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.
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 base on the applicant’s and the aquarium’s needs, but that is not always possible.
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.
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 [email protected].
Please email [email protected] with any changes.
We keep all volunteer applications on file for one year.
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There is no cost to join our program. Volunteers do have to pay their own transit costs.
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.
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.
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.
Due to the overwhelming demand for job-shadowing opportunities, and limited staff time, we are not able to accommodate these requests.
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.
Our Great Lakes Actions Days program offers a limited number of group volunteer opportunities. Contact our GLAD team at [email protected] 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 [email protected]. 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.
We have a variety of internships available throughout Shedd Aquarium. Please visit our Internships page for listings and application instructions.
Please visit our careers page for current opportunities.
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.
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.
Please contact us at [email protected].
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
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 [email protected] for more, or visit our GLAD page.
Yes. All applicable deadlines will be posted on Shedd’s website and/or within the internship postings.