Personal Finance
Summer jobs for students
May 26, 2001: 6:00 a.m. ET

Dude ranches, amusement parks and franchise outlets offer employment
by Staff Writer Shelly K. Schwartz
graphic graphic
NEW YORK (CNNfn) - It's that time of year again. School is out. The days are getting longer. And students across the country are trading in their textbooks for bathing suits, a little older and hopefully a little wiser.

But it's those carefree months ahead that create a particular dilemma for the parents of teen-age kids: How do you keep them off the couch, out of trouble and involved in activities that will serve them during this summer?

According to experts, the solution is simple: Put them to work.

"Employment helps (young adults) gain a better understanding of the value of money which means they may not be so quick to squander it at the mall," said Myrna Shure, author of "Raising a Thinking Preteen." "They also learn responsibility, time management, and how to respond to authority, which is sometimes difficult for teenagers."

The great outdoors

Summer jobs have come a long way since the days of flipping burgers and mowing lawns. Interesting job opportunities abound for enterprising young adults, including tour guide posts at national parks, amusement park ride operators, and cross-country driving gigs to deliver new recreational vehicles from the manufacturers to the dealers.

Some pay better than others.

When hunting for work, teens and college students should start by seeking out seasonal jobs.

The National Park Service, for example, hires some 3,000 seasonal workers each summer, including high school and college students who are at least 18 to staff its 370 parks across the country and in Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

Many pay a small stipend of several hundred dollars per month with free room and board, making it more of an experience than a money-making venture.


If you're angling for a temporary gig at one of the more popular parks, including Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, however, you'd better act fast. Some 25,000 would-be workers already have applied for this year's summer season.

"It's very competitive," said Stephanie Medgett, with the National Park Service's Seasonal Employment Program. "We get a little bit of everyone, from teachers to retirees to students."

If you strike out at the national parks, and you're still longing to unite with the great outdoors, you can head for the resorts and dude ranches that cater to park tourists instead.

At the Home Ranch, near Steamboat Springs, Colo., for example, seasonal workers who are 18 or older can apply for positions as hiking guides, wranglers, office assistants, fly fishing guides, bakers and even housekeepers. Summer staffers share a variety of cabins and dormitories and earn about $1,125 per month.

"This job is well-suited for people who want to work hard," said Alan Thompson, a spokesman for the 1,500-acre dude ranch. "Some of the people who work here just love horses and some are interested in travel and tourism. But many are here because of the location in the mountains and the experience of moving to a western state."

The Home Ranch pays seasonal workers about $1,100 per month, with free room and board.
Check out other dude and guest ranches that hire seasonal workers, culled by Cool

Cruise ships, too, provide an outlet for students looking for summer employment. But it's not all fun in the sun. Be prepared for physically demanding work, long hours and low pay, insiders say. And come armed to the interview energy to spare. Click here for tips on how to land a cruise ship job.


And lastly, those with a taste for travel can always hit the road.

Unbeknownst to most job-seekers, an army of 100,000 full-time drivers each year get paid to deliver recreational and specialty vehicles from the manufacturing plants to the dealers. Those vehicles include RVs, vans that are too large for auto delivery trucks, limousines, ambulances and school buses.

  graphic WHOM TO CALL  
    A few of the 3,800 transport companies, manufacturers and dealers that employ seasonal drivers include Horizon Transport at 800-320-4055 and Morgan Driveaway 800-289-7565.
"The summertime and late spring are the greatest times of production for this industry because dealers sell more of these vehicles at this time of year," said Craig Chilton, author of "How to Get Paid $30,000 a Year to Travel: Without Selling Anything."

"They need extra people to come in and supplement their work force and summer vacation just happens to come at the right time," Chilton noted.

Chilton estimates nearly 3,000 college students are brought on to deliver recreational vehicles each summer. Drivers receive a cash advance before they depart to cover fuel costs during transport and return airfare to the city of origin. Once the drivers return they are paid an average of 35 cents per mile yielding about $1,000 for a coast-to-coast trip.

