Perhaps as a natural reaction to its vast size, California has the largest number of online colleges and universities in the nation. Thanks to an array of available online degree options, students can complete their studies from anywhere in the Golden State with a computer, and at any time of day that fits their schedules.

Here's an overview of the 180-plus online colleges in California:

The Public Policy Institute for California estimates that by 2020, 30 percent of new jobs in California’s high-growth industries are expected to require at least a bachelor's degree. In an effort to promote postsecondary education, the state of California is taking these specific actions:

In the following guide, you can view multiple rankings of online colleges in California, learn about the variety of programs available at the best online colleges in California, and find California-specific information about how to pay for your degree. You can also check our career section to see California’s top industries and occupations — those that might provide the greatest opportunities for students who have earned a degree through one of California’s online colleges.

What Makes a Good Online College in California?

To help students feel confident about making a good decision in their choice of an online college, we have put together the following rankings, each made up of only accredited schools. By choosing schools that are accredited by organizations such as the Western Association of Schools and Colleges or the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, students can be sure that they are receiving an education that meets Californian educational standards. For more information about the importance of accreditation, check out our "What is College Accreditation?" page, as well as the California Department of Education website. To find out more about the markers we use to rank schools, and why they are important, read the "What Makes a Good Online College?" section of our "About Us" page.

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Best Online Colleges in California for 2019-20

Considering that California has the most accredited online colleges to choose from out of any state, how do you pick which one might be best for you? In the following list of California’s top-ranked online schools, we’ve noted what and how they specifically serve online students. For example, you can see highlights about their different online programs at different degree levels, how the school delivers online courses, the support services available to online students, and the overall school culture. Enjoy learning about these best online colleges. We hope you find at least one that sparks your interest.

1

Concordia University-Irvine

Tuition & Fees
$35,400
Distance Education Participation
62%
Number of Programs Offered
20
School Type
4-year

What is CUI like?

Rooted in its Lutheran heritage, Concordia University-Irvine strives to create an educational experience that is consistent with the tenets of the school's Christian faith. This strong Christian community on campus can also be found in the school's online degree programs -- Concordia encourages distance learning students to communicate in discussion forums that foster a "community of learning."

What online programs are at CUI?CUI offers online degree programs on the bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels. Education is the university's particular specialty, with multiple master's programs in the field and an online Doctorate of Education with various specializations, including administrative leadership or higher education. However, online degrees can be pursued at CUI in other subjects as well, including nursing, counseling, business administration and organizational psychology.

What online resources does CUI offer?

There are many avenues of student support at CUI, ranging from technical support to student service teams to enrollment specialists. In addition, CUI has many ways to help students pay for tuition costs. Various forms of financial aid awards are available, as well as options for monthly payment plans and military benefits. The university also recommends that working students check with their employer to see if tuition reimbursement may be an option.

2

California Aeronautical University

Tuition & Fees
$43,943
Distance Education Participation
40%
Number of Programs Offered
13
School Type
4-year

What is SBBCollege like?

Santa Barbara Business College has been around since 1888, and has been justifiably proud of its focus on employment-focused education for its students. In recent years, the school began offering online courses in business, health care, technology and law, helping students to complete programs in these fields with more flexibility.

What online programs are at SBBCollege?

As you may expect from the name, Santa Barbara Business College specializes in business degree programs. However, students can also pursue online degrees in medical office administration, paralegal studies, computer and network support and more.

Online courses at SBBCollege are asynchronous, helping them to fit into the busy schedule of a working professional. Programs may have variable lengths and be delivered in different time periods. For example, the online MBA program is typically 17 months in length, divided into five 10-week terms per year.

What online resources does SBBCollege offer?

Up to 35 SBBCollege scholarships are awarded to students every year, helping high school seniors and recent graduates to afford tuition costs. In addition, students can set up a complimentary one-on-one career planning session through SBBCollege Career Services. In these sessions, an experienced SBBCollege career planner helps a student plan either what careers they may want to pursue, or how to achieve a path to a career that the student is already working towards.

3

California State University-Northridge

Tuition & Fees
$6,893
Distance Education Participation
52%
Number of Programs Offered
10
School Type
4-year

What is CSUN like?

Since its founding in 1958, California State University-Northridge has grown into a model for other online universities in California based on its dedication to community service and inclusiveness. The school's online programs cater to working adults who want to increase their knowledge and skills to advance in their careers. From position No.7 on last year's ranking, the university has risen to No.3, demonstrating a clear commitment to quality and improvement.

What online programs are at CSUN?

