California Scholarships To Fund Your Skills-Based Career

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Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California
The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is a visual reminder of why California is also called The Land of Dreams. (Credit: Lucky-photographer/Shutterstock)

By SkillPointe Staff

California has many nicknames, but The Land of Dreams best summarizes the state’s financial aid landscape. Scholarships and grants that can be applied toward a trade school or community college education are plentiful.

California’s Student Aid Commission makes starting the process easier by providing free Cash For College webinars to help students and their families fill out forms and understand what’s available.

Similarly, SkillPointe wants to help California residents find money from different sources so students can obtain a skills-based education without accruing debt. We focus on careers that don’t require a four-year college degree, and we take the same approach to financial aid. We’ve sifted through available scholarships to make sure they are applicable to associate degrees, technical diplomas or certificates. (Many of these programs also apply to four-year programs.)

An excellent starting point for your scholarship search is our how-to guide on finding trade school scholarships. There, you’ll learn how to make sure your chosen school is accredited (and why that matters), find out if you’re eligible for a federal Pell Grant, what you need to know about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form and a list of nationally available scholarships.

As you look for scholarships and grants, keep these helpful tips in mind:

  • There are scholarships that address everything from financial need to personal experience to leadership. At every turn, ask questions about the availability of California scholarships, including from the school you want to attend, from local employers in your field of interest, and from religious, business or community-based organizations.
  • Students who are undocumented will fill out the CA Dream Act Application (CADAA) instead of the FAFSA. Just like the federal form, this state form determines a student’s financial aid eligibility.
  • Don’t forget about the big college scholarship websites. In the article mentioned above, we list several of that offer helpful filters and search features to help find scholarship programs that apply to trade schools and community colleges.

Scholarships for community college and trade school in California

We start our list with scholarships offered by the state of California. That’s followed by a list of scholarship programs offered by specialty groups.

Scholarship and Grant Programs Run by the State

Cal Grant

A Cal Grant is California's version of the federal Pell Grant. The grants can be used at most of the universities and community colleges in the California system as well as eligible career colleges, technical schools and independent institutions. There are three kinds of Cal Grants, but students apply for all three and their choice of school and grant application responses help match them with the right grant type, including those that cover technical school and community college. Learn more about the Cal Grant.

California Chafee Grant for Foster Youth

This grants helps former or current foster youth who are making satisfactory academic progress with grants of up to $5,000 to be used at an eligible college, university or career/technical school. Students can win the grant for up to five years. Learn more about the California Chafee Grant for Foster Youth.

California Community Colleges Promise Grant & California Promise

The Promise Grant covers enrollment fees at all eligible community colleges in the state for students with financial need. (Books and supplies are not covered, but you can apply separately for funds to cover these fees.) You can apply online if you plan to attend specific community colleges. Students who don’t qualify for the grant may benefit from a separate program called California Promise. (The names are similar but these are separate programs.) Schools receiving California Promise funds may waive enrollment fees for first time students, but they are not required to. They may use the funds to help students in other ways. Learn more about the California Community Colleges Promise Grant and California Promise programs.

Law Enforcement Personnel Dependents (LEPD) Grant Program

The spouses and dependents of law enforcement employees who died or were disabled in the line of duty are eligible for this need-based grant. The employee must have worked for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Division of Juvenile Justice or as a firefighter, tribal firefighter or law enforcement officer. Grant money can be used at universities, colleges and technical schools on the Cal Grant eligible schools list. Learn more about the Law Enforcement Personnel Dependents Grant Program.

Golden State Teacher Grant (GSTG)

The GSTG program helps students currently enrolled in an approved preparation program and working toward their preliminary credential to become a teacher, school social worker, counselor or attendance official. Students may win awards of up to $20,000, and grant winners are obligated to work at an eligible school for four years. Learn more about the Golden State Teacher Grant Program.

Scholarship Programs Run by Community Groups

Andrew Q. Peschard Memorial Scholarship

The family of Andrew Q. Peschard created this scholarship in memory of Andrew, who graduated from Menlo Atherton High School in 2017. The $1,000 award is given to a graduating high school senior from the San Francisco Bay Area who has demonstrated "resilience in their mental health journey and determination in pursuing a college education." The scholarship can be used to attend community college, vocational programs and four-year universities. Learn more about the Andrew Q. Peschard Memorial Scholarship.

