Volunteer FAQ

Thank you for your interest in volunteering! Below you will find answers to the most common questions about our volunteer programs at the South Carolina Aquarium. If you have additional questions, please reach out to us by calling (843) 577-3474 (FISH) or by sending an email to [email protected].

Volunteer Requirements

What are the requirements for being a South Carolina Aquarium volunteer?

Age: Exhibit guides and conservations assistants must be at least 16 years old at the time of application. Any animal care volunteer must be at least 18 years old at the time of application. Students 13–15 may apply to volunteer in our Splash Program with a parent or legal guardian.

Time Commitment: All volunteers* must commit to at least one shift per week for at least one year. This shift will be at the same day and time every week once assigned. Shifts typically last four hours. Please note, we do not offer late afternoon or evening shifts.
*Volunteer divers are required to work 16 hours per month, scheduled by our dive staff. Conservation assistants will coordinate with our conservation programs manager to schedule their work.

Availability: We understand our volunteers lead very busy lives and occasional absences are necessary (including planned vacations). If you anticipate frequent absences during your year of volunteer service, we ask that you wait to apply until you are more regularly available. We depend heavily on our volunteers and are unable to accommodate repeated absences.

Uniform: The Aquarium will provide uniform shirts to all volunteers, along with a personalized I.D. access card. Volunteers must provide the remainder of their uniform which consists of khaki pants, shorts or skirt and closed-toe, secured-heel shoes.

COVID-19 Vaccination: Volunteers may be required to provide proof of full COVID-19 vaccination in order to serve at the Aquarium.

Accessibility: We are happy to discuss any accessibility concerns with you throughout the application process, and we will work with you to accommodate such needs should you be selected as a volunteer.

Diversity and Inclusion: We are committed to creating an inclusive workplace that celebrates and values diversity. Our culture is built on having a team of diverse backgrounds and voices working together to increase our capacity to serve our visitors and fulfill our mission. It brings us together in ways that help us stand out. We welcome people from all walks of life into our team and strongly encourage people of color, LGBTQIA+ individuals, veterans and people with disabilities to apply.

Do I need to have a marine science background or know everything about the Aquarium and its animals in order to volunteer?

Although a background in science and general knowledge of South Carolina animals and habitats is helpful, it is not required. We have volunteers from all backgrounds with a wide variety of interests. Passion to help the Aquarium deliver its mission is the most critical component of our volunteer team.

As a reminder, the Aquarium’s mission is as follows: Our mission is to inspire conservation of the natural world by exhibiting and caring for animals, by excelling in education and research and by providing an exceptional visitor experience.

Can I volunteer even if I don’t live in the Charleston area?

As long as a volunteer can commit to one shift per week for at least one year, location is not a barrier! We have enjoyed working with volunteers from Columbia, Myrtle Beach, Edisto, Beaufort, Savannah and more.

Conservation assistants and education learning partners serve statewide in their own geographic areas. If traveling to the Aquarium is not feasible, consider applying for one of these positions!

The Application Process

Do I have to fill out an application online? How long will it take to apply?

Yes, applications must be filled out online. All volunteer applications can be accessed here. You will receive a confirmation email once your application is submitted. While we make every effort to ensure our website is accessible to all, if you have circumstances that require a different form of applying, please email us at [email protected] with the subject line “Volunteer Application,” and we will be happy to work with you to make application arrangements.

Our application is relatively short but does require some longer-form written pieces, such as a brief essay. Please set aside plenty of time to fill out your application, as you cannot save it and come back to it later.

How do I monitor the progress of my application or know if I am chosen to move to the next step?

Applicants will receive an email from our team within two weeks of applying. You must respond to this email if you are still interested in volunteering! Even if we do not have a spot open for you at the moment, we will keep your application on file for six months in the event a position opens up. If you do not reply to this email, we will conclude your interest, availability or circumstances have changed and remove you from consideration. Please double-check your spam folder if you have not seen the email within the listed timeframe.

If an open position that matches your interests and our volunteer needs is available, we will arrange an interview.

Are all applicants accepted?

We are lucky to receive hundreds of volunteer applications every year, and we have many volunteers who stay on our team for years or even decades! Because of this, we are unable to accept every applicant. Positions are filled based on volunteer needs and applicant interests. Our layered vetting process ensures volunteers will experience a long and successful relationship with our organization and the programs for which they serve.

Working at the Aquarium

What is the onboarding process like for volunteers?

Orientation: If you are selected as a volunteer after your interview(s), you will be required to attend orientation. We will also ask for a photo, you’ll fill out some paperwork and you will be required to clear a background check, which typically is completed within one week.

Training: Don’t be nervous about beginning your volunteer work — you’ll be trained every step of the way! We’ll only have you take on duties independently if you and your supervisor are both comfortable with it.

Probation: Please keep in mind there is a probationary period for every volunteer, no matter your duties. The length varies depending on the department to which you are assigned. This helps us ensure the safety and wellbeing of our animals, staff and volunteers is at the forefront!

Where should I park?

Complimentary parking is provided to volunteers while they are working their shifts. You will receive more details upon orientation.

Where do I keep my belongings during my shift?

We have lockers available to store personal items during your shift. Please bring your own lock if you wish to fully secure your items.

Other Opportunities

Are there ways I can volunteer for just one day or one event at a time?

We would love to have anyone interested in working with the Aquarium and giving back to the community join us at one (or more) of our conservation events! Learn more about upcoming events, like litter sweeps and saltmarsh planting, here.

Are there other opportunities for teens to get involved?

Yes! We offer paid internships for area high school juniors and a job shadow program for students in grades 6–12. Visit our Teen Programs page for more information.

Do you offer volunteer opportunities for groups?

Please email us at [email protected] with the subject line “Group Volunteering” to learn about potential group opportunities.

Can I learn to dive at the Aquarium?

We do not offer dive classes at the Aquarium. All dive volunteers must be Advanced Open Water certified at the time of application. Please note, we do not recommend any particular certification or program over others.

Are volunteers or interns ever chosen for full-time positions? Where can I apply for a job at the Aquarium?

Please visit our Careers page to see our open positions. Many volunteers and interns do go on to apply for and be accepted to part-time and full-time positions at the Aquarium!

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