Online programs at CSUN are structured with many benefits. Some are based on a cohort model, and some come with the support of a designated program coordinator or a personal program manager. In some cases, such as the online Master of Science in engineering management, completing the degree program also results in earning a certificate — in this case, a certificate in entrepreneurship and innovation management — with no additional classes or coursework required!

What online resources does CSUN offer?

Online CSUN students can benefit from the help of the school's eLearning team, which is dedicated to providing the technical support they need with any technology problems they face. In addition, students have access to personalized 24/7 library resources, as well as an app they can use on their mobile devices to access campus services at any time.

4

San Diego State University

Tuition & Fees
$7,488
Distance Education Participation
47%
Number of Programs Offered
9
School Type
4-year

What is SDSU like?

Through Cal State Online, San Diego State University students are able to take advantage of the school's century-long experience in delivering research-based education. Earning a degree, practicing career training or pursuing personal enrichment are all possible through SDSU's College of Extended Studies, which offers multiple fully online degree programs and hundreds of accelerated online courses.

What online programs are at SDSU?

SDSU specializes in management and administration topics for its online programs, with options such as business administration, public administration, hospitality and tourism management and public administration. Furthermore, the university's portfolio of online courses are asynchronous, with classes beginning every month. Multiple online courses can be demoed before enrolling, allowing students to judge whether a particular class may be right for them before the semester starts.

What online resources does SDSU offer?

As a California State University, SDSU has a robust portfolio of resources to help its students. In addition to career services and counseling services, the university awards a limited number of scholarships to incoming freshmen every year and hosts an SDSU Scholarship Search tool to help students pay their tuition costs.

5

San Diego Christian College

Tuition & Fees
$31,404
Distance Education Participation
91%
Number of Programs Offered
9
School Type
4-year

What is SDC like?

San Diego Christian College was founded in 1970 with the intention of equipping students with a rigorous higher education based on biblical principles. Whether students earn their degrees on- or off-campus, the curriculum of the school's programs is carefully tailored to the Christian lifestyle. Professors create coursework that shows students how to apply the tenets of Christianity to the careers they're training for.

What online programs are at SDC?

SDC's online programs focus on the undergraduate level, with online associate and bachelor's degree programs in subjects including liberal studies, communication, business management and Christian ministries. The college also features various emphasis and minor options, giving students ways to customize their learning experience. In order to accommodate students' schedules, there are multiple term start dates throughout the year.

What online resources does SDC offer?

SDC offers multiple career development resources, including career planning, vocational assessments and the Hire-a-Hawk job posting board. The college also assesses its students' progress in various courses through surveys, creating a snapshot of schoolwide academics and curriculum effectiveness. See the results for yourself on the school's Assessment page.

6

California Baptist University

Tuition & Fees
$33,478
Distance Education Participation
54%
Number of Programs Offered
36
School Type
4-year

What is CBU like?

California Baptist University was founded in 1950 in order to provide a quality liberal arts education based on Christian philosophy. In 2010, the school opened California Baptist University Online and Professional Studies (CBU Online), embracing distance education in order to expand the number of students who could enroll in its faith-based programs.

What online programs are at CBU?

CBU Online has dozens of graduate and undergraduate degree programs, such as psychology, criminal justice, business administration, early childhood education and healthcare administration and management. The university's year-round semester system and multiple accelerated courses helps students finish their programs in an efficient fashion. Courses are delivered using interactive educational technologies such as the Blackboard 9.1 Platform, Telepresence and WebEx.

What online resources does CBU offer?

Once students enroll in CBU, they are assigned a "One-Stop" advisor who can help them plan their schedule, stay updated on options and opportunities, and work through challenges in their program. However, one of the biggest resources at CBU is their faculty. The university encourages online students to contact faculty for academic, professional and spiritual support, whether students are looking for tutoring, career networking or prayer.

7

Fresno Pacific University

Tuition & Fees
$32,458
Distance Education Participation
58%
Number of Programs Offered
16
School Type
4-year

What is FPU like?

Opened as Pacific Bible Institute in 1944, Fresno Pacific University was formed with the intention of offering religious instruction from Mennonite Brethren Church. In the 1950s, the school made a transition and began offering junior college coursework, and the rest, as they say, is history. This nonprofit, independent university is particularly geared to assist first-generation students, and the Chronicle of Higher Education praises the school's graduation rates for its Hispanic students.What online programs are at FPU?