California Association of Collectors Educational Scholarship Foundation (CACESF)

This scholarship was created by an association for credit and collection professionals and promotes smart money and borrowing habits. It's open to high school juniors and seniors who plan to attend an accredited college, university or trade school within 12 months of graduating from high school. The scholarship awards for $2,500, $2,000 and $1,500 require an essay. Learn more about the CAC’s Educational Scholarship Foundation.

California-Hawaii Elks Vocational Grant Program

California residents who plan to earn a certificate or two-year degree in an eligible vocational or technical career can apply for this scholarship, one of several offered by the Elks. Learn more about the California-Hawaii Elks Vocational Grant Program.

California Scholarship Federation Michelson Memorial Award

Named after longtime officer and advisor Glenn Michelson, this award is open to junior and senior members of the California Scholarship Federation (CSF), which is focused on scholarship, character, leadership and service. Learn more about the California Scholarship Federation Michelson Memorial Award.

Cathay Bank Foundation Scholarship Program 

This scholarship, created in partnership with the Asian Pacific Community Fund, provides 20 $1,000 scholarships. Applicants must be high school seniors who plan to attend an accredited community college or four-year college as a first-year student in the fall. GPA and income requirements apply, but the money can be applied to all majors. The scholarship reopens in January 2024. Learn more about the Cathay Bank Foundation Scholarship Program.

Cherry Hawk Scholarship

This scholarship helps students in Southern California who have survived cancer and plan to pursue a sports-related career such as sports information, sports medicine — including physical therapy or sports psychology — sports management, sports marketing and sports journalism or communications. It's named after Taylor “The Hawk” Richardson, Gene “Cherry” Ward and all the “Fallen Hawks” who enjoyed the sporting life. This is part of a group of scholarships under the Cancer for College umbrella. Learn more about the Cherry Hawk Scholarship and additional California scholarships available through Cancer for College.

California Rural Water Association Annual Scholarship

The CRWA Scholarship helps students pay for relevant college, trade school or Academy of Water Education (AWE) classes. Learn more about the CRWA Annual Scholarship Program.

California Association of Winegrape Growers Foundation Scholarship

This scholarship from the California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG) Foundation benefits the children of California winegrape grower employees. Graduating high school seniors can apply for this group of six scholarships to attend specific California universities and community colleges. Learn more about the CAWG Foundation Scholarship.

Daniel A. Terry Scholarship

This scholarship from the California Fire Foundation supports the children of firefighters who died in the line of duty. The scholarship covers certificate programs and degrees, including those from two- and four-year institutions. It's named after California Professional Firefighters President-Emeritus Daniel A. Terry. Learn more about the Daniel A. Terry Scholarship.

Davis Memorial Foundation Scholarship

Students who want to attend trade school or earn an associate or bachelor's degree that relates to the construction industry can apply for this $5,000 scholarship. Students with family connections to the roofing industry are encouraged to apply to this award, which is administered by the Western States Roofing Contractors Association (WSRCA). The scholarship is named after Larry and Mary Davis, who died in a plane crash as they were returning from a WSRCA committee meeting. Learn more about the Davis Memorial Foundation Scholarship.

Distracted Driving Scholarship

This $1,000 essay-based scholarship from the Javaheri & Yahoudai Law Firm benefits students who are at least 18 years old and enrolled in or planning to enroll in an accredited two- or four-year college. The scholarship supports high school seniors and college students who are "committed to servicing their community by pledging to abstain from distracted driving." Learn more about the Distracted Driving Scholarship.

Doyle Foundation Scholarship

Students who are graduating high school seniors or older can apply for this scholarship that has no GPA, specific career or income requirements. Both need-based and merit-based scholarships are awarded and can be used for students attending vocational and trade school, community college, state universities, some schools outside California and Nevada and some public and private schools. Learn more about the Doyle Foundation Scholarship.

eQuality Scholarship Collaborative Program

These $6,000 scholarships for residents of northern or central California are awarded to students who have helped the lesbian/gay/bisexual and transgender community. Scholarships may be used to pay for postsecondary education at accredited community colleges, universities and trade schools. Learn more about the eQuality Scholarship Collaborative.

ERC Eco Scholarship

This scholarship from the Environmental Research Center (ERC) helps high school seniors interested in environmental health sciences pursue education and training. Students who have been or will be accepted to an accredited two- or four-year institution in California can win these $1,000 awards. Learn more about the ERC Eco Scholarship.

