Online Colleges in California

With an economy bigger than all but seven countries in the world, it's no surprise that universities and online colleges in California offer a wide array of online degree programs. Use the data we've collected here on online colleges in California to find a program and a school that meets your needs.

On this Page:


There are an estimated 14.7 million workers in California, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), they earn a mean annual wage of $53,000. That translates into an average hourly wage of $25.49. Salaries vary widely between geographic regions in California, however. For example, the mean annual wage in the San Francisco Bay Area (one of the most expensive places in the nation to live) is $67,410, while in Redding, Calif., the average annual income is $41,990.

Matching School Ads

According to 2012 data from the California Postsecondary Education Commission, the 20 careers in California with the largest projected growth by 2014 all require formal training above the high school level. However, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that only 8.3 percent of Californians aged 18-24 years old have earned a Bachelor's degree. About 45 percent of that age group has no college at all. For those 25 and older, less than 40 percent have not attended college, although 20 percent have Bachelor's degrees, 7.7 percent have Associate's degrees and 11 percent have graduate or professional degrees.

Online colleges in California are responding to this issue by expanding the selection of undergraduate and graduate degree programs they offer online.

As of October 2012, the number of online colleges in California offering complete online programs is as follows:

• Online Associate Degrees: 32 schools
• Online Bachelor's Degrees: 15 schools
• Online Master's Degrees: 26 schools
• Online Doctorate Degrees: 6 schools

In addition, many national online colleges offer programs to students in California. Most of these colleges have featured fully online degrees for several years and typically boast a broader set of subject concentrations. Some of these schools, such as University of Phoenix and DeVry University, also have physical campuses in California where students can attend class as well.

The Top 10 List of Online Colleges in California

The following list ranks the top 10 schools in California offering online undergraduate and graduate degree programs, starting with the lowest tuition costs. The list provides key information for prospective students about online colleges in California, such as the actual degree programs that are taught online, and information on tuition fees, accreditation and notable alumni.

#1 - California State University-Dominguez Hills

  • In-state Tuition: $6,100 (2013-2014)
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 3 undergraduate and 6 postgraduate
  • Notable Alumni: Actor Jeff Coopwood, baseball player Kevin Pillar, track and field stars Carmelita Jeter and Grace-Ann Dinkins, and journalists Ben Swann and Steffan Tubbs.

California State University-Dominguez Hills' College of Extended & International Education offers six online Master's degree programs and three online Bachelor's degree programs. One of those degree programs--in Applied Studies--also allows students to view lectures live on cable television in addition to watching them as a webcast or from the program's archives. The other two Bachelor's degree programs are in Nursing and QualityAssurance, and these are entirely online. The six Master's degree programs include Negotiation; Conflict Resolution and Peacekeeping; Public Administration; Business Administration; Nursing; and Quality Assurance.

#2 - California State University-Fullerton

  • In-state Tuition: $6,186 (2013-2014)
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 2 undergraduate
  • Notable Alumni: Former NBA player Bruce Bowen, NASA astronaut Tracy Caldwell, movie director and undersea explorer James Cameron, former NFL player Mark Collins, actor Kevin Costner and singer Gwen Stefani.

California State University-Fullerton offers two online undergraduate degree programs in Sociology and Business Administration. The school makes online classes available at any time of the day or day of the week, with an online environment designed to increase student interaction and the diversity of opinion. The school has a schedule of two courses per term in Sociology, allowing working students the time to complete the material and still meet their other obligations. Students also remain in the same cohort as they move through the classes.

#3 - California State University-Northridge

  • In-state Tuition: $6,525 (2013-2014)
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 2 undergraduate and 12 postgraduate

The Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology singled out CSUN's Communication Disorders and Sciences online Master's degree program for special recognition, and many of its other undergraduate and graduate online degree programs enjoy high graduation rates and high test scores. Its online program is expanding; by 2016, the school expects to have 14 fully online programs offering 24 majors. It offers Bachelor's degree programs in Public Sector Management and Liberal Studies, and Master's degree programs in Tourism; Hospitality and Recreation Management; Social Work; Public Sector Management; Public Policy; Public Health; Public Administration; Education (with an emphasis on teaching English as a second language); Educational Administration; Communication Disorders and Sciences; Assistive Technology Studies; and Human Services.

#4 - California State University-East Bay

  • In-state Tuition: $6,550 (2013-2014)
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 1 undergraduate and 3 postgraduate
  • Notable Alumni: Poet George Barlow, former pro football players Frank Beede and Greg Blankenship, former California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, baseball great Joe Morgan, and musician Wang Fei.

California State University-East Bay Continuing Education offers dozens of courses, certificates and degree programs that can be completed entirely online. In addition to its online Bachelor's degree program in Business Administration, East Bay offers three online Master's degree programs is Education, with an option for online teaching and learning; Educational leadership; and Health Care Administration. East Bay prides itself on keeping its classes small and by hiring industry leaders and academic experts to lead its online classes. Those who need to visit the campus can choose from three East Bay locations - Oakland, Hayward and Concord.

