Volunteer Opportunities

Join the Shedd family! Become a volunteer.

If you're passionate about aquatic life, and you love to learn, teach and inspire, you'll be a great volunteer!

We are currently accepting applications for weekday Guest Engagement volunteers. Be sure to check back for other future openings, and get answers to all your volunteering questions right here.

Guest Engagement

This position is ideal for individuals who love to learn and want to interact with a diverse group of people. Guest Engagement volunteers receive extensive training that enables them to share information about our animals, present various hands-on public programs and provide general assistance to Shedd guests. Guest Engagement volunteers are stationed throughout our exhibit areas. We are currently recruiting for the winter and spring seasons. Training begins in January 2015.

Watch this video to meet a few of our Guest Engagement volunteers.

Exhibit Interpretation

Age: 12−15 with an adult guardian; 16+ individually  |  Shift times: Mornings and afternoons, Monday – Sunday  |  Commitment: 6 months (weekday), 1 year (every other weekend)

Engage guests in learning with Shedd throughout our exhibits by using techniques such as questioning, descriptive language and prop usage. Responsibilities include promoting self-discovery and deeper connections to the living world, engaging guests with relevant animal information and providing great customer service for audiences of various backgrounds.

Behind-the-Scenes Tours

Age: 18+  |  Shift times: Mornings and afternoons, Monday−Sunday  |  Commitment: 6 months (weekday), 1 year (every other weekend)

Volunteers lead guests on Shedd's behind-the-scenes tours. This unique program provides an insider's look at the galleries, laboratory and animal hospital. These volunteers also engage guests throughout the exhibits when not facilitating tours.

Penguin Encounters

Age: 18+  |  Shift times: Mornings and afternoons, Monday−Sunday  |  Commitment: 6 months (weekday), 1 year (every other weekend)

Volunteers engage guests scheduled for our popular penguin encounter program. These volunteers also engage guests throughout the exhibits when not facilitating penguin encounters. Please note: There is no animal husbandry or contact involved in this volunteer position. This position is physically rigorous requiring lifting and periods of standing.

Water Quality Laboratory

Age: 18+  |  Shift times: 9 a.m.−1 p.m., Monday−Sunday  |  Commitment: 6 months (weekday), 1 year (every other weekend)

It's all about water! Test samples from around the aquarium to ensure a healthy environment for Shedd's animal collection. Learn about the scientific apects of Shedd while working alongside other volunteers and staff members.

Husbandry: Aquarium Collections & Marine Mammal

Aquarium Collections Husbandry

Age: 18+  |  Shift times: Morning−early afternoon, Monday−Sunday  |  Commitment: 6 months (weekday), 1 year (every other weekend)

Learn more about the care of fishes, reptiles, invertebrates, small mammals and amphibians. Volunteers enjoy the messier aspects of maintaining our diverse animal collection by preparing food and cleaning animal care areas. While little contact with the animals occurs, individuals gain experience while working closely with our knowledgeable staff.

Marine Mammal Husbandry

Age: 18+  |  Shift times: Mornings and afternoons, Monday through Sunday  |  Commitment: Six months (weekday), one year (weekend)

Marine mammals volunteers help our animal care specialists in the daily operations of the Abbott Oceanarium. Volunteers enjoy the messier aspects of maintaining our marine mammals by preparing food and cleaning many of the behind-the-scenes areas. While very little contact with the animals occurs, this position gives people with a love of marine mammals the opportunity to learn from our staff experts as they assist with many critical tasks.

Divers: Caribbean Reef, Marine Mammals and Wild Reef

Caribbean Reef diver

Age: 21+  |  Min. requirements: 30 hours logged open-water diving and scripted audition

Qualified divers give public presentations from our Caribbean Reef exhibit while hand-feeding the animals. Shifts are mornings and afternoons. Divers must pass a scripted audition before beginning to train for this position. Due to the popularity of this program, there is often a waiting list.

Marine Mammals diver

Age: 21+  |  Shift times: 6−8 p.m., Monday−Sunday Commitment: 6 months (weekday), 1 year (every other weekend)  |  Min. requirements: 30 hours logged open-water diving, at least 5 in cold-water diving

Qualified divers assist our Marine Mammals staff with evening cleaning dives in the Abbott Oceanarium. These divers help with scrubbing algae and other maintenance tasks to provide the best possible environment for our marine mammals.

Wild Reef diver

Age: 21+  |  Shift times: 9:30 a.m. to noon, Monday – Sunday  |  Commitment: Six months (weekday), one year (every other weekend)  |  Min. requirements: 30 hours logged open-water diving and rescue certification

Qualified divers are given the opportunity to perform cleaning and other maintenance in several of Wild Reef’s mid-predator and schooling fish habitats. Wild Reef is one of Shedd’s most popular exhibits. The animals and their surroundings are patterned after the beautiful coral reefs found in the Philippines.

Other Volunteer Areas

Age: 18+

Volunteer opportunities are also offered in:

  • Audience Research and Evaluation
  • Library Services
  • Horticulture
  • Desk projects
  • Great Lakes Action Days
  • School programs

Do you have a skill or expertise to lend? Contact us to discuss how you can help at Shedd!

Special Requests

Animal trainer information/shadowing requests/aquatic science careers

Due to the overwhelming demand for job-shadowing opportunities each month, we can no longer accommodate these requests.

Please note: We do not offer one-time, court-appointed community, or school service opportunities.

Volunteer Benefits

• Admission to the aquarium and other cultural institutions
• Gift shop and café discounts
• Social events and opportunities
• Network of colleagues
• Discounted parking while volunteering
• All this... and everything under the sea!

Age Requirements

• 12−15 may volunteer in Guest Engagement but must have an adult guardian with them

• 16−17 may volunteer in Guest Engagement on their own

• 18+ may volunteer in all areas

• Divers must be 21+

Time Commitment

6 months for weekday volunteers, who come in once weekly

1 year for weekend volunteers, who come in once every other weekend

Frequently Asked Questions

Have more questions? Get all the answers right here! 



Apply Now

Ready to dive in? Fill out an application form!

Contact Us

Still have questions? Email volunteer services.