Executive Women International (EWI) Scholarship Programs

High school students enrolled in a school located within the boundaries of participating EWI chapters (Pomona Valley and San Diego in California) can apply for this group of scholarships. The annual scholarship can be used to pursue an associate, bachelor's or master's degree. Scholastic achievement, leadership qualities, good citizenship and extracurricular activities will be considered. The Adult Students in Scholastic Transition (ASIST) Scholarship focuses on transitional students, including those with physical or economic need, those well-beyond high school who are entering postsecondary education or the workforce for the first time, those seeking reskilling, or non-traditional students already enrolled in trade school, college or university. In addition to the degrees mentioned, this scholarship can be applied toward certificate programs. Learn more about the Executive Women International Scholarship Program and the ASIST Scholarship.

Hearthstone Housing Foundation Scholarship

Students who live in Hearthstone Housing Foundation properties or in counties where they are located can apply for this need-based scholarship for full-time students in high school, college or vocational school. GPA minimums apply. Learn more about the Hearthstone Housing Foundation Scholarship.

House Scholarship Foundation Aspiring Scholars Award

Students who are community leaders in the arts and sciences can apply for this scholarship, created by a nonprofit organization in Southern California to provide need- and merit-based scholarships to disadvantaged students. The group currently has chapters in Southern California but plans to expand. The award can be used to cover tuition for degrees and certificates from two-year schools. Learn more about the House Scholarship Foundation Aspiring Scholars Program.

InspirASIAN Scholarship

This scholarship is for graduating high school seniors who want to pursue postsecondary education in the fall and who reside in specific states, including California. The award can be used for any accredited two-year or four-year institution. GPA, citizenship and residency requirements apply, but students of any ethnic background are eligible. Learn more about the InspirASIAN Scholarship Program.

Italian Catholic Federation First Year Scholarship

This scholarship is for students who are Roman Catholic and of Italian decent or are the children or grandchildren of a member of the Italian Catholic Federation. GPA, financial need, leadership roles and extracurricular activities will be considered. Learn more about the Italian Catholic Federation First Year Scholarship.

Ivy & Pearls Scholarship

This scholarship from the Ivy & Pearls Foundation supports students of African-American descent in the Bay Area. Applicants must reside in San Mateo, Santa Clara, Alameda or Contra Costa counties or the city or county of San Francisco in California. Learn more about the Ivy & Pearls Scholarship.

Loreen K. Odemu Memorial Nursing Scholarship

Any high school senior, undergraduate or trade school student who wants to pursue a career in nursing is eligible to apply for this scholarship, which is named after Loreen Odemu, a registered nurse. Learn more about the Loreen K. Odemu Memorial Nursing Scholarship.

NCJWLA Scholarships

The National Council of Jewish Women of Los Angeles (NCJWLA) offers a series of scholarships for women who want to attend vocational school, community college or university. NCJWLA selects female students based on academic merit and financial need. Some of the scholarships support single mothers or women facing hardships. Learn more about the NCJWLA Scholarships.

Mel C. Marshall Student Scholarship

California high school seniors or current college students who want to pursue careers related to the building, construction or precast concrete industries can apply for this scholarship from the California Precast Concrete Association (CPCA). The award must be used to attend at two-year program or longer. Learn more about the Mel C. Marshall Student Scholarship.

PSR/Sacramento High School Scholarship Essay Program

The Sacramento/Davis Area Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility sponsors this essay-based scholarship. Students must be high school seniors or on track to graduate early who are attending school in Sacramento County or the surrounding area. The award can be used for any additional education following high school graduation. Learn more about the PSR/Sacramento High School Scholarship Essay Program.

Royal Business Bank Scholarship

First-year students attending an accredited two- or four-year college or university in the fall following spring graduation can apply for this scholarship, which is available to high school seniors who reside in the Royal Busines Bank service area. In California, that includes Los Angeles County, Orange County, Ventura County. GPA and income limit restrictions apply, but the scholarship can be used toward any major. The scholarship is funded in partnership with the Asian Pacific Community Fund (APCF). There are no ethnicity requirements. Learn more about the Royal Business Bank Scholarship and other scholarships from APCF

San Joaquin Community Foundation Scholarships

The San Joaquin Community Foundation funds this group of 11 scholarships for eligible students with a variety of post-secondary aspirations. Students must live in San Joaquin County or nearby. Learn more about the San Joaquin Community Foundation scholarships.

