Volunteering at Shedd FAQs

Application Questions

Is there an application deadline?
We are always looking for great volunteers to join our team, so there is no application deadline. If you would like to contribute to Shedd’s mission and can fulfill our requirements, apply now!

How long will it take to fill out the application?
Our online application will take you about 15 minutes to complete. Please make sure you fill out the entire form and answer all questions in order to be considered. 

Are all applicants accepted?
Due to the volume of applications we receive, we are unable to accept all applicants to our program. We will do our best to find a match based on the applicant’s and the aquarium’s needs, but that is not always possible. 

How quickly will I be accepted for a volunteer position?
This depends on your interests and availability, as well as our volunteer needs. For weekend roles and popular assignments, it may take several months to one year for a space to open. 

I filled out the application but never received a confirmation email.
Upon submission of your volunteer application, you should receive a confirmation email outlining next steps. If you did not receive this email, please check your junk/spam folder to make sure you didn’t miss important communications from us. 

If you cannot find the email confirmation, or think you may have entered your email incorrectly, please contact us at volunteerservices@sheddaquarium.org.

I need to update the availability, interests, or other information on my application.
Please email volunteerservices@sheddaquarium.org with any changes. 

How long is my application held?
We keep all volunteer applications on file for one year. 

My schedule will be changing soon. Should I still apply to become a volunteer?
We provide extensive training for new volunteers, and it can take time before you feel comfortable in your role. We hope that you will be able to fulfill your initial commitment as a result.

If you need a volunteer role that offers flexible scheduling and accommodates schedule changes, consider applying to be a special events or guest engagement volunteer.

For all other roles, please wait to fill out an application until your schedule permits you to commit to a consistent day and time for one year.

How will I be contacted by the volunteer office?
Volunteer staff members use email as the primary method of communication. Make sure you check your junk/spam folder for emails from us, and add “sheddaquarium.org” to your trusted domains list. 

What is the process for bringing on a volunteer?
When we have a volunteer opening, we review applications on file for matching interests and availability. Volunteers must meet all the requirements of a role to be considered.

Prospective volunteers are contacted to set up a short phone call to discuss the program and are given further details about current openings. After the call, the volunteer may be invited to come in for an interview with a member of the volunteer staff and/or another department.

If the position and an applicant are a good fit, the prospective volunteer will be asked to complete an electronic background check, and references will be contacted.

All new volunteers must attend an orientation in which they learn about policies and procedures, receive a volunteer shirt and ID badge and have the chance to meet other individuals new to Shedd.

After orientation, volunteers complete any additional training for their role with their assigned departments.

Volunteer program questions

Is there a volunteer age requirement?
We welcome volunteers under the age of 18 in our Guest Engagement department. Those 12 to 15 years old must volunteer with an adult. Note: This adult must also complete an application and all required steps to become a volunteer.

Volunteers 18 and over may participate in all programs except diving; divers must be at least 21 years old.

Please see the volunteer assignment descriptions for specific age requirements.

Is there a time commitment?
Depending on the role, the time commitment is as follows:

Fishes husbandry, Marine Mammals husbandry, water quality laboratory, divers:
• A one-year minimum commitment on a weekly or biweekly basis is required.
• Volunteers are assigned to a shift on a specific day and time.
• Consistent availability throughout the year is expected.

Research & Evaluation, Guest Engagement, Learning Programs:
• A one-year commitment is preferred, but shorter commitments may be considered.
• Scheduled shifts may be weekly or biweekly, with some flexibility.
• Schedule changes and extended travel can usually be accommodated.

Special events and other opportunities
• Both seasonal and one-year commitments are offered.
• Flexible schedules are available.

All volunteers must exceed 40 hours of service a year. This minimum is normally met by attending your regularly scheduled shifts.

Volunteer shifts range in duration from two hours to seven or eight hours, even overnight. On average, shifts are four to five hours long.

One-time, short-term, court-appointed, or school-service volunteer opportunities may be available through our Great Lakes Action Days program. Contact the team at greatlakesactiondays@sheddaquarium.org for more, or visit our GLAD page.

