How to Become a Welder in California

Did you know that California is the #2 state in the nation for welder employment?

Education & Training

To become a welder in California, you’ll need to complete an accredited education program and obtain an official license.

Trade Schools with Welding Programs

    Charter College
    10 month welding Certificate in Welding program offered in hybrid format (in class and online). No high school diploma necessary.

    • Canyon Country, Lancaster, Oxnard


    Institute of Technology
    45 week (3 1/2 month) Welding Technician program that preps students for certification. Accredited by ACCSC. High job placement rate.

    • Clovis, Modesto, Redding


    Summit College
    9 month program that prepares students for AWS certification and entry level positions. Learn the art of shielded metal arc welding, fundamental gas metal arc welding, flux cored arc welding techniques, gas tungsten arc welding mastery, oxyacetylene welding and precision cutting, alongside blueprint interpretation skills.

    • Colton, San Diego, Anaheim


    Universal Technical Institute
    Learn MIG, TIG, stick & flux-cored welding in 36 weeks. Provides help with financial aid, housing and employment.

    • Long Beach, Rancho Cucamonga, Sacramento


What Do You Study in Welding School?

Welding courses typically have classroom instruction and hands-on training components.

Classes at welding schools in CA usually include:

  • Shop and Site Safety
  • Welding Equipment Identification
  • Blueprint Reading and Interpretation
  • Construction Math
  • Business Fundamentals
  • Communication and Customer Service

During the practical application portion of their programs, students receive training on how to work with ferrous and non-ferrous metals:

  • Oxy-Acetylene cutting and brazing
  • Arc welding
  • MIG welding
  • Flux Core welding
  • Gas tungsten arc welding

How Long is Welder School in California?

Most people complete their welder certificate or apprenticeship program in as little as 6 months.

However, there are also 18-month-long courses and externships available for students who want a more in-depth understanding of the industry.

Those who hope to obtain associate’s degrees must complete 2 years of coursework and hands-on training.

What is the Cost?

At most welding trade school programs in California, tuition, fees, study materials, and equipment costs are usually about $3,500.

Students who choose to take community college courses might pay anywhere from $6,000 to $20,000. Tuition for an associate’s degree welding program may be as much as $55,000.

Salary Range

Here is a survey of average salaries in the state from major employment websites:

Below is some local data from BLS.gov.

Area Hourly Annual
Bakersfield $27.15 $56,470.00
Chico $24.27 $50,470.00
Eastern Sierra-Mother Lode $25.41 $52,860.00
El Centro $24.37 $50,700.00
Fresno $23.09 $48,020.00
Hanford-Corcoran $23.00 $47,840.00
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim $25.80 $53,660.00
Madera $23.91 $49,740.00
Merced $23.60 $49,090.00
Modesto $25.51 $53,070.00
Napa $27.34 $56,870.00
North Coast $34.25 $71,240.00
North Valley-Northern Mountains Region $24.69 $51,360.00
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura $24.92 $51,840.00
Redding $25.28 $52,580.00
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario $24.18 $50,290.00
Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade $26.96 $56,070.00
Salinas $26.20 $54,490.00
San Diego-Carlsbad $27.55 $57,290.00
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward $30.29 $63,000.00
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara $31.19 $64,880.00
San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande $26.54 $55,210.00
Santa Cruz-Watsonville $28.03 $58,300.00
Santa Maria-Santa Barbara $26.04 $54,170.00
Santa Rosa $28.18 $58,620.00
Stockton-Lodi $24.05 $50,020.00
Vallejo-Fairfield $31.28 $65,060.00
Visalia-Porterville $22.78 $47,380.00
Yuba City $24.39 $50,720.00

Occupation:Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers(SOC Code514121); Period:May 2022
source: data.bls.gov

As you gain experience, you’ll likely be able to negotiate higher wages or earn performance-based raises and bonuses.

You can make more money if you obtain extra certifications, as well. For example, California welders with commercial diving credentials may earn as much as $166,572, depending on the type of underwater welding jobs they get.

Apprenticeships

Some aspiring welders in CA are tactile learners who prefer exclusive hands-on training over traditional in-class instruction. Apprenticeships allow these individuals to work under the supervision of a licensed welder, learning the necessary skills for the job.

Benefits of an Apprenticeship

Apprentices typically enjoy the following benefits:

  • Gaining real-world experience by working for paying clients and construction teams at actual job sites
  • Practicing and perfecting their dexterity, hand-eye coordination, and judgment skills while performing welds
  • Building connections with clients and coworkers that could benefit them in their future careers
  • Observing and performing various business practices for their employers
  • Earning money while learning

Dive Welding Certification

Welders in CA might also consider completing specialized diving classes to earn their commercial diving certifications. Once they have these credentials, underwater welders can qualify for well-paying jobs working on:

  • Ships and submarines
  • Off-shore oil rigs
  • Dams
  • Underwater pipelines
  • Nuclear reactors
  • Bridges

California Welder Requirements

In order to qualify for welder jobs in California, you’ll need to obtain an official welding certification once you complete your apprenticeship or educational program.

Some schools include a licensing exam in their course curriculum, though you can get your credentials through the American Welding Society (AWS) or another certifying agency.

The standard requirements for getting your certification and becoming a welder in California are as follows:

  1. Be at least 18 years of age
  2. Have a valid driver’s license or state-issued ID
  3. Possess a valid Social Security Number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number
  4. Not currently be on parole or probation
  5. Pass a certification exam through an official licensing agency

Certification Exams

Certification exams for welders in CA vary, depending on where you live. However, most organizations proctor a two-part exam with a written portion and a welder performance qualification test.

If you test through the AWS, you’ll need to pass these tests with at least 70 percent, submit an application, and pay the required fees to receive your Certified Welder Wallet Card in the mail.

Welding Contractor License

Contractors State License Board logo

Experienced welders in CA might consider becoming private contractors and going into business for themselves.

According to California state law, those planning to bid for welding services that cost over $500 in labor, time and materials must obtain a C-60 welding license from the Contractors State License Board.

What’s Needed for a Contractor License?

Aspiring welding contractors in CA must:

  • Pass a licensing exam to determine your knowledge of welding and safety protocols, including working with asbestos and hazardous substances
  • Pay an initial licensing fee of $200 for Sole Owner welding contractors or $350 for Non-Sole Owners
  • Undergo fingerprinting for criminal background checks
  • File a contractor bond of $25,000
  • Show a Certificate of Workers’ Compensation Insurance or a Certificate of Self-Insurance of Workers’ Compensation from the Department of Industrial Relations

Job Description

What Do Welders Do?

Welders in CA use heavy, high-heat-emitting machinery to melt and shape metal while assembling and repairing metal items and structures.

To create durable, lasting welds, these skilled trades professionals perform duties like:

  • Accurately reading, interpreting, and following blueprints
  • Taking precise measurements and cutting metal parts
  • Filling and shaping metal components and products
  • Using gas flames, lasers, and electric arcs to melt and join metal pieces together

Career Outlook

Reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics predict a two-percent increase in the demand for welding jobs between 2021 and 2031. Having a certificate or degree on top of an official certification can improve your chances of finding welder jobs in California. Welders in CA might also qualify for sheet metal worker or machinery maintenance jobs if they struggle to find work in the industry.