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Volunteer Info

Recruitment Process

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Each volunteer opportunity has an application and interview process. Please submit your application as outlined in the position description. If 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.*

Please be aware that some Zoo support positions may also require proof of certain vaccinations.

*Current fees are $20 for Zoo support positions and $30 for education/behavior watch positions (fee includes volunteer shirt and name badge). 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.

Age Requirement

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Volunteers must be at least 18 years old to apply for most positions, including keeper aides, behavior watchers, education interpreters, and some special events.

During the summer months, there is a volunteer program for teens, ages 13 and up. An interest in animals and conservation is a must.

Time Commitment

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Most volunteer programs require at least a 1-year commitment due to the extensive training required. Keeper aides are required to do one full-day shift or one half-day shift each week for the year. Other programs, including education interpreters, require a set number of shifts per month. Please see each position posting for information on requirements for that particular program.

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

Benefits of Volunteering

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Volunteers have the opportunity to learn about animals and help educate the public about conservation and animal care. Other benefits include:

  • Free parking while at the Zoo for volunteer shifts
  • Discounts at Zoo gift shops
  • Discounts at Mane Grill and 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 annual volunteer appreciation events
  • Supplemental accident insurance for out-of-pocket medical expenses for injuries that occurred while volunteering
  • Free membership in the Volunteer Association at the Smithsonian's National Zoo