Shedd Aquarium volunteers can be found in almost every area of the aquarium: preparing food for our animals, sharing stories with our guests, testing water samples, and even diving! You don’t need to be an expert to volunteer. If you’re passionate about aquatic life, and you love to learn, teach and inspire, you'll be a great volunteer!
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Join the Shedd Family
At Shedd Aquarium, volunteers are valued partners. They can be found in almost every area of the aquarium: preparing food for our animals, sharing stories with our guests, testing water samples, and even diving. And that’s just the surface!
We strongly encourage people of color, LGBTQ+ community, Veterans and active duty military, parents, individuals with disabilities, and individuals from all cultural backgrounds to apply. Shedd Aquarium is an equal opportunity organization and welcomes everyone to our team. If you need a reasonable accommodation at any point in the application or interview process, please let us know.
- Admission to the aquarium and other cultural institutions
- The chance to see how Shedd works behind the scenes
- Gift shop and café discounts and discounted parking while volunteering
- Helping to spark compassion, curiosity and conservation for the aquatic animal world.
- Meeting a diverse group of staff members, volunteers and guests who share a passion for aquatic life
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.
If you are interested in becoming a Shedd Aquarium volunteer, please complete the online application.
All Shedd Aquarium Volunteers are required to:
- Be at least 12 years old. If under the age of 16, a volunteer must be accompanied by an adult at all times. This adult must also submit an application.
- Complete a background check
- Provide two references we may contact.
- Attend a new volunteer orientation and any additional training that may be required for your position.
- Commit to the required length of service for your chosen role
- Exceed 40 hours of service per year
Recognizing your commitment
In 2018, volunteers gave more than 95,000 hours of service! Thanks to our 2018 Hourly Milestone Volunteers!
Looking for group, short-term, or service hour volunteering? Check out our Great Lakes Action Days program.
Click on the descriptions below to learn more about our volunteer opportunities. Make sure you review these carefully, as each role has different schedules, commitments and requirements.
Shedd’s lakefront location is surrounded by gardens designed for our growing conditions, and volunteers help keep them looking great. Help is needed from late spring to early fall with garden maintenance tasks.Learn More , on the Horticulture Volunteers page
Diver responsibilities include helping clean and maintain exhibits and equipment, cleaning and maintaining support areas, preparing and setting up gear, and recordkeeping and tending while other divers are in the exhibit. All divers must be open-water scuba certified by a recognized agency (PADI, NAUI, YMCA, etc.) and must present proof of at least 30 logged open-water dives. Our dive programs are popular, so there is often a waiting list.Learn More , on the Diver Volunteers page
Fishes Husbandry Volunteers
Enjoy the messier aspects of maintaining our animals by preparing food, cleaning animal care and support areas and assisting with other important tasks. While animal contact is minimal, individuals gain experience and learn while working closely with our expert staff members. Animal care experience is helpful but not required.Learn More , on the Fishes Husbandry Volunteers page
Water-Quality Lab Volunteers
This role is ideal for those interested in the scientific aspects of Shedd. Every day water-quality lab volunteers analyze water samples from around the aquarium. performing wet-chemical analyses, cleaning lab equipment and glassware, and recording data for distribution to staff. A minimum of high school A.P. chemistry is required, and additional college chemistry coursework or professional experience is helpful, as is familiarity with basic aquarium water parameters and tests.Learn More , on the Water-Quality Lab Volunteers page
Marine Mammals Husbandry Volunteers
Enjoy the messier aspects of maintaining our sea lions, sea otters, penguins and birds of prey by preparing a variety of frozen foods, cleaning exhibit and support areas and assisting the animal care specialists with other critical tasks. (This role does not include work with the whales and dolphins.) Tasks can be physically demanding and include exposure to cold temperatures and saltwater. Although animal contact is minimal, you’ll work closely with and learn from our expert staff. Animal care experience is helpful, but not required.Learn More , on the Marine Mammals Husbandry Volunteers page
Aquarium Host Volunteers
This is a great way to get involved with Shedd if you have limited or changing availability. Aquarium hosts help with special event that include Jazzin’ at the Shedd, fundraisers, exhibit openings and other evening events; learning events like summer camp and overnights; conservation events, including Great Lakes Action Days ; and administrative tasks, including data entry, and “thank-you” calls to new members.Learn More , on the Aquarium Host Volunteers page
Spark curiosity, compassion and conservation for the aquatic animal world with Shedd’s diverse audiences. Choose one or more specializations to share amazing animal stories in exhibits, connect guests to animals at touch pool habitats and in learning labs, and inspire conservation through hands-on activities both at the aquarium and in the community.Learn More , on the Aquarium Ambassadors page
Research and Evaluation Volunteers
Help us gain a better understanding of Shedd’s diverse audiences: who they are, why they come, what engages them, what they learn and how they connect to the aquarium. Responsibilities include assisting with program and exhibit evaluations, collecting data through interviews, surveys and observations, helping with data entry and acting as a knowledgeable and friendly face of the aquarium while engaging with Shedd audiences.Learn More , on the Research and Evaluation Volunteers page