#5 - California State University-San Bernardino

  • In-state Tuition: $6,550 (2013-2014)
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 1 undergraduate program and 4 postgraduate programs.

California State University-San Bernardino aims to provide a consistently rigorous education by offering the same faculty for its online courses as it does for its on-campus courses. CSU-San Bernardino offers an online Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice, and Master's degrees in Business Administration; Education with a concentration on teacher leadership; and Social Work, which combines online learning with field work at locations near you. The school also offers a Master of Arts in Education online degree with a concentration on English language teaching that combines four quarters of online instruction with one summer or winter session at the campus in San Bernardino.

#6 - California State University-Sacramento

  • In-state Tuition: $6,628 (2013-2014)
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 2 undergraduate degree programs
  • Notable Alumni: Film director Joe Carnahan; actors Tom Hanks, Carlos Alazraqui and Creed Bratton; TV newsman Lester Holt; former TV host Joann Lunden; and comedian Brian Posehn.

California State University-Sacramento has been at the forefront of criminal justice and public safety instruction for nearly 50 years, and the recent addition of an online Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice is designed to appeal to working professionals. Sacramento State is also making changes to its Fire Service Management online degree program and is expected to start accepting applications when those changes are completed.

#7 - California State University-San Marcos

  • In-state Tuition: $6,649 (2013-2014)
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 4 undergraduate programs and 8 postgraduate programs

The California State University-San Marcos works with four colleges at the university to deliver a variety of online Bachelor's and Master's degree programs. The undergraduate degrees are offered in Business Administration; Criminology and Justice; Kinesiology; and Nursing. Its Master's degree programs are offered in Business Administration; Education (with a focus on literacy); Nursing; Education; Public Health; Social Work; Kinesiology; and Biotechnology.

#8 - California State University-Chico

  • In-state Tuition: $6,972 (2013-2014)
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 4 undergraduate and 2 postgraduate.
  • Notable Alumni: Author Raymond Carver, former MLB players Nelson Briles and Clay Dalrymple, political strategist Ed Rollins, astronomer Carolyn Shoemaker

California State University-Chico offers a variety of online undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Although the courses are all web-based, many of the courses also feature live, synchronous video streaming of course lectures. Undergraduate degree programs include Social Science in both a multidisciplinary studies option and a specialization studies option; Liberal Studies; and Sociology. There is also a Bachelor of Science degree program for registered nurses. Online Master of Science degrees are available in Nursing and Agricultural Education.

#9 - Humboldt State University

  • In-state Tuition: $7,144 (2013-2014)
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 2 undergraduate and 2 postgraduate
  • Notable Alumni: Cinematographer Rick Rosenthal, attorney Robert Henry, consumer advocate Ellie Cachette and community activist Clifford Allenby.

Humboldt State University offers two Bachelor's degrees and two Master's degrees through its online program. The undergraduate degrees are a Bachelor's degree in Interdisciplinary Studies and Social Work. Online students can also earn a Master's of Social Work degree from Humboldt State. The school also offers a Master of Arts degree in Applied Anthropology. In addition to these degree programs, HSU offers a variety of online certificate programs in such areas as Ecology and Sustainable Tourism; Exercise Nutrition; and Teaching in Higher Education.

#10 - National University

  • Tuition: $12,096 (2013-2014)
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: Over 70 undergraduate and graduate degree programs
  • Notable Alumni: Author Kristin Miller, necktie entrepreneur Immanuel Ontiveros, airline executive Gil West, and teachers Kimberly Duenas and Terry Araiza,

National University in La Jolla, Calif., offers an array of two-year, four-year and graduate online degree programs. More than 70 of its degree programs are available as completely online courses of study, and it aims to improve the student learning experience by offering a Student Concierge Service system. Some of the Associate online degrees offered include: Business; Early Childhood Education; Engineering Technology; Criminal Justice Administration; and Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counseling. Some of the Bachelor's online degrees offered are Accountancy; Organizational Leadership; International Business; Elementary Education; Construction Engineering Technology; Computer Science; Public Health; Criminal Justice Administration; English; Spanish; Organizational Behavior; Mathematics; and Sociology. Its Master's degree online programs include Accountancy; Sustainability Management; Higher Education Administration; Digital Cinema; English; Forensic Sciences; and History.

Snapshot of California Cities

What follows is a closer look at the economic and demographic profile of California's largest urban areas. The economic data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the 2014 Cost of Living Index published by The Council for Community and Economic Research. All demographic data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau and the latest Labor Force Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. All data in the Facts for Online Learners section comes from the region's various tourism websites.