When it comes to online programs, FPU has remained faithful to its religious roots by offering Biblical seminary certificate and master's programs. Options are available in many less spiritual fields as well, such as the degree completion bachelor's degree programs in criminology and restorative justice or business administration, or the graduate programs in educational technology or athletic training. Courses are delivered through Moodle.

What online resources does FPU offer?

Some online programs at FPU are structured as cohorts, where a small group of students navigate the program together and take all the same classes. This allows them to get to know each other, work together and form a bond as they work their way toward their degree. The university also funds institutional financial aid for its student body, including grants and fellowships specifically for FPU Biblical Seminary students.

8

California State University-East Bay

Tuition & Fees
$6,983
Distance Education Participation
54%
Number of Programs Offered
9
School Type
4-year

What is CSUEB like?

For the last 60 years, California State University-East Bay has prided itself on innovation and a pioneering spirit that has contributed to it developing campuses in Concord, Hayward and Oakland. It has also brought that innovative attitude to the Internet with its online campus, which accounts for about 20 percent of the courses that students at the school enroll in.

What online programs are at CSUEB?

Known for its business, nursing and teaching programs, CSUEB features online bachelor's programs in subjects such as business administration and hospitality and tourism, as well as master's programs such as education and healthcare administration.

Online instructors at CSUEB are put through a quality assurance certification process where they are trained on how to deliver online courses. As part of this process, instructors work closely with instructional designers and peers who review their course curriculum, creating a level of educational quality control that not all online colleges can boast.

What online resources does CSUEB offer?

CSUEB offers 24-hour technical support to help students navigate the Blackboard learning management system, as well as tutorials that students can walk through on their own. In addition, the school hosts online academic support, which includes both tutoring and academic advising.

9

California State University-Fullerton

Tuition & Fees
$6,886
Distance Education Participation
35%
Number of Programs Offered
7
School Type
4-year

What is CSUF like?

Opened in 1957, California State University-Fullerton was the twelfth state college to open in the state to provide affordable, quality education to Californians. The school's Professional Development Extension and International Programs division was designed to create a community of learners from every stage of life — including children, working adults, retired and semi-retired individuals and online students from around the globe.

What online programs are at CSUF?

To accommodate the diversity of its student body, CSUF offers online programs at many different levels. Most of the school's online programs are certificate programs that can be completed in less than one year. A partnership with Ed2Go broadens student options even further. There are also multiple bachelor's degree completion programs, including business administration and sociology, and fully online credential, certificate and authorization programs for educators.

What online resources does CSUF offer?

In order to assist students who enroll in the school's online programs, CSUF provides a help desk that is available Monday through Friday, as well as an Academic Advisement Center and a Career Center. Through the Academic Advisement Center, students can request assistance with major exploration, course selection, graduation requirements and more.

10

Touro University Worldwide

Tuition & Fees
$14,600
Distance Education Participation
97%
Number of Programs Offered
13
School Type
4-year

What is TUW like?

A nonprofit institution and the only Jewish online college on our list of best online colleges in California, Touro University Worldwide is part of the wider Touro College and University System. This system broke new ground in online education when it offered the world's first accredited online doctoral degree program with no on-campus requirements.

What online programs are at TUW?

TUW offers online programs at every degree level, from associate up to their revolutionary online doctoral programs. Programs are divided into four broad categories by school: business and management, psychology, health and human services, or general studies. All materials for TUW are fully online; students are able to obtain necessary coursework and readings through their Internet connection, rather than spending money on textbooks.

What online resources does TUW offer?

To help students manage tuition costs, TUW offers various institutional scholarships, including funding that's specifically for military students. The university also makes an effort to be transfer-friendly. TUW accepts transfer credits for military training, ACE, NCCRS and/or credit by examination; offers transcript reviews before students even apply to TUW; and maintains transfer partnerships and articulation agreements with several institutions.

Affordable Online Colleges in California for 2019-20

There are plenty of affordable online colleges in California that can help students earn the education they need, without ever stepping a foot on campus. Below are two lists, each naming the most affordable colleges in California, ranked by the in-state tuition costs they reported to IPEDS.

Financial Aid in California

California boasts educational institutions that are highly regarded across the country, both public and private colleges and universities. The Golden State's Cal Grant system can help make attending one of the institutions in the University of California or California State University system more affordable.

Read on for information on scholarships, grants and loans available to students in California.

What grants and scholarships are available in California?

Many professional and community organizations, charitable foundations and private companies offer grants and scholarships to students in California. Here's a sampling of the kinds of scholarship opportunities that may be available to California residents. To see more, visit the scholarship database on our partner site, Schools.com.