  You set your own hours and once you've delivered the vehicle your job is done. You get to see North American on someone else's nickel. Most of the public isn't even aware that this job exists.  
  Craig Chilton
XANADU Enterprises
Chilton said students who keep at it full-time during the summer months can reasonably expect to earn $8,000 to $12,000. He also notes that while some states require drivers to obtain a chauffeurs license, which usually involves a 5 minute written exam, none require the more difficult commercial driver's license.

"You set your own hours and once you've delivered the vehicle your job is done," he said, adding he was a road rat himself in the 1970s while he was teaching. "You get to see North American on someone else's nickel. Most of the public isn't even aware that this job exists."

In and around town

If your employment plans do not include travel, there are opportunities closer to home as well.

Amusement parks offer thousands of job opportunities for teens. But get ready to work hard.

Amusements parks, for example, staff up during the summer months with high school and college students who are 15 years and older, creating a camp-like atmosphere with low rent and on-site housing in many cases. Most need booth operators, licensed lifeguards, grounds assistants, security staff, concession stand help and ride operators.

Some, including Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, N.J., even hire safari gatekeepers and wardens.

In addition to their hourly wages (which starts above minimum wage), employees of Six Flags receive free park admission, five free guest passes, and are encouraged to participate in softball leagues, barbecues and bingo. They also enjoy 40 percent discounts on park merchandise.

Lastly, Six Flags awards more than $10,000 in scholarships each year to "deserving employees."

Lifeguards are in demand at apartment complexes, beaches and even water parks.

And, of course, there's always lifeguarding, which pays well but requires certification in life saving and CPR, not to mention First Aid. Apartment management companies tend to pay the most, offering Memorial Day to Labor Day employment to lifeguards at swimming pools throughout its complexes.

Lifeguards can earn roughly between $5,000 and $8,000 during the summer months, depending upon where they work. And pool operators, who are trained to manage a staff, operate the pumps and control chemical levels in the pool, can make another $3,000 per summer. Be prepared, however, to work 6 days a week with no weekends off.

Going for the gold

If you're really in it for the bucks, you might want to turn to more lucrative trades instead.

Companies like College Pro Painters, University Painters and Varsity Student recruit thousands of college students each summer, train them to paint residential homes and set them up with crews.

College Pro Painters alone brings on roughly 3,200 painters and 400 student franchise managers nationwide. Painters can earn between $3,000 and $5,000 during the summer, while franchise managers can make $10,000 or more.

"This was the best thing I've ever done as far as hands-on experience," said Scott Johnson, 22, a 2001 graduate of Sienna College in Loudonville, N.Y. and senior franchise manager for the company. "I've always wanted to be my own boss and here it's a cool atmosphere. I employ 20 guys so it's almost fraternity-like. I do all my own legwork from advertising to recruiting and selling."

Another popular option is the Southwestern Company.

The Nashville, Tenn., company hires 3,000 students each summer to sell educational reference products and family-oriented books door-to-door. The students are independent contractors, giving them the chance to run their own business by purchasing books and CD ROMs at wholesale and selling them retail.

According to the company, the average profit per day for first-time participants is about $100. Successful students who worked 26 days per month in the summer enjoyed a monthly profit of $2,563. Second-year students earned $6,442 per month, and fourth-year students earned $8,710.

Students who join the program head to Nashville for a week of intensive sales training and then are sent off with one to three other students to another part of the country. Many find lodging with host families for the summer, who are often times program alumnae.

"The objective is to gains some independent and show a willingness to travel to another part of the country on their resumes," said Trey Campbell, promotions coordinator for the Southwestern Company.

Students who participate in the program also have the ability to earn college credits. But check with your school to make sure the credits will transfer first.

Give them the ball

To be sure, summer represents an unparalleled opportunity for young adults to turn their free time into friendships, extra money and valuable skills they can apply to tomorrow's job market.

But parents should approach the subject delicately, Shure suggests.

"None of this is going to work if the kid is forced to work or forced to work beyond the hours he or she is comfortable with," she notes. "If the parent empowers the child to make their own decisions, the child will enjoy it more and they'll do it with more gusto and motivation." graphic




College Pro Painters Ltd.

Southwestern Company

National Park Service seasonal employment


Home Ranch

Six Flags Great Adventure

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