Friends of the National Zoo Volunteer

Washington, DC

Mission Statement

At the Smithsonian's National Zoo, we save species. We provide engaging experiences with animals and create and share knowledge to save wildlife and habitats.


Current open applications and more information can be found at

For long-term assignments (interpreters, keeper aides, behavior watchers) we recommend that you only apply to the area where you are most interested in working, as you will not be eligible to volunteer with another unit for at least six months. These positions are highly competitive and there are limited spaces available. Applications are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis, however, submission of an application is not a guarantee of placement.

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. An interest in animals and conservation is a must.

Time commitment: 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.

Recruitment Process: 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.

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