If it’s always been your dream to work at Walt Disney World, you might be wondering if this is something that’s possible as a resident of the UK.
As a previous Disney Cultural Representative Program cast member, I was lucky enough to live out this dream and live and work in Orlando for an entire year.
Today I’m going to share everything you need to know about working for Disney from the UK and the best way to apply for this opportunity in the future.
But first, here’s a brief overview of how you can become a Disney Cast Member from the UK
To become a Disney cast member from the UK you can enroll in various programs such as the Cultural Representative Program, Summer International College Program, Academic Exchange Program, and the Swan and Dolphin resorts program.
A Quick Note About the Current State of Disney International Programs
One thing to keep in mind about the Disney International Programs is that they were put on hold during the recent pandemic.
The Disney College Program for US students already returned in 2021, so we really hope this will be the start of welcoming these programs and individuals from around the world to work at Walt Disney World once again.
We highly recommend following the Disney College Program account on Instagram for more updates, as they share news about changes to the opportunities on offer.
Introducing the Disney International Programs
When you visit Walt Disney World, you might notice they have a lot of young cast members from across the US and the world as a whole.
The Disney College Program has been in place for many years now, but this then expanded to offer the Disney International Programs.
These opportunities are split into various categories, depending on your personal situation and whether you are still in education or not:
- Cultural Representative Program – This is the program I took part in and is how the World Showcase in Epcot was previously staffed. When you walk around World Showcase, you visit various countries from around the world, including the UK. You’ll find that both the merchandise locations and the Rose & Crown Dining Room are staffed by individuals from around the UK. Other countries which have an attraction also offer this position. Contracts are typically 12 months long, and there are various benefits of this program over other opportunities due to the length of the contract. Check out the website for the cultural representations program here.
- Summer International College Program – For individuals who are still in university or have just graduated, this is an opportunity to spend up to three months at Disney over your summer break. You could be placed anywhere in the resort to work, and you’ll enjoy a summer like no other in the US.
- Academic Exchange Program – This program is most similar to the traditional Disney College Program. Students spend up to a year in the US, and it acts as one year of your university program. This program has more restrictions in place as far as applying for the program, and you’ll need to take classes during your year abroad.
- Swan and Dolphin Resort – Another opportunity we hope to see return in the future is the Swan and Dolphin Resort programs. These can be applied for via Yummy Jobs and don’t involve you working directly for Disney. They do have quite strict restrictions, based on the subject you studied at university or your previous work experience. Many people who have completed a Disney program use this as a way to go back out again for another year in Orlando.
Who is Eligible to Work at Walt Disney World From the UK?
The great thing about the Cultural Representative Program is that there are no requirements apart from being over the age of 18.
There is no upper age limit, but you’ll usually find that most participants are between 18 and 30 years old.
The other opportunities all have academic requirements, whether that’s the course you are studying or the need to be registered with a university. This is due to the fact that you would travel on a J-1 visa, whereas the Cultural Representatives use a Q-1 visa.
You’ll have to undergo the full application process for either job role, and there may be other factors to keep in mind which may impact your ability to work abroad for an extended period of time.
- In order to head out to Orlando for the year, you’ll need to have valid travel documentation from the UK.
You must speak fluent English, as you are expected to represent the country to the best of your ability.
Finally, another thing to keep in mind is the Disney tattoo policy. While this has relaxed over the past years, you still can’t have tattoos on your face, head, or neck.
Tattoos that are visible need to be non-offensive to the general public.
How Do You Apply to Work at Walt Disney World?
As of the current time, the company which Disney uses in the UK for its recruitment efforts is called Yummy Jobs.
Yummy Jobs offers a wide range of opportunities for anyone looking to work abroad, and you’ll find there are many other ways to work in the US if that’s something you are interested in.
The applications for the Cultural Representative Program are currently closed, but make sure you keep an eye on their social media accounts for more information.
When you apply for the program, you’ll need to give them the date you are available from, which is when they’ll consider you for contracts.
In the past, they typically opened applications twice a year, which would fill places for the following year or so.
To apply, you’ll start off with a standard online application process, sharing your personal details, work experience, and why you want to work for Disney.
Keep in mind that people come from all different backgrounds, and you certainly don’t have to have worked for Disney before applying.
If you successfully make it through this stage, you’ll be invited to a pre-screen selection day at their office.
