Donating more than 90,000 hours of time each year, volunteers provide invaluable support to the Zoo's two facilities: The Smithsonian's National Zoo, located in Washington, D.C., and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, located in Front Royal, Virginia. Opportunities for volunteering include aiding animal keepers, interpreting animal behavior for visitors, maintaining Zoo grounds and gardens, and assisting with special events.
Volunteers have the opportunity to learn about animals and help educate the public about conservation and animal care.
Age requirement: 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.
Time commitment: Most volunteer programs require at least a 1-year commitment due to the extensive training required. Please see each position posting for information on requirements for that particular program. Some short-term and single day opportunities are available.
Recruitment Process: Each volunteer opportunity has an application and interview process. If accepted, full-time volunteers must pass a Smithsonian background check and complete initial training. Please be aware that some positions may also require proof of certain vaccinations.
While volunteers have the opportunity to learn about the amazing animals living at the Zoo, there are no volunteer opportunities that work directly with animals or involve touching an animal.
SCBI is the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. This facility, which houses research programs and vulnerable species, is located in Front Royal, Virginia, roughly 70 miles west of Washington, D.C. Both SCBI and the Smithsonian's National Zoo have volunteer opportunities. Learn more about SCBI.
We offer a teen volunteer program in the summer for ages 13 through 17. Recruiting for this program typically begins in January, so mark your calendar! To learn more about the program, including how to apply and what the interview process is like, please see the teen volunteer opportunities. For students under the age of 13, we recommend you find out more about our camps and classes.
Volunteering at the Zoo will count for Student Service Learning (SSL) hours if your school includes the Smithsonian's National Zoo/Friends of the National Zoo on their list of approved institutions.
The Zoo does not offer court-ordered community service.