How to Become a Crime Scene Investigator Forensic Scientist in San Diego, California

The two primary sources for CSI and forensic science jobs are the San Diego Police Department Forensic Science Section and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department Regional Crime Lab.

Requirements for Becoming a Crime Scene Investigator in San Diego

The job description includes documenting, collecting, preserving and transporting physical evidence from crime scenes and autopsies; processing fingerprints; taking crime scene and aerial photographs (from a helicopter over the crime scene); operating audio/video equipment, writing reports and testifying in court. Job requirements are:

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  • Associate’s degree and CSI certificate from a community college OR one year experience in crime scene investigations OR two years experience as an evidence technician with a law enforcement agency
  • Valid Class C California driver’s license
  • Successful background check/and drug test
  • Willing to work nights, weekends and holidays if necessary
  • Willing to travel long distances to crime scenes (Sheriff’s Department)

Requirements for Becoming a Forensic Laboratory Scientist in San Diego

The job description includes running chemical and biological tests on body fluids/tissues, developing DNA profiles, analyzing trace evidence to determine microscopic and compositional characteristics, verifying drug/alcohol content, examining firearms. Job requirements include:

  • Bachelor’s or master’s degree from an accredited college/university in chemistry, biology or a closely related subject – must include at least eight semester (12 quarter) credit hours of general chemistry and three semester (four quarter) hours of quantitative analysis.
  • DNA unit requires an additional two semester (three quarter) hours EACH of molecular biology, biochemistry and genetics.
  • Valid California Class C driver’s license
  • Pass background investigation of medical, drugs and criminal history

San Diego has at least seven community colleges and six four-year accredited colleges/universities to choose from, as well as several online institutions.

How to Apply for CSI and Forensic Scientist Jobs in San Diego

The City of San Diego Personnel Department website has a list of job opportunities and application instructions for jobs with the SDPD Forensic Science Section..

Information about jobs with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department Regional Crime Lab can be reviewed online. The sheriff’s department crime lab also has an internship program for both undergraduate and graduate students.

The average annual salaries for crime scene investigators and forensic scientists in San Diego are $47,000 and $59,000 respectively.

San Diego Police Department (SDPD) Forensic Science Section

The SDPD forensic science section’s Crime Scene Unit examines crime scenes of homicides, questionable deaths, officer involved shootings and other serious crimes. CSIs photograph, collect, and preserve physical evidence, develop latent finger/palm prints, reconstruct the crime and transport evidence to the nationally accredited full-service SDPD crime lab that includes the following units:

  • Firearms – Examines firearms/bullets/cartridge cases, compares with ballistics databases, determines firing distances and restores obliterated serial numbers.
  • Forensic Chemistry – Analyzes blood and other materials for illegal drugs; determines alcohol content of blood, breath and beverage samples.
  • Forensic Biology – Locates, tests and develops DNA profiles; compares them with the FBI’s DNA database; interprets blood stain patterns.
  • Latent Prints – Develops/compares latent prints not visible to the naked eye.
  • Questioned Documents – Examines documents and writing samples for evidence of forgeries or manipulations.
  • Trace Evidence – Analyzes a wide range of physical evidence (hair, glass, paint, fibers, shoe/tire impressions, gunshot residue, explosives, etc.).
  • Polygraph – Conducts polygraph examinations as needed.

San Diego County Sheriff’s Department Regional Crime Lab

The regional crime lab provides forensic science services to law enforcement groups in every city in San Diego County, as well as to district attorneys and state agencies. The Crime Scene Unit responds to homicides and other serious crimes countywide, covering roughly 4,000 square miles that include military installations, Indian lands and the Pacific Ocean. Other units of the regional lab include:

  • Alcohol – Manages the breath alcohol testing program; analyzes blood for DUI cases; examines fluids for alcohol content; provides court testimony.
  • Biology/DNA – Develops DNA profiles from crime scene evidence.
  • Bloodstain Pattern – Often goes to crime scenes to analyze blood stain patterns in order to determine the positions of people/objects, the direction of swings or movements, the number of blows and the sequence of events.
  • Computer Forensics – Partners with the San Diego Regional Computer Forensics Lab, one of 14 such FBI facilities in the nation. The highly trained team conducts forensic examinations of computers and other digital media.
  • Controlled Substances – Tests powders, pills, plant material and other substances to determine the presence of narcotics.
  • The Questioned Documents, Firearms, Latent Prints and Trace Evidence Units perform the same functions as described above under SDPD crime lab.

In 2004 the sheriff’s department created the first cold case forensics team to investigate cold homicide and sexual assault cases.

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