Volunteer

Volunteers help bring the museum to life for more than one million visitors each year. They point the way, share fascinating facts, and help our scientists maintain a vast collection of artifacts and specimens. 

A young girl and volunteer look at a fossilized jaw set atop a Discovery Squad cart in Stanley Field Hall. The volunteer points to the large, flat molars set inside the fossil.

Each of our dedicated volunteers contributes to this world-class institution’s expertise, personality, and passion. You can be part of our mission to make the world better, too! 

We have more than 600 volunteers across more than 25 departments—there are plenty of ways to get involved.

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Ways to volunteer

With museum visitors

As a public volunteer, you’ll be the face of the Field Museum. If you love talking to people, you’ll love being part of a volunteer team that interacts with more than one million museum visitors every year.

School experiences

School experiences volunteers engage with students on field trips in our galleries through Curiosity Stations and hands-on activities.

Volunteers must commit to one weekday (Monday through Thursday, 10am–1pm) per week for at least six months.

Crown Family PlayLab

Volunteers in the Crown Family PlayLab, our early childhood center, help children and families discover the wonders of nature, connect to other cultures, and learn to think like a scientist.

Whether you’re greeting visitors at reception, interacting with children, or answering visitor questions, you’ll be playing a role in helping children imagine and grow. Ideal volunteers have a background in early childhood education and strong interest in natural science, world cultures, and art.

Volunteers commit to two full days or four shifts per month. Available shifts are 9:30am–1pm or 12:00–3:30pm. The PlayLab does not offer shifts on Tuesdays or Wednesdays. 

Discovery Squad

Discovery Squad team members use artifacts and specimens to help visitors discover what scientists can learn from them and why they’re so important to our collection. Having theater or teaching experience is a plus for Discovery Squad volunteers.

Discovery Squad shifts are available every day of the week. Volunteers must commit to four half-day shifts (9:30am–1pm or 12–3:30pm) or two full-day shifts (9:30am–3:30pm) per month. Training sessions are available:

  • Monday, October 8, 2018
  • Saturday, November 10, 2018
  • Saturday, January 5, 2019

Guest relations

Outgoing, helpful volunteers are always needed to greet and assist visitors from all over the world (bilingual skills are a plus). These volunteers are positioned at information desks throughout the museum and are the go-to for answers to visitor questions.

Volunteers are needed seven days a week, mornings and afternoons.

Docents

Docents receive formal training to provide guided tours in our exhibition halls. Ideal applicants have a background or strong interest in science or natural history, enjoy teaching, and have excellent communication skills with visitors of all ages and backgrounds.

Docents must commit to a full year of volunteering. Weekday docents volunteer once a week; weekend docents volunteer two half-days a month.

Docent opportunities are available for select permanent and ticketed exhibitions:

  • Mummies (March 16, 2018–April 29, 2019): Help visitors learn about mummies, coffins, sarcophagi, burial figures, ceramics, and the CT scanning process. 
  • Museum highlights tour: Lead tours that share stories about some of the Field Museum's most popular exhibitions.
  • Abbott Hall of Conservation: Restoring Earth: Engage visitors in exploring choices they can make for a healthier future. Those with environmental studies backgrounds are encouraged to apply. 
  • Robert R. McCormick Halls of the Ancient Americas: Guide visitors through the lives of ice age hunters, early farming villagers, mound builders, and the great Maya, Aztec, and Inca empires. Applicants should have some background in anthropology or history, with an interest in Native American cultures.
  • Cyrus Tang Hall of China: Guide visitors through an array of artifacts depicting 5,000 years of Chinese history and culture, from paleolithic times to present. Applicants should have a background in anthropology or world history, with a special interest in China. 
  • Griffin Halls of Evolving Planet: Take visitors on this journey through four billion years of life on Earth—including our dinosaur hall—to discover how evolution works and how we study it. A scientific background and strong interest in dinosaurs and evolutionary biology are encouraged.
  • Inside Ancient Egypt: Help visitors discover how ancient Egyptians lived in life and death.
  • Pawnee Earth Lodge: Engage visitors inside a furnished, full-sized replica of a Pawnee home to illustrate what traditional Native American life on the Great Plains was like. Applicants with backgrounds in anthropology or history and an interest in Native American cultures are preferred. 
  • Ruatepupuke II, Maori Meeting House: In this authentic Maori meeting house from New Zealand, docents introduce the culture to visitors and tell the stories behind the intricate carvings inside. Applicants should have some background in anthropology or art.
Two volunteers sit at a table and look into microscopes while they carve away at fossils. A woman in the background handles another microscope.

The McDonald’s Fossil Preparation Lab offers one of several behind-the-scenes opportunities for volunteers to get hands-on experience with our collections.  

Morgan Anderson

Behind the scenes

Behind-the-scenes volunteers support the museum’s administrative, scientific, and exhibitions departments. These opportunities are only available on weekdays from 9am to 5pm.

Conservation education

Our Keller Science Action Center is involved in conservation education that engages students, community groups, and educators through field trips to natural areas in Chicagoland’s Calumet Region. Volunteers work with students from 3rd to 12th grade. Responsibilities may include leading small groups in educational activities and exploration and supervising students to ensure their safety and well-being.

Volunteers make a yearlong commitment (at least six field trips). You must have access to transportation to stewardship sites.

Collections care

Collection Center volunteers work alongside our staff to count and sort artifacts, specimens, and records for our anthropology, botany, geology, and zoology collections. You’ll also do important administrative work, construct new foam-support housing or boxes for collection items, and tackle other tasks as needed.

Ideal candidates have academic or professional backgrounds in anthropology, botany, geology, or zoology, and must commit to working one full weekday per week for at least six months.

Administrative support

Our teams who work in fundraising, communications, and other administrative areas appreciate the help of highly organized, tech-savvy volunteers. Administrative volunteers do everything from filing paperwork and sorting mail to maintaining databases and providing support for departmental meetings and events.

Volunteers must commit to working one weekday per week for at least six months.

Teen opportunities

Our competitive summer teen volunteer program is designed for outgoing, curious high school students with a strong interest in the natural sciences and/or early childhood education.

Learn More About Summer Teen Volunteers

Benefits

Volunteers are unpaid, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be rewarded.

The cultural perks you’ll enjoy as a volunteer include free Field Museum membership, free admission to other area museums, and discounts at Field Museum restaurants and retail shops. Volunteers also get invites to members-only events, staff celebrations, special exhibition previews, and more.

You’ll also have the opportunity to meet world-renowned scientists and experts, explore our libraries, and connect with other enthusiasts who share your fascination with history, science, and culture.