Volunteer Policy

The Johns Hopkins University Schools of Arts & Sciences and Engineering recognizes and appreciates the contributions of volunteers to its mission of education and research. The policies found on these pages advise administrators from both Schools on the proper requirements and procedures pertaining to volunteers.

Please be sure to make contact with the department to which you are applying to volunteer with prior to submitting any materials. They will advise you as to proper procedure.

Volunteer Eligibility

Anyone, including retirees, students, alumni, or others may provide volunteer services to the Schools, with the following restrictions:

A non-University student, who is under age 18, or over age 18 and still enrolled in high school, may only become a University volunteer for service as part of an approved school program pursuant to an agreement between the University and the school, and only with parental consent. Individuals under the age of fifteen may not become University volunteers.

A current employee may not become a University volunteer at the University in any capacity in which he or she is employed at the University, or which is essentially similar to or related to the individual’s regular work at the University.

It is important to determine that a person is performing services of a volunteer and will not be considered an employee under the Fair Labor Standard Act. A determination by the Department of Labor that a person’s service was that of an employee’s will result in the time of service being commensurable.

Application to Be a Volunteer

When selecting and engaging a volunteer, it is the department’s responsibility to be certain the individual has adequate experience, qualifications, and training for the task he or she will be required to perform. The following procedures must be followed prior to engaging a volunteer.

A. School of Medicine Registrar’s Office (SOM)

(Broadway Research Building, Room 147; (410) 955-3080)

All Homewood undergraduate students subject to a training agreement between their school and JHUSOM and JHU degree candidates must be processed through the SOM Registrar’s Office. These individuals are required to comply with the procedures outlined by that Office, including but not limited to, any credentialing, TB-testing, clearance by Occupational Health, and HIPAA training.

B. Homewood Schools

Volunteers requesting to serve on the Homewood campus for either the Whiting School of Engineering or the Krieger School of Arts & Sciences are to be processed through the host department prior to serving in any volunteer capacity.

For Krieger School of Arts & Sciences appointments, the completed volunteer application is collected by the department administrator, who in turn, generates an appointment letter*. A copy of the complete file (including the application and the appointment letter) should then be forwarded to the KSAS Dean’s Office  (Wyman Park Building, 6th Floor).

For Whiting School of Engineering appointments, the completed application is collected by the department administrator, who in turn, generates an appointment letter*. An electronic copy of the complete file (including the application and the appointment letter) should then be forwarded to Joy Mettee in the WSE Dean’s Office (jmettee@jhu.edu; (410) 516-3983; Wyman Park Building, 4th Floor).

Please note that the Dean’s Offices receive a copy of these materials solely for filing and reference; there is no processing performed by Dean’s Office staff.

*We recommend that the department administrators use this Volunteer Letter Template when generating the appointment letter.

For all Homewood volunteers, the following rules apply:

  1. Each potential volunteer (or their parent) must sign the Risk and Waiver of Liability Form and the volunteer application.
  2. If the volunteer seeks to serve in connection with a high school internship program, he/she is responsible for having his/her school send two letters of recommendation.
  3. Acceptance of a volunteer is subject to a satisfactory reference check.
  4. Volunteers aged 18 or over, must also submit to a criminal background check prior to serving in any volunteer capacity*.
  5. Individuals who had volunteered in the same capacity previously and are now returning, after a six month or longer break in assignment, must again complete the entire process set forth above.
  6. Volunteers must satisfactorily complete all applicable training and orientation prior to commencing activities at the School. Depending on the nature of the service, training may include, but not be limited to, HIPAA requirements, health and safety, lab protocols, and animal lab requirements**.
  7. A current volunteer whose duties materially change, or who wishes to commence a new volunteer assignment, must complete all forms and processes set forth above.
  8. The supervisor, department and/or center are responsible for retaining all forms and documents for a period of five years from the date the volunteer ends his/her assignment.assignment.

*For information on background checks, sponsoring departments should contact Valerie Cloud.

**Contact the Health Safety and Environment Office at (410) 516-8798 to determine whether formal training is required.

Before generating an appointment letter, the following documents must be received by the sponsoring department administrator:

  1. Volunteer Application (Official)
  2. Signed Risk and Waiver of Liability
  3. Letters of recommendation (For high school interns)
  4. Results of background check (For volunteers 18 or over, please refer to rule #4 above)
  5. Documentation that training is either completed or is unnecessary


Positions approved under this policy may be terminated at any time without cause or prior notice.

Volunteer Status Definition

Volunteers are individuals who perform services for their own benefit, in furtherance of the humanitarian, educational or service missions of the School and/or to gain professional experience through their service to the School. Volunteers are uncompensated and provide services without expectation of pay. NOTE: Volunteers normally have no affiliation with the Johns Hopkins University. However, under special circumstances, certain Johns Hopkins employees may serve as volunteers when their paid work is substantively different from his/her work as a volunteer.

To ensure that an individual performing volunteer services is not an employee for purpose of the Fair Labor Standards Act, all of the following criteria must be satisfied in order for an individual to be approved as a volunteer:

  • The services are intended to be voluntary and to be rendered without compensation.
  • The services must constitute a bona fide effort of the individual to volunteer for a humanitarian or public service purpose or for the benefit of his/her professional experience.
  • The fact that the individual is an employee elsewhere in the University does not mean he/she cannot volunteer in a capacity that differs from his/her employment.
  • However, where an employment relationship does exist, that relationship may not be waived; so, for example, an employee cannot volunteer to do activities that are the same or similar to ones he/she performs in his/her JHU job.
  • Individuals volunteer their time for their own personal motives, without promise or expectation of compensation, at hours that suit their own convenience.
  • Volunteers must not be utilized in ways that displace or replace regular employees in the performance of their normal duties.

Volunteer Experiences

Individuals who wish to volunteer for purpose of educational or professional interest or as part of a formal or informal educational program must meet the following criteria:

The experience is for the benefit of the volunteer.

  • The volunteers do not displace regular employees, but work under their close observation.
  • The department that provides the experience does so primarily for the benefit of the volunteer, and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded.
  • The volunteers are not entitled to a job at the conclusion of the experience.
  • The institution and the volunteers understand that the volunteers are not entitled to wages for the time spent in volunteer experience.

Duration of Volunteer Experience

The relationship may not extend beyond 6 months without being renewed.

Requirements and Responsibilities Pertaining to Volunteers

University volunteers are subject to and must abide by all applicable University, School and departmental policies, procedures and rules including but not limited to those relating to health and safety, confidentiality, protected health information, non-discrimination, computer use, ethics, conflict of interest, criminal background check, financial responsibility, drug use and anti-violence.

Foreign nationals must have the appropriate visa and authorization to engage in volunteer activities, as certified by the Johns Hopkins Office of International Students and Scholars Services.

Prohibited Activities for Volunteers

University volunteers cannot replace employee positions or impair the employment of a University position. Volunteers’ services are generally limited to humanitarian, charitable or public services.

University volunteers are also prohibited from performing the following activities:

  • Operating heavy equipment including vehicles
  • Working with stored energy (e.g. steam, electricity, hydraulics)
  • Activity considered inappropriate for any employee
  • Entering into any contract on behalf of the University
  • Working with infectious or potentially infectious agents, including human blood