Los Angeles
There are nearly 5.5 million workers in the U.S. Census Bureau's metropolitan statistical area of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Santa Ana, Calif. In this urban swath--the 13th largest metropolitan area in the world--workers make an average annual salary of $52,610. As you might expect from such a large area, salaries vary widely, with social workers making less than $35,000 a year while CEOs are pulling down over $200,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Cost of Living index is 131.4 in Los Angeles, and home prices average $558,777.

Los Angeles along has 9.8 million residents, but when it's combined with Long Beach and Santa Ana, as it is by some government demographers, the population tops 12 million people, with a civilian labor force of 6.5 million people. If you take into account the entire urban area, including Ventura, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, the population balloons to 18.2 million and the number of workers climbs to nearly 9 million. All told, this accounts for about half of the state's entire workforce. Although unemployment has dropped in recent years since the Great Recession, it remains stubbornly high in the Southland, with the Riverside-San Bernardino area leading the way with unemployment lingering above 8 percent.

Fun Facts for Online Learners 
Southern California is an entertainment hub, and that's an understatement. In addition to Disneyland, there's host of metropolitan museums to choose from, such as the Getty Center, the Santa Monica Museum of Art, or the Museum of Latin American Art.

San Francisco
The San Francisco Bay Area, including the city itself, Oakland across the Bay, and the East Bay area of Fremont, has more than 2.3 million workers--about 12 percent of the state's total. The economy in this part of Northern California is driven by tech giants such as Google and Facebook, and unemployment hovers at around 5 percent, well below the national average. The average annual salary in this area is $63,630, which is $10,000 a year higher than the southern part of the state. In addition to technology, the economy of San Francisco is driven by tourism and banking. The Cost of Living index in San Francisco is 163.9, and average home prices come in at $943,778.

San Francisco, alone, without the numbers from the East Bay, has only about 800,000 residents, making it only the fourth-largest city in California. Residents drawn to the the hilly streets and nostalgic clang of cable cars have made it the second most densely populated urban area in the country. When the boundary is expanded to include the Oakland and Fremont areas, the population bounces up to 4.5 million.

Fun Facts for Online Learners
San Francisco is blessed with cool summers and mild winters. When the rest of California is baking under 100-degree temperatures, folks are wearing sweaters on Market Street. They are riding the cable cars, shopping in Union Square, eating in Chinatown and quaffing brews with former Beat Generation poets in North Beach and Haight-Ashbury. San Francisco is a town steeped in literary history and scenic attractions seemingly around every corner.

San Diego

San Diego is home to about 1.5 million workers, about 8 percent of the state's total workforce, and they earn an average of about $52,000 a year, or earning just under $25 per hour. Although tourism is an important element of the area's economy, San Diego is also home to the largest concentration of military in the world, with 60 percent of the U.S. Pacific Fleet calling San Diego home. What's more, the high tech and health care industries have also come to impact the area's economy. San Diego's 15-mile border with Mexico means it also hosts the busiest international border cross in the world. San Diego has a Cost of Living index of 131.6, with average home prices at $622,117.

Not surprisingly, San Diego is a very culturally diverse city. Whites are the majority, but Hispanics and Asians comprise an increasing percentage of the population. The San Diego metropolitan area, stretching from Carlsbad to the north to the Mexico border in the south, is home to 3 million people, making it the third-largest urban area in the state of California.

Fun Facts for Online Learners
When they think of San Diego, many think of beaches. They should. San Diego has a lot of beaches and the kind of weather that makes you want to visit them. San Diego also enjoys a vibrant arts scene, with a symphony and opera and stage plays, and is home to a variety of museums and parks. The San Diego Zoo is a world-class facility, complemented by the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Helpful Resources

The California Virtual Campus (CVC), an initiative established by the Chancellor's Office for the California Community Colleges system, provides up-to-date information on online colleges in California. Potential students can search available courses and programs by school, degree level, or subject.


1. Alumni in the News,
2. Los Angeles unemployement and workforce statistics,
3. The Bureau of Labor Statistics,
4. "California economy ranking in the world,"
5. California State University-Fullerton,
6. California State University-Chico,
7. California State University-Chico,,_Chico#Notable_alumni
8. California State University-East Bay,
9. California State University, East Bay,,_East_Bay#Alumni
10. California State University-Dominguez Hills,
11. California State University, Dominguez Hills,,_Dominguez_Hills
12. California State University-Northridge,
13. California State University-San Bernardino,
14. California State University-San Marcos,
15. California State University-Sacramento,
16. California Postsecondary Education Commission,
"Bureau of Labor Statistics," Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, - See more at:
17. The California Virtual Campus,
18. The Cost of Living Index,
19.. Humboldt State University,
20. Humboldt State University Distinguished Alumni,
21. List of California State University, Fullerton People,,_Fullerton_people
22. List of Sacramento State People,
23. Los Angeles Things to Do,
24. National Center for Education Statistics, College Navigator,
25. National University,
26. U.S. Census Bureau: California Educational Attainment,
27. U.S. Department of Education, The Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs,