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Volunteer Guidelines


Caltech understands the important role volunteers play in supporting the Institute’s research and education mission. The following guidelines have been established to ensure that the relationship between volunteers and the Institute is clearly identified and understood by everyone involved.


Caltech recognizes the need to balance the desirability of volunteer service with the need to protect volunteer interests and the need to minimize risk to both the volunteer and the Institute. The following guidelines and procedures address the various issues that may arise as divisions or departments seek to engage and maintain volunteers.  Note:  The responsibility for proper screening and engagement of volunteers rests with the Divisions or Departments.

Unpaid Academic Appointments

Individuals who have unpaid academic appointments to the Institute are not considered volunteers when acting in that capacity.  They are permitted to volunteer their services under the terms and conditions in this document.

Caltech Volunteer Definition

Caltech volunteers are uncompensated individuals who perform services directly related to the business of the Institute in order to support the Institute’s activities or gain experience in specific endeavors.  To qualify as a volunteer, the individual must be willing to provide services according to these guidelines.  If you are unsure whether an individual’s activities would qualify as a volunteer, contact Human Resources for assistance.

Responsibilities and Rights of the University Volunteer

A Caltech volunteer is expected to abide by Institute policies and regulations that govern their actions, including but not limited to those of ethical behavior, confidentiality, financial responsibility and drug use.

Caltech volunteers are covered under Caltech’s Workers Compensation policy. All volunteers must register with their department in order to be covered. Volunteers may be granted access to resources on campus (e.g., email, computer systems, on-campus parking, library, buildings or labs) depending on the needs and/or requirements of their assigned activities.

Who May Volunteer

Anyone, including current or retired employees, students, alumni or others may provide volunteer services to the Institute.  An employee may not become a Caltech volunteer at the Institute in a capacity in which he or she is was employed at the Institute, or which is essentially similar to the individual’s regular work at the Institute. Volunteers do not engage in duties that a paid employee would normally perform.


A minor is any person under the age of 18 years who is required to attend school.  Under state and federal law, minors may not be employed in any hazardous occupations, and Caltech places the same restrictions on volunteers.  Because the restrictions can be complex and also vary according to the age of the minor, please consult with Human Resources regarding each specific minor.   

Examples of hazardous occupations include positions involving:

  1. working in or about an area with explosives;
  2. driving motor vehicles;
  3. transportation of hazardous materials;
  4. operation of power driven wood working machines, circular saws, band saws, guillotine shears, chain saws, reciprocating saws, wood chippers, and abrasive cutting discs;
  5. operation of power driven hoisting apparatuses, including for example, operating or assisting to operate certain elevators, cranes, derricks, hoist, riggers, forklifts, or high-lift trucks;
  6. operation of power-driven metal forming, punching, and shearing machines;
  7. work performed in or about boiler or engine rooms;
  8. roofing operations and working on or about a roof;
  9. excavation operations;
  10. work in connection with maintenance or repair of Institute  machines or equipment; and
  11. exposure to radioactive substances and to ionizing radiation.

At campus, minors volunteering in laboratories must be approved by the Division Chair or designee in consultation with the supervising Principal Investigator.  Minors volunteering in areas with restricted access also must be approved by the supervising Director.   Consideration for approval should be on a case-by-case basis taking into account potential hazards associated with the specific research, the types of equipment to be used, and any potential chemical and/or biological exposures.  

JPL does not allow minors under age 16 to volunteer at any time and no minors are permitted to volunteer in laboratories.

Volunteer Agreement and Release

The following section of these guidelines identifies three types of volunteer service: services not requiring a Volunteer Agreement and Release or a record in Oracle; services requiring a Volunteer Agreement and a record in Oracle (if not a current employee or student); and prohibited activities (those which a volunteer must never perform).  The lists that follow are not exhaustive but intended to provide guidance when considering volunteer engagement.  Caution: For individuals under the age of 18, Volunteer Agreement for Minors and other forms are required, no matter the level of service.

