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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
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About Volunteering

Photo of a Volunteer

Want to learn more about volunteering at the National Museum of Natural History? Click below to explore benefits you receive as a volunteer, requirements for service, and to hear from our current volunteers about their experiences.

Benefits

For many, the joys of volunteering at the National Museum of Natural History include sharing unique collections, exhibitions, and research with some of the 7 million visitors from around the world that visit each year. For others, being in a special community of scientists, environmentalists, teachers, explorers, and natural history enthusiasts is the greatest reward.

Additional benefits of volunteering include:

  • 20% discount at SI museums’ public cafeterias
  • 20% discounts at Smithsonian Museum Shops
  • 20% discount on Smithsonian Magazine
  • Discount on Smithsonian Associate Gift memberships
  • One free ticket to an IMAX screening, the Planetarium or the National Mall Carousel
  • One monthly free ticket to the Butterfly Pavilion and $5 Guest tickets to the Butterfly Pavilion
  • Invitations to curatorial lectures and programs
  • Free or Discounted entry to selected Museums around the World
  • Free Membership to the Agriculture Federal Credit Union (AgFCU)
  • Smithsonian Library card with access to world class resources and online journals
  • Free Parking at the Smithsonian’s Udvar Hazy Facility
  • Annual Recognition Events and Service Awards
  • Yearlong Professional enrichment Classes

Requirements

  • Must be 18 years and older. If you are between the ages of 14 and 17, check out youth opportunities here.
  • An interest in science, especially natural history and human cultures, is recommended. A background in natural history, science, or teaching is not required.
  • Enthusiasm for working with people of all ages
  • Eagerness to learn
  • Good oral communication skills
  • Most opportunities ask for at least a one-year commitment of one 4-hour shift per week with a minimum of 8 hours per month divided into two 4-hour shifts
  • Attendance at Museum orientation and training sessions. Training includes a Museum orientation, instruction on science content, teaching techniques, and learning how to work with the public. Behind-the-scenes volunteers may receive specialized training related to specific projects. Instruction includes lectures, interactive sessions, demonstrations, guided lessons, and activities.

Volunteer Voices

Who else better to share experiences and insight on volunteering at the National Museum of Natural History than Volunteers themselves?

Here are firsthand testimonials and feedback from volunteers from all areas of the Volunteer Program.

"This is the best job I've ever had! It's opened new doors for me and has given me an opportunity to share my enthusiasm and love of the natural world with museum visitors."

"It's wonderful to give children authentic learning experiences in science and see their sparks of interest towards nature and the world."

"I love sharing the Museum with the public, particularly visitors from other states and countries."

"I have learned more as a volunteer than I thought I would, not only about science but also about myself!"

"I have learned so much from the lectures given by the scientists and the Education staff."

FAQs

Q: How old to I have to be to volunteer?
A: For most opportunities, the minimum age to volunteer is 18. If you are between the ages of 14 and 17, check out youth opportunities here.

Q: What sort of time commitment must I make to the volunteer program?
A: Volunteers commit to a minimum of one year of service serving at least 8 hours per month. Exceptions for more intensive short-term experiences can be made on a case-by-case basis.

Q: Can I select my day and time for volunteering?
A: This depends on your assignment. In some assignments have regularly scheduled shifts with specific time frames. In other opportunities, we have opening scheduling where volunteers can sign up for the times they want.

Q: What kind of education or work experience do I need to be a volunteer?
A: The Museum provides all the information and training you need to become a great volunteer! We just expect you to come with a desire to learn and a passion for sharing your interest in natural and cultural history.

Q: What does training to be a Volunteer include?
A: Training includes instruction on science content, teaching techniques, and learning how to work with the public. Behind-the-scenes volunteers may receive specialized training related to specific projects. Instruction includes lecture, interactive sessions, demonstrations, guided lessons, and activities.