Volunteer at the National Zoo


Volunteers offer invaluable support to the Smithsonian National Zoo's two facilities-the main Washington D.C. campus,and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia; providing over 90,000 hours of service each year. There are fun and exciting opportunities for all interests whether they be working with the public or behind the scenes, plants and animals, independently and in groups, or on weekdays and weekends.

Volunteers are exposed to amazing learning opportunities while helping the Zoo with fun education and conservation activities!

Volunteer Time Commitment

Most volunteer programs require a year's commitment due to the extensive training required. Keeper aides are required to do one full-day or one half-day a week for the year and other programs including education interpreters have a required number of shifts per month. Please see the position posting for information on requirements for that particular program.

Short-term opportunities are available assisting with our special events and office projects as they arise.

Age Requirement

You must be at least 18 years old to apply for most positions including keeper aide, behavior watcher, education interpreter, and several special events.

*We do offer a program for teens aged 13 and up during the summer. An interest in animals and their conservation is a must.

Recruitment Process

Each program has an application and interview process. Zoo Support positions may also require proof of certain vaccinations. Once accepted, full-time volunteers must pass a Smithsonian background check, complete initial training, become a FONZ member in their first year of volunteering (volunteers receive a 25% discount on FONZ memberships), and pay the orientation/training fee.*

*Current Fees are $20 for Zoo Support Positions and $30 for Education/Behavior Watch Positions (includes volunteer shirt and namebadge). Options are available for individuals for whom the fees and membership may not be manageable, please speak to the contact person listed for the position you are interested in for available options.

Benefits of Volunteering

As well as the joy of being in a wonderful place with dedicated people, and learning about and helping extraordinary animals, volunteers who meet the requirements receive:

  • Free parking while at the zoo for volunteer shifts
  • Discounts in the Zoo gift shops
  • Discounts at the Mane Grill and at food locations with a cash register
  • Select FONZ event tickets available at the reduced member price
  • Use of the FONZ library and volunteer lounge/kitchen
  • A discount when joining FONZ
  • Invitations to the annual volunteer appreciation events
  • Supplemental accident insurance for out-of-pocket medical expenses for injuries that occurred while volunteering on shift for FONZ
  • Free membership in the Volunteer Association at the National Zoo

Currently Recruiting For...

For current volunteer positions, please see postings under Washington, DC and Front Royal, VA recruiting pages.