The 10 Best Online Colleges in California of 2023

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Updated January 13, 2023

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There are over 500 colleges in California, many of which offer online degrees. We've mapped out some of the state's best schools and high-paying industries.

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In California, 35% of adults hold a bachelor's degree or higher. Although college isn't the only path to success, it's a fairly popular one. Earning a college degree can unlock higher earning potential, an appealing idea when considering the high cost of living in California.

Online colleges in California make it easy to complete a college degree while working or balancing other parts of life. We've outlined some of the best online schools in California and the careers that are thriving there.

Why Consider Online Colleges in California?

  • California is home to several prestigious colleges and universities, many of which offer online programs and courses.
  • Research shows that earning a bachelor's degree can increase your earning potential.
  • Online college allows you to easily balance school with work and other obligations.
  • Many online California colleges offer affordable tuition rates for distance learners.
  • Earning a degree in the California school system can make it easier to transfer to other colleges or continue your education there.
  • Many online programs offer accelerated pathways to complete your degree faster.

Did You Know?



Explore Our Featured Online Programs

How Does Accreditation Work for Online Schools in California?

Accreditation ensures your online college provides a high-quality education. When a college is accredited, it means independent agencies have vetted the school for its standards of excellence.

When an online college is accredited, it also signals to employers that your education is just as rigorous as an on-campus program. You'll also need an accredited degree when applying for professional licenses.

In California, there are two regional accreditors you can look for:

Top 10 Online Colleges in California

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#1 The 10 Best Online Colleges in California of 2023

San Diego State University

  • San Diego, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Accreditation: WASC Senior College and University Commission

Avg. Cost per Credit:

Undergraduate | $492-$552

Graduate | $543-$992

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, master's

An academic college that is part of San Diego State University, SDSU Global Campus (formerly known as the College of Extended Studies) offers five online bachelor's and 10 online master's degree programs.

Online bachelor's degrees include a BS in criminal justice, which takes as little as 15 months to complete asynchronously. Master's programs include a 30-credit MS in big data analytics, which can be completed in around 16 months.

SDSU has partnered with Amazon Career Choice, a program for eligible Amazon employees that pays for their tuition, fees, and textbooks. Online students get access to student-led activities, career services, and software.

Average Tuition
In-state
$5,742
Out-of-state
$17,622
Retention Rate
89%
Admission Rate
37%
Students Enrolled
36,334
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
99% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#2 The 10 Best Online Colleges in California of 2023

California State University-East Bay

  • Hayward, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Accreditation: WASC Senior College and University Commission

Avg. Cost per Credit:

In State (Undergraduate) | $393

In State (Graduate) | $486-$527

Out of State (Undergraduate and Graduate) | $396

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, master's

Chartered in 1957, Cal State East Bay offers five online bachelor's degrees and four online master's degrees. The majority of online courses last 15 weeks. Full-time students who've completed prerequisites can finish a bachelor's degree completion program here in as little as two years.

Master's programs include a BS in hospitality and tourism and a 10-course MS in eLearning. Students can access student support services like the library, LinkedIn Learning, software, academic advising, career services, and online tutoring.

Average Tuition
In-state
$5,742
Out-of-state
$17,622
Retention Rate
78%
Admission Rate
73%
Students Enrolled
16,253
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
100% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#3 The 10 Best Online Colleges in California of 2023

Los Angeles Pacific University

  • Los Angeles, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online

Accreditation: WASC Senior College and University Commission

Avg. Cost per Credit:

Undergraduate | $475

Graduate | $630

Degrees Offered: Associate, bachelor's, master's

LAPU is a fully online school that's part of the Azusa Pacific University System. LAPU offers two online associate degree programs, an AS in health sciences and an AA in humanities. Each associate program includes nine required credits of LAPU Distinctives, two three-credit biblical literature courses, and a three-credit academic success course.

LAPU also offers 10 online bachelor's degree programs, including a BS in digital marketing and a BA in liberal studies. Each bachelor's program permits you to choose a concentration. For example, if you study psychology, you can have a concentration in education psychology or cultural psychology.

The school is also home to five online master's degree programs, including a 36-credit MA in psychology program.

Average Tuition
In-state
$10,800
Out-of-state
$10,800
Retention Rate
100%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
2,036
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
Not provided
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#4 The 10 Best Online Colleges in California of 2023

Hope International University

  • Fullerton, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Accreditation: WASC Senior College and University Commission

Avg. Cost per Credit:

Undergraduate | $450

Graduate | $525-$625

Degrees Offered: Associate, bachelor's, master's

Founded in 1928, Hope is a private Christian university with courses grounded in Christian principles. Hope's online programs include one associate of arts, five bachelor's programs, and six master's degree programs.