Santa Rosa Ninety-Nines Aviation Scholarship

The Santa Rosa branch of the Ninety-Nines International Organization of Women Pilots sponsors this scholarship awarded to a local female pilot so she can earn a specific rating or a certificate/continuing education in pursuit of a career in aviation. Applicants must live within 150 miles of the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa, California. Learn more about the Santa Rosa Ninety-Nines Aviation Scholarship.

ScholasTIC Tourette's Supporters Scholarship

High school seniors or first-year postsecondary students who have Tourette Syndrome can apply for this scholarship. Tourette Syndrome is nervous system disorder that causes the person to make repetitive movements or unusual sounds. The funds can be used to attend community college, trade school, vocational programs or university. Priority will be given to residents of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and the state of Washington. Learn more about the ScholasTIC Tourette's Supporters Scholarship.

Shared Energy Future Foundation Trades Scholarship

Graduating high school seniors or incoming trade school students can apply for this scholarship if they reside in specific western states, including California, and are interested in pursuing disciplines related to energy. Fields include automotive, carpentry, Commercial Driver’s License, electrical, HVAC (heating, ventilation & air conditioning), welding, instrumentation & control technology or machining process technology. Applicants will be considered based on financial need, academic performance and participation in extracurricular activities. Learn more about the Shared Energy Future Foundation Trades Scholarship.

Simon Youth Foundation Greg Saunders Legacy and Shari Simon Greenberg Community scholarship programs

These scholarships are for students with financial need who are the children of full-time or part-time Simon Property Group employees and who plan to enroll full-time at accredited two- or four-year institutions, including vocational and technical schools. Learn more about the Simon Youth Foundation scholarships.

STACY Scholarship

The Sponsoring True Advocacy for Challenged Youth or STACY Scholarship supports students who have helped individuals with disabilities and their families. Students must be at least 17 and reside in Sacramento, Contra Costa, San Joaquin, Amador, El Dorado, Placer, Sutter, Yolo or  Solano counties. They must be enrolled or admitted to an institution accredited by the U.S. Department of Education. Learn more about the STACY Scholarship.

SVCF Marie A. Calderilla Scholarship

The Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF) created this scholarship funded by and named after Marie A Calderilla, who believed in the importance of education. The mission is to help women with financial need pursue a career. High school seniors or returning students planning to attend a college in the San Mateo County Community College District (Cañada College, College of San Mateo and Skyline Community College) can apply. Learn more about the SVCF Marie A. Calderilla Scholarship.

TheDream.US Scholarship Program

Offered in 24 states, this scholarship supports low-income, undocumented students who are eligible for in-state tuition at specific schools. The scholarship team partners with more than 80 institutions that have a good track record of helping first-generation students. Types of partner schools vary by state and include two- and four-year institutions and some online colleges. Learn more about TheDream.US Scholarship program.

The Tang Scholarship

This scholarship, named after Edward C. Tang, provides financial help to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Asian and Pacific Islanders to pursue a postsecondary education. Students must graduate from a high school in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Napa, Sonoma or Solano counties. The award can be used toward an accredited two- or four-year university, community college or vocational school. Learn more about the Tang Scholarship.

Warrick Dun Charities' Hearts for Community Service Scholarship

This $5,000 scholarship is intended to create better access to higher-paying jobs and economic stability for those who need financial help to attend a postsecondary institution. Students can use the award toward trade school, an associate degree or a bachelor's degree. Learn more about the Warrick Dun Charities' Hearts for Community Service Scholarship.

Zakat Foundation Community Service Scholarship

This scholarship supports students who live in specific states and want to pursue a two- or four-year college degree. Students must have proof of their dedication to community service as zakat or charity is the foundation's focus. Learn more about the Zakat Foundation Community Service Scholarship.

Additional tools to help in your California scholarship search

The best way to get the money you need to cover your education and training costs is to start early and look under every rock.

  • Create a WebGrants 4 Students account to track your financial aid status.
  • Ask your school counselor for help. Your school counselor wants to help you, so let them. Their knowledge about how the system works and the local and regional hiring landscape is invaluable.

Finding the money to pay for a trade school or community college education in California is possible. If you put in the hard work, it will pay off.

Start applying today to get the training you need.

Please help us improve this page. If we have left off a scholarship or grant that could help students who want to attend community college, technical school or trade school, send an email to

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