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 training department, and event planning, the Zoo hosts team members with 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 specialist 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 Care Specialist

Recruiting for: Summer -- Fall -- Winter

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 currently accepting applications:

- Animal Ambassadors/Hamill Family Play Zoo/Wild Encounters
- Australia House
- Birds
- Large Carnivores
- Small Carnivores
- Habitat Africa - Savannah
- Habitat Africa – The Forest
- Herpetology
- Hoofstock
- Marine Aquatics
- Pachyderms
- Tropic World 

Applications Due: See Chart

Learn More About Animal Care Specialist Internships

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 2020 – June 2020
Number of Placements: 2; Unpaid
Applications for Term 1 Internships Due: July 28, 2019 


Click Here for full Job Description

Animal Curator

Recruiting for: Summer -- Fall -- Winter

This intern works directly with the Curator for Mammals. Intern will assist curator in daily activities and learn through hands-on experience what it takes to manage an animal collection.

Number of Placements: 1; Unpaid
Applications Due: See Chart

Click Here for full Job Description

Early Childhood Education

Recruiting for: Summer -- Fall -- Winter

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

Recruiting for: Summer -- Fall -- Winter

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: 1-2, Unpaid
Applications Due: See Chart 

Enrichment Workshop

Recruiting for: Summer -- Fall -- Winter

Interns will gain an understanding of techniques used to create naturalistic enrichment items for our animals. This position will serve to help expand and refine our material knowledge in the design and production of naturalistic durable enrichment devices for animals on exhibit. These enrichment devices help encourage natural behaviors while enhancing the overall aesthetic appeal of the exhibit.

Number of Placements: 1-2, Unpaid

Applications Due: See Chart


Environmental Quality

Recruiting for: Summer -- Fall -- Winter

This position contributes to the success of the Chicago Zoological Society by providing seasonal support for the Environmental Quality Manager. This position will work to monitor the various environments provided for animals at the Zoo using a variety of instrumentation and techniques. They will also 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 exhibits, and the routine use of a toolkit designed to assess outdoor exhibits to determine if enough shade or heat has been provided.

Number of Placements: 2, Unpaid

Applications Due: See Chart


Marine Mammal Care

Recruiting for: Summer -- Fall -- Winter

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

Zoo Nutrition Intern

Recruiting for: Summer -- Fall -- Winter

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

Zoo Camp Inclusion Aide

Recruiting for: Summer term only

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: February 17, 2019


Senior Roving Naturalist, Roving Naturalist, & Assistant Roving Naturalist


Recruiting for: Summer term only

Candidates for these placements will engage Zoo guests in celebrating animals and nature by providing all Zoo guests with the opportunity to have a quality, close-up encounter with, but not limited to a variety of domestic and exotic animals (reptiles). Interns may participate in outreach events off zoo grounds.

Senior Roving Naturalist internship(s) are available to King Conservation Science Scholar alumni or a current participant.

Roving Naturalist internship(s) are available to King Conservation Science Scholar alumni or a current participant.

Assistant Roving Naturalist internship(s) are available are available for individuals currently participating in the King Conservation Science Scholars program.


Number of Placements: 12 total, Paid
Mandatory Training: Roving Naturalist interns will be required to participate in mandatory training in June. Completion of this training will result in Certified Interpretive Guide (CIG) status through the National Association for Interpretation (NAI). 

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: March 17, 2019

Click Here for Senior Roving Naturalist Job Description

Click Here for Roving Naturalist Job Description

Click Here for Assistant Roving Naturalist Job Description

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