Summary: In this unpaid externship, students will work with veterinary staff to gain clinical experience with animals that are rescued or managed under professional care. Students will gain wide exposure to a variety of animals, including mega-vertebrates, hoofstock, large carnivores, non-human primates, birds, small mammals, and reptiles. Where feasible, specific emphasis will be placed on the rescue and rehabilitation of Florida manatees.

Expectations and Responsibilities:

Under the direction of the veterinary staff, students will:

  • Participate in all aspects of zoological medicine, including medical and surgical treatment, preventative medicine, quarantine protocols, pathology, and daily case rounds.
  • Review medical records and anesthetic protocols, monitor anesthesia, complete physical examinations, collect and interpret diagnostics, and develop treatment plans for cases in which they participate.
  • Assist the veterinarians and veterinary technicians with all medical procedures during their rotation.

Students are expected to complete a project in alignment with ongoing clinical research or explore a clinical topic during their time. A presentation is to be given by the student at the conclusion of the program.

Timing, Expected Duration, and Commitment:

The Zoo anticipates accepting only one extern per season, with the expected duration of 4 to 6 weeks. The available slots are listed below, with the actual externship period to be scheduled with the selected candidate within the time block on a mutual agreement:

  • Fall (September to November)
  • Spring (March to May)
  • Summer (June to August)

Selected students can expect a 5 day work week including one weekend day, with the possibility of on-call for receiving rescued manatees and/or other potential emergencies.

Allied Institutions: Depending on time and interest, rotations to The Florida Aquarium and Clearwater Marine Aquarium may be available. Regular visits are also made to the Ellie Shiller Homosassa Spring State Wildlife Park.

Application Materials: Apply online at Requirements include a curriculum vitae, letter of intent, 3 letters of recommendation, veterinary school transcript, and available dates within the term requested. Please upload all materials into the online application. Letters of recommendation only can be emailed to

Application Deadline: Applications are accepted continuously, but it is highly recommended that an application is submitted 12 months prior to the expected rotation.

Compensation: Unpaid

Housing and Transportation: No housing is provided. Recommend students have their own personal vehicle. Free parking is available at the zoo.

Insurance: Students must provide proof of medical insurance (externs are considered Zoo volunteers and are not covered by Zoo workers compensation coverage)

Other Requirements:

If selected, candidates must also:

  • Provide proof of tetanus within last six months, negative tuberculin skin test or equivalent, and rabies vaccination
  • Successfully complete criminal background screening at extern’s cost (typically $25, but fees may apply in certain jurisdictions checked)
  • Execute a required hold harmless/liability release agreement
  • Completing onsite intern orientation and policy review

Qualifications and Experience

  • Must be currently enrolled veterinary students in the third or fourth year of training with interest in zoo/aquatic and wildlife medicine.
  • Possess a sincere desire to work with both animals and guests
  • Excellent communications and customer relations skills
  • Ability to effectively work independently, and within a team environment
  • Professional attire is required
  • Must have the ability to follow specific instructions and also be comfortable self-directing
  • Ability to communicate ideas and contribute effectively
  • Physical capacity to perform tasks described above

Other Requirements

  • Conducts all activities in alignment with AZA standards and guidelines, all relevant laws and regulations, safety standards, and standards that ensure animal welfare.