The final stage is an interview in London with the team from Disney before job contracts are offered to the successful applicants. Keep in mind this may change in the future as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For anyone who has worked on this program before, you’ll need to contact Disney recruitment directly.
They go through a slightly different application process, which usually involves fewer stages than above.
Of course, your reemployment is not guaranteed, and not many people go back again for a second program due to the popularity of working at Disney.
For individuals from other countries such as the UK, look online for your local agency, who will follow a similar process to that of Yummy Jobs.
What Job Role Could I Do at Disney?
As far as the Cultural Representative Program, you are limited to the job roles which are available for your country.
These are the jobs that you could be offered as part of your application. You are usually asked for your preference as far as the job position you’d like to do, but keep in mind that this isn’t guaranteed at all.
This was the position I held when I worked at Walt Disney World.
It’s ideal for anyone with previous retail experience, and we worked throughout the various stores in the United Kingdom pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase.
We worked both indoors and outdoors, as we also staffed the pin cart that you see as you walk towards the pavilion as well as the Kidcot Fun Stops.
There was also the opportunity as you settled in to take on a floor stock role, which looked after the stocking and packages within the area.
Merchandise is paid at an hourly rate, and there is no opportunity for tips.
We did get to take part in some unique experiences here, such as the Twinings Tea Tours during the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. This helped to add more variety to the job role, which at times could be a little slower in pace than in food and beverage positions.
Here’s an overview of Epcot’s World Showcase from YouTube
Food and Beverage For Disney Cast Members
The other main opportunity for UK program participants is food and beverage.
This encompasses all of the dining and drink locations in the United Kingdom pavilion, including the Rose & Crown Dining Room, and the Yorkshire County Fish Shop.
This is a very fast-paced job role, with long hours standing on your feet.
Upon your arrival in Orlando, you’ll work in the quick-service locations or as a greeter for the first four to six months of your program. At this time, you’ll only be paid an hourly wage, however, upon passing the tests, you have the opportunity to become a server at the Rose & Crown Dining Room.
You’ll earn tips on top of your wages then, which can make a huge difference to your quality of life in Orlando
In the United Kingdom pavilion, there isn’t currently an attraction, but for many of the other countries, this was another fun opportunity.
Once again, this will be an hourly position, and the job role will vary depending on the country you are working in.
Historical Research Center
One opportunity that is unique to UK participants is the Historical Research Center.
This store is located within the Crown & Crest, and it offers guests the chance to search for their family names in a database and learn more about their history.
They can purchase their family’s coat of arms, which you’ll help to prepare for the guests. It’s another way to enjoy a year working in Orlando and is very similar to the merchandise program.
For anyone with a keen interest in history, this would be a great opportunity for you. Keep in mind you won’t work directly for Disney, and as an operating partner, there are some changes to the perks and fees associated with the job.
How Many Hours Will You Work in Walt Disney World?
While you will no doubt be excited about the living experience in Orlando, keep in mind that you are there to work.
- Part of your requirements is that you need to work 32 hours a week, and if you don’t keep this up, you may find yourself in a tricky situation.
Vacation time is allowed during the program, and you can apply for this upon your arrival on their online system.
Your contract is for 12 months, and you’ll also receive one month at the end where you can travel around the US.
While 32 hours is all you may work during the quieter times of the year, things have changed a lot at Disney over the past years.
You’ll find there are rarely quiet times in the parks, particularly for anyone working in food and beverage.
The staffing of your work location may also impact the hours you work, so keep in mind that you may work up to 50 hours or more during the holidays.
You typically work five days on and then have two days for a weekend, which may fall together on any day of the week. There is the opportunity to bid on your schedule in some job roles, which is usually based on your seniority within the company.
What Job Training Do You Receive at Walt Disney World?
The training at Disney is absolutely incredible, so no matter your experience level, you can be sure you’ll feel confident when you are working independently on your job.
Any new cast member to the company goes through Disney Traditions, which takes place at Disney University.
While I don’t want to spoil too much about this day, it’s one of the highlights of your program and the perfect introduction to the company.
After Disney Traditions, you receive a training session and induction at Epcot.
You’ll tour the park to learn more about its history and your role here. From there, you start training with your local team, which is usually guided by someone with higher seniority from your department.
