Criminalist FAQs

Where can I find information about or an application for the Crime Laboratory’s Criminalist position?
For information about the position, or to apply for an open position, please contact the San Diego County Department of Human Resources at 619-236-2191 or on the Internet at http://www.co.san-diego.ca.us/hr/


What are the requirements to apply for a position as a Criminalist?
A person who applies for the Criminalist position must meet the following education requirements:
A bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university in chemistry, biology, or a closely related field, with completed course work consisting of at least eight (8) semester/twelve (12) quarter units of general chemistry and three (3) semester/four (4) quarter units of quantitative analysis.

In addition to these qualifications, a person pursuing an interest in the discipline of Forensic Biology or DNA must have completed the following:

Two (2) semester/three (3) quarter units of (each) molecular biology, biochemistry and genetics.

Candidates must also possess a valid California Class C driver’s license and must successfully pass a thorough background check (medical, drugs and criminal history).


What are the job duties and responsibilities of a Criminalist?
Criminalists are responsible for performing the following analyses (depending on forensic discipline):

▪  Chemical and biological tests to identify and analyze body fluids, tissues and various types of related matter
▪  DNA analysis
▪  Examination of physical evidence such as hair, fiber, soil, paint, glass, ignitable liquids and determination of physical, microscopic and compositional characteristics
▪  Analysis of drugs and narcotics
▪  Determination of alcohol content or drug levels in various materials
▪  Laboratory tests involving firearms and related materials

All Criminalists will be responsible for the interpretation of laboratory results through written reports and courtroom testimony.


Can I be a Criminalist and not testify?
No. It is the responsibility of the Criminalist to know the principles, methods and techniques of their particular scientific field and be able to effectively communicate this information to law enforcement personnel and in the courtroom.


Will I have to go to crime scenes if I become a Criminalist?
While this is a requirement or expectation at some forensic laboratories, not all Criminalists at the San Diego Sheriff’s Crime Lab respond to crime scenes. Currently, a Criminalist must first volunteer to be part of the crime scene investigation team. If he or she does volunteer, Laboratory management decides who will be part of the C.S.I. team based upon a number of factors, including proficiency in the Criminalist's forensic discipline, the level of training of the Criminalist in crime scene investigation techniques, and the overall impact on the Laboratory.


What is the difference between the Criminalist position and the Forensic Evidence Technician position?
The Criminalist is based in the laboratory where their primary responsibility is conducting laboratory analyses for a particular forensic discipline. Criminalists may report to a crime scene to apply their knowledge and the scientific principles needed to aid a crime scene investigation.

The Forensic Evidence Technician (FET) is based in the field processing crime scenes. It is the FET’s primary responsibility to report to crime scenes for documentation and evidence collection which aids in the crime scene investigation.


Any other miscellaneous information about the Criminalist position?
In addition to extensive training within the Sheriff’s Crime Laboratory, Criminalists have many opportunities to receive training outside of the laboratory from various agencies, including the California Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Training includes access and exposure to various advanced laboratory methods and equipment. Criminalists may also be able to attend conferences throughout the United States.

The Sheriff’s Crime Laboratory places a heavy emphasis on customer service. Criminalists are often called upon by deputy sheriffs, investigators, and attorneys to give advice, training, and/or presentations about the type of work done in the laboratory.


Field Evidence Technician FAQs


Who do I contact for information about or an application for the Crime Laboratory’s Forensic Evidence Technician position?
For information about the position, or to apply for an open position, please contact the San Diego County Department of Human Resources at 619-236-2191 or on the Internet at http://www.co.san-diego.ca.us/hr/


Are there any prerequisites to becoming a Forensic Evidence Technician?
Yes. A person who applies for the position of Forensic Evidence Technician must meet one of the following education/experience requirements:

An Associate of Science degree and a community college certificate in Evidence Technology or equivalent, OR

One (1) year of experience in the identification, documentation, collection, preservation, and transportation of physical evidence, which must include fingerprinting processing, OR

Two (2) years of full-time experience as an Evidence Technician at a law enforcement agency.

Candidates must also have a valid California Class C driver’s license and must be willing to travel to and from crime scenes located within (and occasionally outside of) the County of San Diego. Forensic Evidence Technicians rotate through a call schedule that requires them to be on standby for significant periods of time. When called, they must respond at all hours of the day and night, including weekends and holidays. Also, before being accepted, a job candidate must successfully pass a thorough background check (medical and drugs).


What are the job duties and responsibilities of a Forensic Evidence Technician?
Forensic Evidence Technicians are responsible for the documentation, collection, preservation, and transportation of physical evidence from crime scenes and autopsies, including the fingerprint processing of evidence items and vehicles. The documentation process includes crime scene, subject, autopsy, and aerial photography (aerial photography involves riding in a helicopter above and around crime scenes while taking pictures). Forensic Evidence Technicians are also responsible for processing and collecting evidence from suspects, witnesses, victims, and deceased individuals. Additional duties involve operating various types of audio and video equipment, preparing extensive reports using a computer, and testifying in court when asked to do so.


Any other miscellaneous information about the Forensic Evidence Technician position and the Sheriff’s Crime Laboratory?
In addition to extensive training within the Sheriff’s Crime Laboratory, Forensic Evidence Technicians have many opportunities to receive training outside of the laboratory from various agencies, such as the California Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Training includes access and exposure to various advanced evidence processing methods and equipment.

The Sheriff’s Crime Laboratory places a heavy emphasis on customer service. Forensic Evidence Technicians are often called upon by deputies, investigators, and attorneys to give advice, training, and/or presentations about crime scene processing. Our goal is to accommodate the needs of all of our customers.