Will there be volunteers like me?

All of our volunteers have a passion for learning and an interest in aquatic animals. If that’s you, you’re in good company!

We benefit from having a diverse volunteer program and welcome individuals from all walks of life. At Shedd, you’ll find volunteers ranging in age from 12 to 93. You may meet volunteers who are students, working professionals, retirees, or stay-at-home parents. 

Many have been lifelong visitors and want to help an organization they care about. Some want to gain experience for a future career, while others are “testing the waters” of a second career. Some are seeking to use or develop skills, and some just want a break from everyday life. Others are interested in meeting people with similar interests, or simply enjoy talking to people.

Do I have to know all about the animals at Shedd in order to volunteer?
While knowledge of the aquatic world is helpful, it’s not required for most roles. If you’re enthusiastic and willing to learn, we can teach you what you need to know. 

Is there a cost associated with volunteering?
There is no cost to join our program. Volunteers do have to pay their own transit costs. 

Is parking provided?
We offer discounted parking in the Soldier Field north garage during your shift. The cost is $5 a day. The garage is a short walk from Shedd. 

The Museum Campus is also accessible by public transportation.

Is there a volunteer uniform?
We provide a  navy T-shirt with the Shedd and volunteer logos to all new volunteers, along with a nametag.

Volunteers must provide their own khaki pants or shorts (depending on role) and closed-toe shoes. 

Additional uniform pieces are available for purchase.

Volunteers must also abide by Shedd personal appearance requirements. Visible tattoos are permitted so long as they don’t contain obscene, profane, racist, sexual, or objectionable words or imagery. Head, face and neck tattoos are not allowed. Small ear gauges and nose piercings are allowed. No other visible pierced jewelry or body adornments are allowed, including tongue studs.  For the safety of our animals, you may be asked to remove all jewelry, including piercings, during animal husbandry shifts.

General questions

Do you offer summer volunteer opportunities?
Yes!  We welcome summer volunteers in our Guest Engagement department as Exhibit Interpreters.  Please note your availability as “summer” on the Volunteer Application.  Summer volunteers must be able to train by the first week of June.

Is there a way to volunteer for a shorter time period?
Due to the amount of time and training involved in our volunteer roles, most require a long-term commitment. Shorter commitments may be available in some areas such as Special Events and Guest Engagement. Our Great Lakes Action Days program is also ideal for those looking for one-time or short-term opportunities. Learn more about our GLADs.

Do you offer job shadowing?
Due to the overwhelming demand for job-shadowing opportunities, and limited staff time, we are not able to accommodate these requests. 

Do you offer group volunteer opportunities?
Our Great Lakes Actions Days program offers a limited number of group volunteer opportunities. Contact our GLAD team at GreatLakesActionDays@sheddaquarium.org or 312-692-3330 to sign up. Shedd will consider your group’s size, site availability and desired activity when scheduling your Great Lakes Action Day.

If you are looking for a corporate volunteer opportunity, please contact Shedd's Corporate Partnerships team, at CorporateRelations@sheddaquarium.org. Please note that due to limited capacity, corporate group GLAD opportunities are reserved for Shedd’s current corporate partners. Please contact our team to discuss the minimum level of support required to participate.

Do you offer internships?
We have a variety of internships available throughout Shedd Aquarium. Please visit our Internships page for listings and application instructions.

I am interested in working at Shedd. Are you hiring?
Please visit our Jobs page for current opportunities. 

Are volunteers ever selected for internships or jobs?
Volunteering is never a guarantee of internships or employment. Volunteers are welcome to apply for positions if they meet the requirements. We do have many staff members who started as volunteers or interns. 

Can I learn to dive at Shedd?
Shedd Aquarium does not offer dive certification courses. Divers applying to the volunteer program must already be certified and have a certain number of logged open-water dives. Some dive positions require further certifications.

What if I still have questions?
Please contact us at volunteerservices@sheddaquarium.org.