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 1 – January 2018 – June 2018
Term 2 – July 2018 – December 2018

Number of Placements: 2; Unpaid

Applications for Term 1 Internships Due: September 1, 2017 


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 Fall 2017:

- Animal Ambassadors/Hamill Family Play Zoo/Wild Encounters
- Australia House
- Fragile Kingdom
- Habitat Africa - The Forest
- Habitat Africa - Savannah
- Herpetology
- Hoofstock
- Large Carnivores
- Tropic World 

Applications Due: See Chart

Learn More About Animal Care Specialist Internships

Library Services

The Brookfield Zoo Library is one of the largest zoo libraries in the country and is primarily a zoological research library serving the zoo employees, volunteers, graduate students, and guests. We have a large archival collection comprised of photographs, slides, film, objects, negatives, artwork, and souvenirs that spans 97 years.

The library has a number of projects to complete that may be of interest. In 2015, the library joined the Chicago Collections Consortium and are in the process of digitizing and cataloging the current collection. Interns will have an opportunity for a well-rounded experience and may choose to rotate through research services, archival processing, and cataloging. Interns are also encouraged to work on projects that meet their scholastic goals.

Brookfield Zoo and the zoo library are a fun place to gain experience working at a non-profit institution and with a very unique collection.

Number of Placements: 3; Unpaid; Can be part-time

Applications Due: See Chart

Click Here for full Job Description

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

Education Research

Interns will gain an understanding of the activities of the Society's Education Research Department, such as science education research projects and educational programs project management.

Number of Placements: 1, Unpaid

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


Looking for more information? 
Frequently Asked Questions

You can also e-mail us at