you all the pixie dust on your interview with Disney! If you don’t get a call back right away, don’t give up. As Dory says, just keep swimming!
As a self-proclaimed Mouseketeer, Courtney Dercqu is a fan of all things Disney. Between decorating her desk with souvenirs from the park, to making unique mouse ears and having a dedicated Disney Instagram, Courtney is a true believer in the magic of a Walt Disney World vacation. Having had more than 200 articles published on various content, Courtney’s excited to share her knowledge and experience with everyone! Be sure to follow her on Instagram for all the Disney magic.