1

Alumni Scholarship

Type : Scholarship
Award Amount
$10,000
Application Deadline
March 2 (Priority)
Application Deadline
Yes
Repay Required?
No
School Specific Scholarship?
Yes
Application URL
Criteria:

Freshman applicant must graduate from a California high school with a minimum 3.85 GPA and a minimum combined SAT I score of 1200. Transfer applicant must have at least 84 transferable quarter units from a California community college and have a minimum 3.5 GPA.

2

JVS Scholarship Fund

Type : Scholarship
Award Amount
$5,000
Application Deadline
March 31
Application Deadline
Yes
Repay Required?
No
School Specific Scholarship?
No
Application URL
Criteria:

Applicant must be a Jewish, permanent legal resident of Los Angeles County with demonstrated financial need. Applicant must be planning to attend as full-time student at an approved college, university, vocational school, graduate school or professional school. FAFSA must be filed.

3

Presidential Scholar at Entrance Scholarship

Type : Scholarship
Award Amount
$1,000
Application Deadline
January 15
Application Deadline
Yes
Repay Required?
No
School Specific Scholarship?
Yes
Application URL
Criteria:

Applicant must have a minimum 4.0 GPA.

4

MTS & Coca-Cola Laptop Scholarship

Type : Scholarship
Award Amount
N/A
Application Deadline
April 11
Application Deadline
No
Repay Required?
No
School Specific Scholarship?
No
Application URL
Criteria:

Applicant must be a high school senior who is graduating from an accredited San Diego county high school. Application and essay question are required to be submitted. Early application deadline is March 14; early applicants could win an iPad, iTunes gift card, Hard Rock Cafe gift card, or a Regional Monthly Transit Pass.

For additional information, check out our Ultimate Guide to Grants and Ultimate Guide to Scholarships.

Student Loans in California

California doesn't offer state-specific student loans, but if grants and scholarships aren't enough to cover your tuition, you can take out federal or private student loans. To qualify for federal student loans, you'll need to fill out a FAFSA with information on you and your family's financial situation. Learn more about student loans in our Ultimate Guide to Student Loans.

Additional Resources for Financial Aid in California

Costs for Out-of-State Students in California

California is home to some prominent names in higher education so it's no wonder its institutions are a top choice for many out-of-state students. While the University of California system says it prioritizes applications from residents, some news reports indicate non-resident applicants have a higher chance of admittance to campuses within the system.

However, getting accepted into a California college or university is only part of the challenge for out-of-state students. It's also important to figure out how to pay higher out-of-state tuition costs.

To establish residency and avoid out-of-state tuition at the University of California, you need to physically reside in the state for at least a year and a day and cut residency ties to your former state. However, if you don't meet this requirement, you might still be eligible for reduced tuition.

California is one of 16 western states and territories participating in the Western Undergraduate Exchange. This program reduces non-resident tuition rates for eligible out-of-state students. There are similar programs available for graduate students.

What's more, schools may have scholarships and grants to reduce the cost of out-of-state tuition. Check with your school's financial aid office to see what might be available to you.

Or for more information on programs to reduce non-resident tuition, see the following links.

Best Careers in California

What are the best jobs in California? There's no one-size-fits-all answer — career paths are a personal choice, made in part by having a general interest in a particular field. But having real data about state employment numbers, projected job growth rates, and average salaries in California's top industries might help you decide which degree program to pursue at one of California's online colleges. Take a look at the data below to see the kinds of opportunities that look especially promising.

EmploymentEmployment GrowthMedian High School SalaryMedian Bachelor's Salary
18,089,60010.7%$30,036$59,709
Employment in California18,089,600
Employment Growth in California10.7%
Median High School Salary in California$30,036
Median Bachelor's Salary in California$59,709

Top California Industries

Top IndustriesEmploymentProjected GrowthAverage Salary
Air transportation6,473,51011%$74,911
Lessors of nonfinancial intangible assets (except copyrighted works)4,887,58010%$83,424
Broadcasting (except Internet)6,062,9408%$77,976
Telecommunications7,591,5208%$78,289
Insurance carriers and related activities9,741,0909%$73,315
Data processing, hosting, and related services6,754,5108%$79,990
Couriers and messengers4,465,42010%$73,199
Educational services; state, local, and private15,152,86010%$71,134
Publishing industries (except Internet)7,664,5708%$73,617
Ambulatory healthcare services12,376,18012%$73,528

*Industry rankings determined by annual mean wage, employment, projected growth and location quotient. Data sourced from the BLS, 2019 dataset.