The online MS in counseling can be completed in 2-3 years, including community-based clinical training, while the MA in ministry can be completed online or in combination with optional eight-day residencies in Fullerton, California. There's also a 54-unit MA in ministry and MBA dual degree.

Each HIU student is paired with an academic coach. Prospective students can sign up to sample an online course for free.

Average Tuition
In-state
$33,250
Out-of-state
$33,250
Retention Rate
85%
Admission Rate
38%
Students Enrolled
1,201
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
51% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#5 The 10 Best Online Colleges in California of 2023

California Baptist University

  • Riverside, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Accreditation: WASC Senior College and University Commission

Avg. Cost per Credit:

Bachelor's | $613

Master's | $595-$789

Doctoral | $650-$795

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, master's, doctoral

Founded by the California Southern Baptist Convention in 1950 in Riverside, California, CBU is an NCAA Division I school. All faculty and staff are Christian.

CBU offers more than 40 online bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degree programs, including 24 bachelor's degrees. Of these, you can pursue a BS in accounting, a BA in graphic design and digital media, a BS in kinesiology, or a BS in professional aviation.

The university's 56-unit doctoral programs in business administration, organizational change and administration, and public administration can each be completed in as little as three years, including the dissertation.

Average Tuition
In-state
$33,930
Out-of-state
$33,930
Retention Rate
76%
Admission Rate
80%
Students Enrolled
11,317
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
83% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#6 The 10 Best Online Colleges in California of 2023

William Jessup University

  • Rocklin, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Accreditation: WASC Senior College and University Commission

Avg. Cost per Credit:

Undergraduate | $500

Graduate | $550

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, master's

Founded in 1939, the faith-based WJU has two campuses and several fully online undergraduate and graduate programs. There are six annual online course start dates.

The liberal arts college offers six online bachelor's degree programs, including a BA in leadership that includes a Bible minor and a BS in computer science that takes 3-4 years to complete.

WJU also maintains four online master's degree programs, including a two-year, 36-credit MS in kinesiology and a two-year, 38-credit MBA that doesn't require the GMAT.

Average Tuition
In-state
$36,000
Out-of-state
$36,000
Retention Rate
69%
Admission Rate
65%
Students Enrolled
1,840
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
45% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#7 The 10 Best Online Colleges in California of 2023

Fresno Pacific University

  • Fresno, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Accreditation: WASC Senior College and University Commission

Avg. Cost per Credit:

Undergraduate | $505-$530

Graduate | $570-$757

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, master's

FPU is a nonprofit Christian university that offers in-person classes at its campus in Fresno, California, as well as more than two dozen online bachelor's degree completion programs and graduate programs.

The online degree completion programs, including several bachelor's programs in business administration, offer students with prior education and experience the opportunity to complete their degrees. Students attend their choice of face-to-face or fully online classes with 12-22 students once per week.

Available online master's programs include an MA in administrative services, an MA in applied behavioral analysis, and an MA in teaching.

Average Tuition
In-state
$32,954
Out-of-state
$32,954
Retention Rate
71%
Admission Rate
67%
Students Enrolled
3,995
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
9% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#8 The 10 Best Online Colleges in California of 2023

Azusa Pacific University

  • Azusa, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Accreditation: WASC Senior College and University Commission

Avg. Cost per Credit:

Bachelor's | $452-$535

Master's | $684

Doctoral | $1,157-$1,230

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, master's, doctoral

Located northeast of Los Angeles, APU offers both an in-person and online Christ-centered education. Founded in 1899, APU currently has seven Southern California locations.

APU offers more than 30 asynchronous online bachelor's and master's degree programs, in addition to certificate programs in teaching English as a foreign language.

Some graduate programs, like the MA in art education, the MA in music industry, and the doctor of nursing practice, use a low-residency format. This means students complete the majority of their program online while attending campus on a limited basis.

Students have access to APU's libraries, an academic success center that offers tutoring and advising, and a writing and speaking center staffed with coaches.

Average Tuition
In-state
$40,830
Out-of-state
$40,830
Retention Rate
76%
Admission Rate
94%
Students Enrolled
9,006
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
100% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#9 The 10 Best Online Colleges in California of 2023

National University

  • La Jolla, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Accreditation: WASC Senior College and University Commission

Avg. Cost per Credit:

Undergraduate | $370-$388

Master's | $442-$450

Doctoral | $650-$798

Degrees Offered: Associate, bachelor's, master's, doctoral

Founded in 1971, NU is part of the National University System, a network of three universities and a trio of nonprofit education programs.

The second-largest private university in California, NU offers five online associate degrees, 45 online bachelor's degrees, 50 online master's degrees, and 17 online doctorates. Each online program contains four-week courses that start every month.

The university awards a variety of institutional scholarships. In 2022, Northcentral University was approved by the WASC Senior College and University Commission to merge with NU.