You’ll wear a badge saying you are “Earning Your Ears” to begin with, and once you feel confident, you’ll be on your own.
Keep in mind that Disney paces the training sessions very well, and you’ll never be left alone before you feel confident.
The job roles are generally pretty easy to pick up, and you’ll always have other cast members around to ask questions if you are feeling unsure about anything.
As you continue throughout your time at Disney, there will be additional training classes and the opportunity to become a Disney Trainer.
Due to the nature of the international programs, only a few people get to become a trainer, particularly on the merchandise side of the program.
However, there are always different opportunities and special events to get involved in, so life certainly never gets boring working here.
Disney Program Fees and Payment
When working in Orlando, you’ll need to think carefully about your finances.
There’s so much to see and do here, so you’ll want to make sure you have enough to cover your days off and living expenses.
Before you arrive in Orlando, keep in mind there are various program fees that you’ll need to cover. Expect to pay a Disney Program participation fee.
You’ll also need to cover medical insurance, at least for the first few months of your program.
- When I was a cast member, you could either purchase a year of insurance in advance or opt to move onto Disney’s insurance policy after a few months of working with the company.
When you are out in Orlando, you’ll need to pay weekly accommodation costs.
These vary greatly depending on the accommodation you choose. Expect to pay between $110 and $200 a week, which will automatically be deducted from your payroll.
You’ll also need to pay for food and anything else you’d like to do on your time off. The hourly wage at Disney has increased over the past few years, and you’ll be guaranteed a minimum of 32 hours a week at this rate.
Cast Member Uniforms at Disney
No matter what role you take on at Disney, you’ll be given a uniform for this position.
Ours were themed to the UK, and there were separate uniforms for merchandise and food and beverage roles.
Something I loved about the Disney system is that they could also clean your uniform for you. You have the choice between taking it home to wash, or you can drop it off and pick up a new set of uniforms the next day when you start work again.
Living in Orlando As A Disney Cast Member
Now that you know a little bit more about the working experience in Orlando let’s look at what you can expect from living in Orlando.
- As part of any of the Disney International Programs, you are required to stay at one of Disney’s housing complexes.
During the pandemic, Disney sold off a few of the old locations, and now students on the college program are staying at the brand new Flamingo Crossings Village.
This looks like an incredible addition to the programs and offers modern amenities and apartments.
Apartments here range from two to four bedrooms and offer shared or single occupancy bedrooms. Keep in mind you will pay quite a lot more for a single bedroom, which may not be feasible if you are working in an hourly position.
Take a look at this YouTube video that shows Disneys Flamingo Crossing Village
The housing complexes offer everything you could possibly need to live a comfortable life in Orlando. This includes fitness centers, swimming pools, and social areas.
Living in the Disney housing complexes is one of the most exciting parts of the program. While you’ll primarily work with people from your own country in the parks, you’ll get the chance here to meet people from around the world on various Disney programs.
Making lifelong friends you can visit in the future is an exciting part of this program and something I encourage anyone to make the most of while living here.
Transportation in Orlando For Disney Cast Members
If you’ve visited Orlando before, you know how reliant people are on cars here, especially when compared to the UK.
For that reason, Disney puts on a range of buses for their program participants. These will take you to and from work each day and are completely free for you to use as part of your program fees.
You’ll need to leave a good amount of time ahead of your shift, which can make for quite a long day. Especially when you keep in mind that you don’t get dropped off at your working location, you may find yourself leaving at least an hour before your shift.
Many of the US students come to Orlando with their own car, which makes getting out and about easier.
It’s not unusual for international program participants to invest in a car either, which they can sell on again at the end of their program.
If you have a few days off, you can always hire a car, just as you would on holiday. This will allow you to explore the area more and make the most of your time living here.
Taxis and rideshare companies are readily available, which are a great option for short journeys or a day when you are in a rush to go to work.
Events for Disney Program Participants
One thing that really stands out about working for Disney on one of the programs is the special events they put on for cast members.
You’ll find there is a team at Disney dedicated to the housing and programs, who offer various parties and themed events for everyone to enjoy.
They are often themed around the holidays but expect big welcome events as well when there are mass arrivals for the programs.
During my program, there was a winter prom and an evening at Typhoon Lagoon just for the program participants.
This night was one of the highlights of our time in Orlando and something that everyone looked forward to each year.