The size of California informs the state's jobs and economy as surely as it influences its educational opportunities. In addition to the prevalence of air transportation in California to transport people and goods, there is much need to transport information through telecommunications, broadcasting, couriers and other means. And as data travels up and down California's 800 miles of land, it is in need of people to host and process it, a need that has helped to create the Silicon Valley and an enormous demand for graduates of information technology degree programs of all kinds.

Another of California’s top industries is healthcare — a sector that needs even more trained workers who may be employed in outpatient services like dialysis clinics or doctors’ offices. Out of all 10 industries on our list, the ambulatory healthcare industry is predicted to have the most growth in the coming years, a development that is also predicted to leave California perilously short on healthcare professionals. Lawmakers are working on a $3 billion plan to help provide the state with enough physicians, nurses and home care workers. The plan includes an Emerging California Health Leaders Scholarship program, which would cover full-tuition for first-generation or underrepresented students in health training programs.

Let’s take a closer look at similar data for three different metro areas in California, in order to figure out what the best jobs in your area might be.

Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA Metro Area

Total Population
13,261,538
Median salary for high school grads
$27,865
Median salary with a bachelor's degree
$55,055
% of the population enrolled in college or grad school
32.5%
Median rent
$1,393

Three of the top careers in the Los Angeles metro area are directly related to the entertainment industry. Production companies such as 20th Century Fox, New Line Cinema, Walden Media and CBS Films need film and video editors as well as producers and directors, while artists look for agents or managers who can connect them to potential roles.

Dentists who are experts in cosmetic procedures such as professional teeth whitening and porcelain veneers may be especially valuable to the area, as celebrities and everyday people alike can long for bright, beautiful “movie star” smiles.

Best CareersMinimum EducationAverage SalaryEmployment
Producers and DirectorsBachelor's degree$122,31018,610
Sales ManagersBachelor's degree$128,98029,620
Film and Video EditorsBachelor's degree$115,1609,780
Agents and Business Managers of Artists, Performers, and AthletesBachelor's degree$100,3605,120
Dentists, GeneralDoctoral or professional degree$132,8206,120

*Career rankings determined by annual mean wage, employment, projected growth and location quotient. Data sourced from the BLS, 2019 dataset.

San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA Metro Area

Total Population
4,641,820
Median salary for high school grads
$32,199
Median salary with a bachelor's degree
$70,549
% of the population enrolled in college or grad school
32.8%
Median rent
$1,673

Like its neighbor to the south, Silicon Valley, the San Francisco Bay Area also has no shortage of innovative tech companies. Software developers, both in applications and systems software, as well as marketing managers, are often in demand at companies like Salesforce, Twitter, Uber and Pandora Media. In addition, financial giants like Wells Fargo and Charles Schwab are frequently searching for financial managers to work in some of the highest-paying jobs in San Francisco.

Best CareersMinimum EducationAverage SalaryEmployment
Software Developers, ApplicationsBachelor's degree$144,05042,460
Computer and Information Systems ManagersBachelor's degree$194,25017,590
Marketing ManagersBachelor's degree$182,58011,020
Financial ManagersBachelor's degree$184,35016,320
Software Developers, Systems SoftwareBachelor's degree$137,26017,090

*Career rankings determined by annual mean wage, employment, projected growth and location quotient. Data sourced from the BLS, 2019 dataset.

San Diego-Carlsbad, CA Metro Area

Total Population
3,283,665
Median salary for high school grads
$30,513
Median salary with a bachelor's degree
$56,990
% of the population enrolled in college or grad school
34%
Median rent
$1,467

San Diego is home to big tech companies like Qualcomm, as well as growing tech startups such as Human Longevity, Seismic, and Tealium — all of which use degree-holding software developers and computer hardware engineers to help support critical business needs and goals. The city also features a number of healthcare organizations such as Kaiser Permanente and Retrophin. These companies rely on the work of medical scientists to help them advance their diagnostic tools and medical treatments.

Best CareersMinimum EducationAverage SalaryEmployment
Electronics Engineers, Except ComputerBachelor's degree$128,1406,150
Software Developers, ApplicationsBachelor's degree$111,35010,830
Computer Hardware EngineersBachelor's degree$134,3502,350
Medical Scientists, Except EpidemiologistsDoctoral or professional degree$101,8204,290
Software Developers, Systems SoftwareBachelor's degree$116,6508,300

*Career rankings determined by annual mean wage, employment, projected growth and location quotient. Data sourced from the BLS, 2019 dataset.

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