A volunteer speaks with visitors at the Reef Lagoon.

Learn more about who our volunteers are, why they donate their time, and what benefits they receive in return. And if you have a question we haven't answered below, please don't hesitate to contact us directly at volunteers@calacademy.org

Who are Academy volunteers?

Academy volunteers mirror the diversity of the Bay Area and identify deeply with the Academy’s mission to regenerate the natural world through science, learning, and collaboration. Some have extensive science backgrounds, others, none at all. The Academy welcomes a wide range of skills, interests, talents, and backgrounds; we'd love to learn more about yours.

The California Academy of Sciences welcomes people of all backgrounds, identities, and beliefs to join us in achieving our mission to regenerate the natural world through science, learning, and collaboration. We place diversity, equity, and inclusion at the heart of our recruiting efforts and strive to build a culture centered on mutual respect, equal treatment, and the opportunity to succeed. We look for volunteers with a collaborative spirit who work well and respectfully with others.

Why volunteer?

Many volunteers are interested in building specialized skills and experience as part of a professional path; others are drawn primarily to the opportunity to inspire others. All are sustainability-minded, enthusiastic about the natural sciences, and enjoy the company of kindred spirits.

What are the benefits of volunteering?

Volunteers are encouraged to develop new skills and explore their personal interests, all while enabling the Academy to accomplish far more than staff would be able to do alone. Volunteering is also a great way to meet other people and connect with the local community.

Did you know studies also show that volunteering is great for your physical health and sense of well-being? What a great way to spend a few hours each week!

How are volunteers placed in a volunteer role?

The Volunteer Programs Team screens each applicant and works with them to identify the role which will be the best fit for their interest, experience and availability. We ask that volunteers commit to volunteering in a single role for at least six months before adding additional roles, so we will need to work with you to select just one role during your application process.

What days and hourly commitments are required from volunteers?

We require a commitment of at least six months, with few exceptions, and do not currently offer one-time or more time limited volunteer opportunities. The required time commitment and shift availability varies for each role, and a full list of the specific requirements and shifts available can be found at the top of the volunteer application.

Will I have a set schedule as a volunteer?

Scheduling varies based on the specific volunteer role that you are applying for. Some roles, including all aquarium or husbandry related roles, require a commitment to a standing shift on the same day of the week and time each week for at least nine months. Other roles, including all of our guest facing roles, use a flexible self scheduling system which allows volunteers to choose their own schedule. Please consider your availability and ability to commit when selecting a role.

Do I need a background in science or other prior experience to volunteer?

Not necessarily. Some roles do require prior experience, and those requirements will be noted in the role description found on our website. In most cases, enthusiasm and a willingness to help is all that is needed.

What are the age requirements to volunteer?

Most volunteer roles require applicants to be at least 18 years of age. The Academy Naturalist Teen volunteer role is the only role currently available to those under 18, and volunteers are required to be between the ages of 15-17 in order to participate in that program. A full list of youth programs can be found here.

Are all volunteer candidates accepted?

While the Volunteer Programs Team works hard to place each and every applicant, it is not always possible to find an assignment that is a fit for both the applicant and staff. Generally, applicant availability for the specific role that they are applying for, or inability to make the required commitment, is the most common reason why an applicant may not be able to be placed in a volunteer role.

Are there any fees associated with becoming an Academy volunteer?

Volunteering at the Academy is free, with all onboarding costs covered by us. Docents volunteers are the only group who are asked to purchase their own uniform coat, however donated coats are always available if the cost is prohibitive.

Is a background check required to volunteer?

Yes, the Academy requires all staff and volunteers to undergo a background check. We cover the costs of this check and have a quick and easy form that volunteers complete in order to fulfill this requirement. If you have any questions or concerns about this part of the process, please reach out to us at volunteers@calacdemy.org so that we can provide further information.

Is there a matching gifts program?

Yes! Some employers donate money to the Academy to "match" their employees' volunteer hours. Visit our Matching Gifts page to see if your employer participates.

Can my group volunteer for a day?

Unfortunately, we are unable to accommodate group or one day volunteer opportunities at this time; with exception for corporate member groups. You can find out more about corporate engagement opportunities here.

How do I get started?

If you are interested in volunteering, please complete our online application. We will be reviewing your application alongside the skills, qualifications and availability for the specific roles that you list as being of interest to you. The Volunteer Programs Team does our best to contact each applicant within 60 days, and if a candidate is selected to move forward, a screening interview will be scheduled.

Contact us
Still have questions about volunteering? Feel free to contact us:
Academy Volunteer Programs Team
Volunteering at the Academy

Prospective volunteers, we offer a wide range of opportunities to match nearly any interest, whether your preference is helping visitors to explore our exhibits, preparing specimens in our research collections, or caring for our aquarium tanks.