Staying Healthy Living in Orlando
For anyone coming over to the US to live for the year from the UK, you may find it to be quite a culture shock.
The great thing about the Disney apartments is that they come with a full kitchen, so you can keep preparing the food you enjoy the most from home.
When I worked at the parks, there was a bus from our housing to Walmart or Publix, which are the best options for groceries in the area.
Most of us would shop at either of these once a week and take lunch with us to eat during our shift.
There is a staff canteen in Epcot, but you generally didn’t have time to get over there and back during your shift.
Keep in mind that Epcot is a huge park, and the cast member entrance is located behind the Mexico pavilion.
You’ll need to allow a good amount of time to get to your work location so that you aren’t marked as late.
During your time off, you can enjoy dining out at various restaurants around Orlando.
With the huge portions that US restaurants are known for, you can always take home your leftovers and enjoy them the next day at work.
You’ll find that many local restaurants offer cast member discounts, which make dining out a little more affordable.
As far as keeping fit during your year, the on-site gym at the housing complex makes this nice and easy. You’ll also have a good amount of space in your apartment, which allows you to enjoy at-home workouts.
Walt Disney World Cast Member Perks
Regardless of whether you are working at Walt Disney World as someone from the UK or within a local role, you’ll receive many great perks for your employment here.
These are just a few of the top benefits that you’ll receive on top of your hourly wage as a cast member:
- Free Park Admission – Without a doubt the number one perk of working for Disney is that you get free park admission. While there may be odd days where cast members are blocked out, you can generally go to one of the parks after work and enjoy a few attractions. It’s a great way to spend your days off, and you can even bring friends and family members in with you. You will get a limited number of passes for guests during the year, so if your family comes to visit, you might want to save these for that time.
- Merchandise Discounts – Cast members enjoy 20% off merchandise purchases throughout the year on the majority of products sold in the parks and resorts. At Christmas, you also receive a book with further holiday discounts, and the merchandise discount increases around this time as well.
- Disney Discount Stores – At Walt Disney World, you’ll find Cast Connections and Company D, which are both stores solely for cast members and their families. Cast Connections has a lot of old stock from the parks, which you can purchase at heavily discounted rates.
- Food and Beverage Discount – Cast members get between 20 and 40% off food and beverage items, depending on where you are dining. On the HUB, which is the company website for cast members, you’ll find full details about these discounts and the best deals on offer at the current time. Also, ask restaurants off-site if they do cast member discounts, as this isn’t unusual in the Orlando area.
- Disney Resort Stay Discounts – A fun way to make the most of your year in Orlando is to enjoy a staycation at one of the Disney resorts. Cast member discounts will vary depending on the season and resort but reach up to 40-50% off. If your family and friends want to visit, they can also enjoy discounted resort stays of up to 40% off, even if you aren’t able to stay with them. With the high prices of some of the Disney deluxe resorts, this is one of the few opportunities to enjoy a stay here at a discount.
What is Disney Looking for When Applying to Work at Walt Disney World?
Now that you know everything about the job, accommodation, and life in Orlando, you might be wondering how you can go about securing a job at Walt Disney World.
When it comes to what Disney is looking for from their cast members, there are certain things to keep in mind.
In your application, you’ll want to highlight your past work experience, particularly anything that’s related to the job role you are applying for.
As there are many young applicants for this program, Disney doesn’t expect you to have years of experience in the field.
However, showing that you were willing to take on a part-time job role while studying is a great way to showcase your commitment to hospitality and your personal growth.
If you are lucky enough to secure an interview for the programs, you’ll really want to show off your passion for the theme parks and the Disney company.
Even if you’ve never visited the parks before, you no doubt know about the legendary Disney service. They are looking for cast members who will go above and beyond what’s expected of them to make their guests have the most magical time possible in the parks.
Try to find examples from your professional and personal life of where you’ve done something out of the ordinary for other people. This will show your commitment to excellence, which is something we always see from Disney cast members.
Other key attributes that will be needed for working at Disney are strong communication and teamwork.
While you may have times where you are working alone in a store, you are always going to be part of a larger team.
Make sure you are willing to be surrounded by people 24/7, as this is a huge part of the program’s working and living experience.
Your verbal and written communication are both tested during the application process, and you need to be able to talk to anyone you come into contact with confidently.
