C.E.L.O. - College Experiential Learning Opportunities

The Mission of the Chicago Zoological Society is to inspire conservation leadership by connecting people with wildlife and nature.  We live our mission through our core values.

Brookfield Zoo

Opened in 1934, Brookfield Zoo is managed by the Chicago Zoological Society and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). The Chicago Zoological Society is committed to developing people’s capacities and competencies, serving as a mentor and trainer, providing experiential learning opportunities to individuals seeking to understand, develop, and establish careers in the fields of zoology and conservation.

In fulfilling this role, the Society has a long-standing Internship Program that has been recognized as one of the top programs for college students in the country. The program, established in 1975, was one of the first in the nation to allow students pursuing careers in animal care the opportunity to work side by side with professional zookeepers, learning the skills and techniques necessary to manage exotic zoo animals. Since that time, the Internship Program, now called the College Experiential Learning Opportunities program, has evolved to include internships and research opportunities in a variety of areas and fields.

C.E.L.O. offers you:

- Mentoring and Coaching
- Training
- Hands-on, relevant, real experience
- Unique experiences in a diverse setting



Animal Care Specialist Internships

Animal Care Specialist internships are available with a variety of animals: Large animals, Domestics, Small animals, Birds, Reptiles, Hoofstock, Amphibians, Marine Animals, and Nutrition. Specific opportunities vary term to term based on department needs. 

Vet Tech Internships & Externships

Students currently pursuing a veterinary technician certificate that are interested in working within the zoo and aquatics field are invited to apply for placement in the Zoo's veterinary hospital. 

Learn More About
Vet Tech Internships & Externships

Specialty Internships

It takes more than expert animal care to run the Chicago Zoological Society.  From our award-winning education programs, to the staff trainining department, and event planning, the Zoo hosts team members will a wide variety of talents.  Specialty internships are a unique way to gain experience in a professional setting. 


Minimum Requirements

C.E.L.O. program applicants must meet the following minimum requirements:

- Completion of one (1) year of college or equivalent (approximately 24 credit hours)
- Overall grade point average of 2.2 (out of 4.0)
- Be willing to commit to a 12 week term (generally 5 days/week, 40 hours per week) for all animal care internships. Other areas often take part time interns.
- Have a sincere interest in the particular field where the intern desires placement.
- Some positions require more experience or specific skills. Please read each position description below to determine whether or not you are qualified.

Completed applications must be received by 5pm (CST) on the deadlines listed below. Please note, internships and work-study opportunities may not be offered in all areas every year. Term dates may be somewhat flexible based on student’s academic calendar. If an interview is desired to further consider the applicant for an internship opportunity, the applicant will be notified by e-mail. Selected interns must clear a full background check in order to begin. Offers are subject to this clearance. Please visit our Frequently Asked Questions page for more details.

For the welfare of employees and animals, proof of a current tetanus vaccination is required for all internships prior to the start of the internship assignment. In some animal areas, additional inoculations/tests may be required (measles, vaccine, TB test, etc.). All tests/vaccinations are at the applicant’s expense.

Application Details

Students who want to be considered for an internship or participation in the work-study program must complete:

C.E.L.O. Online Form  Do not complete the online form until positions have been posted (dates below) for your desired term as opportunities vary throughout the year. There is great interest in the CELO program and because of this, incomplete, early, or late applications will not be considered. In addition to this form, please send:

- Professional cover letter describing your particular interest.

- Current resume detailing education and other qualifications including work history and any other relevant experience such as military or volunteer service.

- Two (2) professional letters of recommendation that include a candid assessment of the candidate’s aptitude, qualifications, background, and suitability for the program. References should include the  length and capacity in which the individual has known the applicant as well as contact information should more information be needed. (Letters may be sent separately by references.)

- An unofficial or official copy of the applicant’s most recent transcripts for all of the colleges or universities attended. Official copies will be required if you are offered a position.

- If you feel you would need any sort of accommodations in accordance with the Americans with Disabilties Act, to fulfill this internship successfully, please complete an ADA Accommodations form and return it to alison.davis@czs.org.

Please submit applications via mail (address below), fax: 708-688-7361, or email (.pdf files are best, no Google Docs will be accepted): interns@czs.org. No phone calls please.

Chicago Zoological Society – Brookfield Zoo

C.E.L.O. Program
3300 Golf Road
Brookfield, IL 60513


Animal Behavior Research

This six month, part-time placement provides hands-on experience working with animal behavior projects on a variety of species.

Term 2 – July 2018 – December 2018

Number of Placements: 2; Unpaid

Applications for Term 2 Internships Due: February 18, 2018 


Click Here for full Job Description

Animal Care Specialist

Placements are available in the following areas. Please read each area description carefully. On your application, you can select up to three (3) areas for placement consideration.

Number of Placements: Varies by area; All Animal Care Specialist positions are unpaid

Areas accepting applications for Summer 2018:

- Animal Ambassadors/Hamill Family Play Zoo/Wild Encounters
- Australia House
- Birds
- Fragile Kingdom
- Habitat Africa - The Forest
- Habitat Africa - Savannah
- Herpetology
- Hoofstock
- Pachyderms
- Tropic World (Primates)

Applications Due: See Chart

Learn More About Animal Care Specialist Internships

Marine Mammal Care

Candidates for this placement should be comfortable around water and passionate about marine mammal care. On your application, you can select up to three (3) areas for placement consideration. However, if you are applying for Marine Mammal Care, you will only be considered for Marine Mammal Care.

