California is home to numerous colleges and universities, many of which offer online degrees. Students earning the best online degrees in California prepare for careers in the state's fastest-growing industries, such as healthcare, software development, and finance. Individuals with a bachelor's or master's degree often enjoy more career opportunities than candidates with only a high school education.
In-state learners at California public schools receive discounted tuition rates. Students must meet certain requirements to qualify for in-state tuition, which often include living in the state for 366 days prior to enrollment. Military members receive exceptions for some residency requirements in California.
Students researching the most affordable online degrees in California should also consider each prospective school's academic resources for online learners. Institutions may provide virtual career and academic counseling, library services, and tutoring. Learners should also ensure that each prospective school holds accreditation.
Top 5 Best Online Colleges in California
|#1||San Diego State University San Diego, CA|
|#2||Biola University La Mirada, CA|
|#3||California State University-Chico Chico, CA|
|#4||William Jessup University Rocklin, CA|
|#5||Concordia University-Irvine Irvine, CA|
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Full-time students usually need four years to earn a bachelor's degree. Master's degree-seekers typically require 2-3 years. Graduation time varies based on enrollment status.
For students attending online college, California programs include options at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Some programs require in-person coursework, internships, or practicum experiences.
Out-of-state students can pursue many of the best online degrees in California. However, some programs, such as those that grant licensure, may not accept out-of-state learners.
To qualify for in-state tuition rates, students must typically have resided in California for at least 366 days prior to enrollment. Learners with specific circumstances, such as K-12 educators taking courses to transfer their teaching license, may qualify for exceptions.
Best Online Colleges in California 2021
The following list features the best online colleges in California for 2021. Factors that influence the ranking include tuition rates, available online degrees and certificates, student support services, and institutional financial aid. Learners can visit each school's website and contact an enrollment counselor for more information.
A leading public research university based in San Diego, California, SDSU's academic programs partnered with the SDSU Global Campus to offer fully online undergraduate and graduate degree completion programs, providing flexible education for working students.
SDSU's online bachelor's degrees focus on business administration, communication, criminal justice, economics, and public health. The university also offers online master's degrees in teacher leadership, electrical engineering, epidemiology, regulatory affairs, and rehabilitation counseling. SDSU also allows students to attend their courses online or through a blend of on-campus and online classes.
SDSU does not accept transfer applications from lower-division students with fewer than 60 transferable credits. All applicants must submit their official high school transcripts, complete the CSU common admission application, and pay a nonrefundable filing fee of $70.
San Diego State University is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior Colleges and University Commission (WSCUC).
A nationally ranked Christian university in La Mirada, California, Biola offers fully online undergraduate programs to provide students with an affordable, flexible way to finish their studies.
Biola offers online bachelor's degrees in applied psychology, Bible, theology and apologetics, biblical ministries, business management, communication studies, early childhood, interdisciplinary studies, and public relations and digital media management. The university provides online programs through year-round, seven-week course sessions in an asynchronous format.
Prospective students can apply to any of Biola's online bachelor's degrees for free. For transfer students, the university requests transcripts from accredited colleges at no cost to its applicants. The school also designates admissions counselors to help each applicant navigate the process.
Biola University is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior Colleges and University Commission (WSCUC).
Located in Chico, California, Chico State offers online courses and degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels to provide a pathway for working students to earn their degrees.
Chico State Distance and Online Education's programs include bachelor's degrees in social science, liberal studies, religious studies, and sociology. The university also offers an online master's degree in nursing and an online certificate program in career and life planning.
Students may also pursue an online/on-campus hybrid program in the bachelor of social work distributed learning degree. Students in this program learn through web-based, synchronous courses, offered on a rotating cycle.
Interested applicants must complete an online application form, and submit all transcripts of records from regionally accredited institutions. Prospective students of the school's online programs must meet the technical requirements in computer and internet access. California State University-Chico is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior Colleges and University Commission (WSCUC).
A Christian university based in Rocklin, California, Jessup now offers 17 accredited online degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Jessup offers online bachelor's degrees in psychology, leadership, business, computer science, criminal justice, and healthcare administration. The school also features online master's degrees in leadership, kinesiology, and a master's in business administration.
Along with the flexibility of online course delivery, students also access Jessup's success center, online tutoring sessions, and thousands of books and resources in the Paul Nystrom Library.