Practice public speaking and interview questions before your first interview to get yourself more comfortable. By following these tips, you’ll be sure to ace your interview and guarantee yourself a position on the program.
Alternative Ways to Work for Disney from the UK
While working in Orlando is something that many of us dream of, there are a few other ways you can work for Disney as a company as a UK resident.
These are just a few other job roles you may want to consider if working for the Disney company is something you’ve always hoped to achieve:
- Disney Cruise Line – Set sail on one of the greatest adventures of your life by working at sea with Disney Cruise Line. Working at sea isn’t for everyone, and it’s a very demanding job. The great thing about Disney Cruise Line is that they offer job roles to fit everyone’s experience and interests. You could work in entertainment, merchandise, food and beverage, or marine and engineering roles. Keep in mind that working for Disney Cruise Line will require you to work away from home for an extended period of time. You won’t get any days off during your contract, but it’s a great way to save money while traveling the world.
- Disneyland Resort Paris – After Brexit, working in Paris isn’t quite as simple as before, but performers still have the chance to work over here. Look at the Disney auditions website for more information about upcoming auditions, which usually take place in London or Leeds. They are usually looking for character performers or parade performers, so if you have theatre training, this could be another fun way to work for the company.
- Disney Head Office Job Roles – While the Disney Store has sadly closed the majority of their UK-based stores, you could still look into working for Disney in London. Their head office is based in the city, so the majority of jobs will require you to work in the office at least a few days a week. As with any type of corporation, there are hundreds of job roles on offer here, which will allow you to further your career in any field.
Top Tips for Working for Disney As A Cast Member
My time working at Walt Disney World was one of the highlights of my career so far.
While a year might sound like a long time, it soon flies by, and you’ll find that in no time at all, you’ll be back in the UK, missing Orlando more than ever before.
Follow these top tips to help with your application and to make the most of your time in Orlando.
Showcase Your Passion for Disney
Both when applying for the job and once you get to Orlando, you want to let your passion for Disney shine through in everything you do.
If you’ve visited the parks before, you know how much the cast members truly adore working for the company. Try to let this come through in everything you do and say, and you’ll soon make good connections on your journey.
Guests absolutely love speaking to international cast members and learning more about what brought you to Orlando.
You’ll find that these interactions will be some of the highlights of your program, and you’ll make their day as well by taking some time out to chat with them about your job and life at Disney.
Travel Around the US
While Orlando has a lot to keep you busy, I highly recommend taking some time out to see more of the US.
During my program, I visited Nashville, New York, Disneyland in Anaheim, and went on a Disney Cruise Line sailing to the Bahamas.
You do get the opportunity to request vacation time, so you can take a long weekend away to enjoy all that the country has to offer. You also get discounts on Disney Cruise Line and free entry at Disneyland, so this is a perfect time to see more of what the company has to offer.
Experience the Walt Disney World Holiday Events
The great thing about the Cultural Representative Program is that you spend a full year in the parks.
You’ll get to see every festival in Epcot, and you might even get to be part of these events as well. Make sure you enjoy seeing Halloween, Christmas, and other festivities throughout the year.
During your time off from work, head to the parks and enjoy all of the food, drink, and entertainment offerings that are only available at these times. When traveling from the UK, it can be hard to see all of these events usually, so make sure you make the most of your time here.
Consider Your Personal Development
After working at Walt Disney World, I went on to spend four years working for Royal Caribbean Cruise Line.
I truly don’t think this would have been possible without having Disney on my CV, and even when applying for jobs today, Disney always comes up in conversation.
Think about your personal development when on the program, and take the time to get involved in any events, volunteering opportunities, or classes that are offered to you.
I did a leadership course during my Disney program, which was great fun and helped me to further my career within the entertainment and hospitality industry.
As someone from the UK, the chance to work in the US for a year is incredibly rare.
This is what makes Disney’s Cultural Representative Program so unique, and it’s something I encourage anyone to consider doing in the future.
While the program is currently paused, I truly hope 2022 will be the year we finally see international cast members return to the parks.
Epcot really isn’t the same without the cast members from each of the countries, and guests love to immerse themselves in the cultures of the UK, Germany, Norway, and other countries in the World Showcase for the day.
I hope by following some of the tips shared above, you can apply and enjoy an incredible year in Walt Disney World in the future.
Author: Caroline Peters Former Cast Member At Walt Disney World