Number of Placements: 4, Unpaid

Applications Due: See Chart

Click Here for Job Description

Animal Curator Intern

This intern works directly with the Associate Curator for Mammals. Intern will assist curator in daily activities and learn about the overall care of the animals. The intern will assist in the development of written materials describing animal care methods, biological data management etc.

Number of Placements: 1-2; Unpaid

Applications Due: See Chart

Click Here for full Job Description

Audience Research Assistant

Interns will gain an understanding of techniques used to measure and evaluate a variety of services and programs at Brookfield Zoo, such as audience needs, level of guest satisfaction, success of special exhibits, or people’s connections to nature. Research projects include work and data collection to help understand different audience needs, explore levels of guest satisfaction, assessing special exhibits, and measuring connections to nature. Projects will include quantitative and qualitative data collection techniques. Interns will aid in data collection (mostly out of doors in the park) and with data entry and may help with other aspects of ongoing research projects such as pilot testing new methodologies.

Number of Placements: 1, Paid: $13.00/hr

Important: In order to be considered for this paid position, in addition to the CELO application requirements outlined above, you must also apply for the position through our CZS Career Center

Applications Due: See Chart



Development & Fundraising

Interns will gain on-the-job training and experience in the Development/Fundraising field. This position will serve to help expand and refine our donor relations and assist with the planning and coordination of events.

Number of Placements: 1, Unpaid

Applications Due: See Chart


Early Childhood Education

In partnership with Morton College, the Chicago Zoological Society offers an externship in Early Childhood Education at Hamill Family Play Zoo and CZS’s off-site libraries and or organization partners that provides students with an interactive learning experience. The purpose of play experience in this area of the Zoo is for children, aged birth-10, and their families to provide fun and meaningful ways of developing caring relationships with animals, nature and to provide adults with the approaches and encouragement to help children develop caring attitudes toward the natural world.

Number of Placements: 1, Unpaid

Additional Requirements: Current enrollment in ECE 260 through Morton College, Cicero, IL.

Applications Due: See Chart


Education Research

This position contributes to the success of the Chicago Zoological Society by providing interns with exposure and opportunities to understand the programmatic and operational resources necessary to provide meaningful educational experiences. Interns will gain an understanding of the activities of Chicago Zoological Society’s Education Research Department at Brookfield Zoo, such as science education research projects and educational programs project management. Internship is designed for individuals interested in informal education careers in zoo and/or museum settings. Experiences are designed to provide an overview of working in an accredited zoological park or conservation organization.

Number of Placements: 1, Unpaid

Applications Due: See Chart


Enrichment Workshop

This position contributes to the success of the Chicago Zoological Society by expanding and refining our material knowledge in the design and production of naturalistic durable enrichment devices for animals on exhibit. By working alongside artists who are dedicated to the creation of enrichment, you will help produce enrichment devices that encourage natural behaviors and enhance the overall aesthetic appeal of the exhibit.

Number of Placements: 1, Unpaid

Applications Due: See Chart


Environmental Quality

This position contributes to the success of the Chicago Zoological Society by providing seasonal support for the Environmental Quality Manager to monitor the various environments provided for animals at the Zoo using a variety of instrumentation and techniques, and to report the findings (and any potential issues) to the appropriate AP Managers and staff. This includes, but is not limited to, routine water quality sampling and analysis for all re-circulating aquatic systems, routine air sampling and analysis of areas of the zoo that may present health issues for animals, the analysis and assessment of artificial UV lighting used for indoor exhibitry, and the routine use of a toolkit designed to assess outdoor exhibits to determine if enough shade or heat had been provided.

Number of Placements: 2, Unpaid

Applications Due: See Chart


Human Resources - Training & E-Learning

This on-site e-learning development internship position is e-learning project-based and created in exchange for academic course credits or for a short-term paid internship. The position contributes to the success of the Chicago Zoological Society by developing and enhancing human capital and capacity through on-the-job learning, and to stimulate interest in a career in a non-profit, cultural, or zoological organization.

CZS University is the gateway for 1,500 employees to access resources to learn new skills from orientation, customer service, professional development, leadership development, to compliance training, and more.

Number of Placements: 1, Unpaid

Applications Due: See Chart


Zoo Camp Inclusion Aide

This internship contributes to the success of CZS by supporting children with disabilities in Zoo Camp to support our mission of connecting all children with nature and animals regardless of ability, in a fun and inclusive environment. This internship is designed for individuals interested in pursuing careers working with individuals with disabilities in educational or recreational settings. Interns will have opportunities for training and practice in: inclusive curriculum development, support strategies, behavior management, disability awareness and accessibility.

Number of Placements: 3, Unpaid

Applications Due: See Chart


Zoo Camp Digital Engagement

This position contributes to the success of the Chicago Zoological Society by providing support to the Zoo Camp team and camper parents by providing digital avenues in which information and media can be shared in an engaging manner.

Number of Placements: 1, Unpaid

Applications Due: See Chart


Zoo Nutrition Intern

Learn through hands-on experience what it takes to feed the entire animal collection. Interns will receive hands-on experience while assisting with daily duties and will learn about the many aspects of captive animal nutrition management and health care, including behavioral enrichment, animal nutrition, record keeping, animal behavior and many other skills that are necessary for success in a modern zoo environment. Learn similarities and differences between human nutrition, domestic animal nutrition, and exotic animal nutrition.

Number of Placements: 1 - 2; Unpaid

Applications Due: See Chart

Click Here for full Job Description

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