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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
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About Volunteering

About Volunteering

Exciting opportunities through the Office of Education & Outreach are available for a variety of interests, abilities and knowledge levels.

Volunteers can choose to:

  • Assist with school programs
  • Interact with visitors
  • Assist in various learning labs
  • Work with hands-on programs

Benefits

For many, the joys of volunteering here include sharing our unique collections and exhibitions 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:

  • Training from Smithsonian scientists and educators
  • Access to Smithsonian Libraries
  • 20% discount for Smithsonian shops and dining services
  • Free admission to the Butterfly Pavilion
  • One free film in an IMAX Theater per week

Requirements

  • 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
  • At least a one-year commitment of one 4-hour shift per week
  • Attendance at Museum orientation and training sessions. Training includes directed, independent study and research; introduction to object-based inquiry strategies and techniques; mentoring by experienced volunteers; lectures and demonstrations by Museum educators and research scientists; lab activities; and on-the-job experience.

FAQs

Q: How old to I have to be to volunteer?
A: For most opportunities, the minimum age to volunteer is 18.

Q: What sort of time commitment must I make to the volunteer program?
A: Volunteers typically serve at least one four-hour shift each week and commit to a minimum of one year of service. Exceptions for more intensive short-term experiences can be made.

Q: Can I select my day and time for volunteering?
A: When possible, we try to fit your preference with Museum needs in specific areas. Shifts vary with particular volunteer assignments and are determined once placement has occurred.

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: Orientation and new volunteer training is scheduled twice a year, with additional sessions as necessary to keep current on exhibitions. 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, and guided lessons and activities.

Volunteer Voices

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

Here are firsthand testimonials and feedback from volunteers from all areas of the Education & Outreach 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."