Per university policy, applicants may transfer up to 90 credits from a previously attended accredited institution. All applicants must fill out the school's online application form and submit all academic transcripts, along with SAT or ACT scores. William Jessup University is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior Colleges and University Commission (WSCUC).
Located in Irvine, California, CIU offers online bachelor's degrees for working students to advance their education at their own pace.
CIU's online bachelor's degrees consist of programs in business administration and leadership, Christian education leadership, healthcare management, and organizational psychology. Each of CIU's online courses includes regularly scheduled two-hour classes with professors and peers. This allows students to actively engage in live lectures and discussions. Students of this program still benefit from CIU's support resources and alumni network.
Applicants must complete an online application form, available on the school's official website. Prospective students should also submit official transcripts from all previously attended colleges and universities and write a statement of intent. Applicants must hold a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.4.
Concordia University-Irvine is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior Colleges and University Commission (WSCUC).
Accreditation for Online Schools in California
Colleges and universities offering the most affordable online degrees in California should hold regional accreditation from the WASC Senior College and University Commission. The Department of Education charges regional accrediting agencies to evaluate postsecondary institutions in certain geographic areas. Regional accreditation signifies that a school meets high standards for academic quality.
Schools that deliver online degrees also need national accreditation from the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). DEAC specializes in distance learning and evaluates whether online programs deliver the same education as on-campus programs. DEAC accreditation indicates that all students receive the same learning outcomes.
Why Study Online?
Many online programs deliver coursework asynchronously, allowing students to view recorded lectures and complete assignments at convenient times. This scheduling flexibility often benefits degree-seekers raising children or working full time.
Online learning also allows learners to consider schools and programs outside of their geographic area. Even students in other states or countries can pursue the best online degrees in California. However, some programs may restrict applicants to California or U.S. residents.
The most affordable online degrees in California offer low tuition rates, and distance learners often save on transportation and housing costs. Additionally, schools typically waive campus fees for online students. Online degree-seekers also avoid costs associated with relocating.
Professional Organizations for Students in California
Students can increase their chance of securing a job by joining professional organizations aligned with their major and career aspirations. Organizations such as those below accept student members in California. Membership benefits often include access to scholarship opportunities, mentorship programs, and professional development options.
American Historical AssociationThe AHA represents professional historians, history teachers, and students in the field. Student membership benefits include discounts on office supplies and books, free publications, and access to a career center. The association also offers a joint membership program with the Community College Humanities Association and the American Political Science Association.
Association for Women in ScienceAWIS supports women in STEM fields through scholarship opportunities, a career development center, and leadership development programs. Degree-seekers join as junior members and receive benefits including a subscription to AWIS Magazine and access to webinars and virtual networking events. AWIS works to influence public policy and promote anti-racism initiatives.
California Teachers AssociationAffiliated with the National Education Association, CTA represents more than 300,000 K-12 public school educators throughout the state. Student members receive benefits including liability and life insurance, continuing education courses, and discounts on professional supplies. CTA also administers numerous scholarships and awards.
Future Business Leaders of AmericaFBLA serves more than 200,000 middle school, high school, and college students. Student members can apply for scholarships from the organization and read FBLA's professional publications. FBLA hosts a national conference with in-person and virtual networking opportunities. Members who excel academically may qualify to join the organization's prestigious Phi Beta Lambda honor society.
Scholarships for Online Students in California
In-state students pursuing the best online degrees in California often pay competitive tuition rates. However, learners can further reduce out-of-pocket expenses by applying for scholarships. The scholarship opportunities below can help degree-seekers minimize debt. Each of the following scholarship programs accepts applications in 2021. Students should research each award's eligibility requirements, application requirements, and deadline.
Who Can Apply: Children of active-duty firefighters and police officers can apply for this scholarship from the California Alarm Association. The scholarship committee considers each applicant's high school GPA, extracurricular activities, and community service. Interested students apply by April 12.
Who Can Apply: The California Association of Collectors, Inc., awards this competitive scholarship to California high school seniors who plan to attend an accredited college or university within 12 months of graduation. Applicants submit an essay explaining the importance of maintaining good credit.
Who Can Apply: Single parents living in the San Francisco Bay area can apply for this scholarship. Capture the Dream, Inc., accepts applications from April 1 to June 30 and awards the scholarship for the following fall semester.