Services Not Requiring Volunteer Agreement/No Oracle Record

The following activities require a completed Volunteer Data sheet to be retained in the Division/Department but do not require a completed Volunteer agreement or Oracle record:

  • Advisory council participant
  • Public speaker
  • Research board member
  • Activities lasting a week or less

Services Requiring Volunteer Agreement and Disclosure and other documentation/Oracle Record

The following activities require a completed Volunteer Data Sheet, Volunteer agreement, Confidentiality and Non-Disclosure agreement, Patent Agreement, and Oracle record:

  • Laboratory work
  • Clerical work
  • Professional services (accountant, engineer, architect, etc.)
  • Volunteering that requires travel of any kind
  • Work with confidential information
  • Work with minors other than Caltech students or applicants to Caltech
  • Work with Caltech students

Prohibited Activities:

The following activities are a sample of prohibited activities. The list is not exhaustive and certain restrictions may apply, Check with the appropriate Division or Department to be sure the activity is allowed.

  • Operation of Caltech vehicles or heavy equipment
  • Work with controlled substances, hazardous materials/equipment or stored energy
  • Work with large sums of money
  • Entering into any contract on behalf of the Institute
  • Any activity considered inappropriate for an employee


Selecting and Engaging Caltech Volunteer

It is the Division or Department’s responsibility to be certain the individuals being selected as volunteers have adequate experience, qualifications and training for the tasks they will perform. The following procedures are suggested to ensure that your selection process is successful.

  1. Complete the Volunteer Data Sheet.
  2. Determine if an Oracle record and therefore other forms are required.
  3. If no agreement is required, maintain the Volunteer Data Sheet in your Division/Department (for your information and for Workers Compensation).
  4. If an Oracle record is needed and therefore other documents are required, have the prospective volunteer and the Division/Department complete all of the remaining forms.
  5. Individuals under 18 years of age may only volunteer for services appropriate to their age and skill level and with the appropriate work permit from their school. The Volunteer Agreement for Minors and Medical Consent for Minors must be completed in addition to the other forms.
  6. Forward completed forms to Human Resources (MC 153-84)
  7. Retain copies of any completed forms (and any attachments) for the period determined by Caltech data retention policies.

Note: It may not be appropriate to follow some of the steps for some Caltech volunteers.  If you have questions, please contact Human Resources for guidance.

Payments to Caltech Volunteers

Payment for services by volunteers is not allowed.  However, the Institute will reimburse Caltech volunteers for actual and reasonable expenses, following standard Caltech reimbursement guidelines.


If the volunteer services being performed require forms to be completed, complete the appropriate forms from the following list and send them to Human Resources at Mail Code 153-84 or

Forms to send to Human Resources (MC 154-84 or

  • Volunteer Data Sheet --- The data sheet includes required personal information and a section describing the volunteer’s proposed activities (which organization, when, what kind of activities, etc). If the volunteer has not been at Caltech before, the information in this form will be used to set up a new Oracle record and a UID will be generated.  If the volunteer has an Oracle record, the information will be used to update the original record.   If no Oracle record is required, maintain the original in the Division/Department.
  • Volunteer Agreement and Release is signed by the volunteer.  It must have a specific start and end date, no longer than one year, renewable by the volunteer’s sponsor.

  • Confidentiality and Non-Disclosure Agreement for Volunteers should be signed by the volunteer and the volunteer’s supervisor or Division Administrator.
  • Patent Agreement
  • Volunteer Agreement and Release for minors
  • Medical Consent for minors
  • Background Investigation Disclosure is required in the following situations:
  • Volunteering for one of the athletic facilities
  • Volunteering that requires interactions with Caltech students or minors
  • Other activity specific forms may be required by the Division or Department

Volunteers who require a Caltech ID card and are new or returning to Caltech as a volunteer will need to work with Human Resources to get an ID Card.  Volunteers who have an active ID card because they are already active on campus in another capacity, such as employees or students, will not need to acquire a new ID card.