• Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

San Diego has it all; 300-plus days of sunshine, beautiful sandy beaches, great Mexican food… and theme parks.

The world famous San Diego Zoo and Safari Park, Sea World, Legoland, even old-school Belmont Park bring in millions of visitors and dollars every year to San Diego, and each year these parks need to fill positions from upper management to ice cake maker.

Ice cake maker?

The San Diego Zoo has more than 2,000 employees who work for them at the zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park and the Institute for Conservation Research. If you’re bored with your cubical - or your couch – you might want to try to work in a location where it is normal to hear lions roar and elephants trumpet in the morning and evening.

The San Diego Zoo website lists a multitude of jobs including ticket seller, animal keeper and the mysterious ice cake maker. Check sandiegozoo.org/jobs.

If you have a background in nutrition, ice cake maker might be a little more exciting than feeding the kids in the school cafeteria. The ice cakes are made from yams, other vegetables or fruits and frozen water. The cakes are decorated and given out as special treats for the monkeys, elephants and pandas, who have bamboo as their special ingredient. The animals definitely play with their food.

If you’re allergic to pet dander you might want to head to the coast and drop off your application with Shamu and Co. Jobs available at Sea World range from dancers and singers to lifeguards and oceanographers. (careers.worldofdiscovery.com)

Lisa Mackey of Santee worked at Sea World in San Diego when she was a senior in high school working as a hostess and six years later she worked her way into management before moving to London with her family.

“Working at Sea World was exciting and interesting,” Mackey said. “The people could be a pain sometimes, but honestly they were in the park to have fun and so I had fun. It’s a great place to work if you want to be outdoors and hang out with people and fish. Actually, the fish were always nice.”

If you want to work on the coast, but dancing penguins give you the creeps, head to the boardwalk on the beach for a job where you’ll work with people only.

One of the oldest adventure parks in San Diego is Belmont Park in Mission Beach. The Giant Dipper Roller Coaster and the Plunge Olympic Pool have been there since the beginning in 1925. But the addition of the Wave House in 2005 helped makeover the park from dodgy to respectable again.

The Wave House has job positions posted on their website (wavehousesandiego.com/

career-opportunities) from sous chef to sales manager of the athletic club.

If you’re not into working with four-legged animals or sunshine hurts your eyes, you might want to apply for a gig at one of the most dangerous places in town- Chuck E. Cheese. (chuckecheese.com/careers)

“I spent three summers working at the El Cajon Chuck E. Cheese and it prepared me for the army,” said Jake Billings of Vista. “I’m serious. You have to be on your toes because there is constant action from kids in danger to parents who are getting drunk while their kids run around. It was wild, but it was fun.”

Working with laughing, screaming, out-of-control children while serving pizza to the kids and booze to their parents, can be a wild ride of a job. Employees are called ‘cast members,’ and the jobs descriptions range from game room attendant to costumed character to a ‘kid check attendant.’ These are mostly hourly positions, but there is also a casting call for managers, IT personnel and accounting and payroll support.

As San Diego gears up for summer, now is the best time to apply for these and other adventurous jobs. It could be a way to pay for new clothes or a car or rent and food. Your job might only be for a few months or turn into a career opportunity. After all, Joan Embry was only 18 when the zoo hired her to work with baby animals. A few years later a smart PR wonk asked her to accompany a few of her furry friends onto the Johnny Carson Show. After that, she continued to represent the zoo for 35 more years.

Not a bad career move.

  • Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it


Sign in to comment

Win a $25 Gift Card to
The Broken Yolk Cafe

Join our newsletter list

Each newsletter subscription means another chance to win!