Average Tuition
In-state
$13,320
Out-of-state
$13,320
Retention Rate
45%
Admission Rate
89%
Students Enrolled
18,070
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
44% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#10 The 10 Best Online Colleges in California of 2023

Loma Linda University

  • Loma Linda, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Accreditation: WASC Senior College and University Commission

Avg. Cost per Credit:

In State | Varies

Out of State | Varies

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, master's, doctoral

Started by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, LLU is a private school that offers online courses and in-person classes on its Southern California campus. LLU's distance-learning programs can be hybrid, completely online, or online with limited on-campus meetings.

Founded in 1905, LLU is one of two faith-based academic health sciences centers in the U.S. The university offers fully online healthcare-related programs through its School of Allied Health Professions, including four bachelor's programs, seven master's programs, and four doctoral programs.

Average Tuition
In-state
$32,400
Out-of-state
$32,400
Retention Rate
Not provided
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
4,468
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
27% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

10 Popular Cities for Accredited Online Colleges in California

Searching for colleges in California can be overwhelming. Breaking your search down by city can help you target locations near you and narrow down your search.

Students who live in the Bay Area, for example, may want to consider a hybrid online program based in San Francisco.

  1. Bakersfield: This city attracts local, domestic, and international students each year, in part because of the diversity of schools offered here.
  2. Hayward: Education is a big player in the city's local economy and a popular course of study, too — Hayward produces many of California's teachers.
  3. Irvine: An Orange County college town, Irvine students largely major in education and hospitality. To top it off, Irvine is only 20 minutes from Disneyland!
  4. Los Angeles: The City of Angels hosts some of the country's most popular schools, like UCLA and USC. In total, LA has over 63 universities in the city alone.
  5. Sacramento: There are many great online schools to choose from in the capital of California. Popular industries in the city include construction, business, health, and tech.
  6. San Diego: San Diego is home to a wide variety of high-quality beaches and colleges. Students in San Diego major in clean tech, information technology, tourism, and healthcare.
  7. San Francisco: From sourdough bread to Silicon Valley, San Francisco has a lot to offer students. You can choose online degrees like public administration, software engineering, and biotech from San Francisco schools.
  8. San Jose: This city is known for its innovation and environmental initiatives. San Jose online colleges are a great place to study environmental majors and tech-related degrees.
  9. Santa Maria: This smaller California city offers a variety of degree programs, from viticulture to web design. It also offers tons of certificate programs.
  10. Stockton: Stockton is home to California's oldest university, the University of the Pacific. Today, students will find a variety of online degrees available in this city.

How Much Do Online Universities in California Cost?



The average tuition cost for students in California can range from $1,270 per year to $37,009 per year, depending on the school you choose and your residency status. The average two-year public school tuition for in-state students is $1,270, while out-of-state students pay an average of $8,194.

You'll also find that private schools cost more to attend than public schools.

Students attending online schools in California should budget for additional fees, like technology and graduation fees. You'll also need a functional laptop, reliable Wi-Fi access, and books and supplies for classes.

Some online colleges in California include in-person requirements, so be sure to budget for potential travel or lodging expenses.

You can save money by submitting the FAFSA and applying for scholarships.


Popular Majors in California

  • Biology
  • Business
  • Computer Science
  • Engineering
  • Marketing
  • Social Science

What Are the Fastest-Growing Jobs in California?

The California job market is seeing promising growth for those in the restaurant and service industry, fitness, and data science careers.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the average growth rate for jobs in the U.S. is around 7%. In California, the restaurant cook career is projected to grow 75% by 2030. Bartending and fitness training careers are projected to grow 63%.


10 Fast-Growing Jobs in California
Job Job Growth Rate (2020-2030) Median Annual Salary (May 2021)
Restaurant Cooks 75% $36,490
Bartenders 63% $30,560
Fitness Trainers and Aerobics Instructors 63% $49,300
Solar Photovoltaic Installers 62% $48,090
Massage Therapists 56% $47,590
Nurse Practitioners 56% $149,910
Hairdressers, Hairstylists, and Cosmetologists 51% $30,310
Statisticians 46% $102,410
Data Scientists 45% $129,550
Occupational Therapy Assistants 43% $76,920

Sources: Projections Central, BLS

What Are the Top-Paying Jobs in California?

According to the latest BLS data, some of the top-paying jobs you can get in California include dentist, chief executive, manager, and animal scientist. The 10 highest-paying jobs all have a median annual salary of over $150,000 in California.

While some jobs require a graduate degree, many require only a bachelor's degree, often with several years of relevant experience.


10 Highest-Paying Jobs in California
Job Median Annual Salary (May 2021) Minimum Education Required
Dentists, All Other Specialists $198,130 First-Professional
Dermatologists $195,820 First-Professional
Chief Executives $193,350 Bachelor's
Animal Scientists $192,120 Bachelor's
Orthodontists $187,510 First-Professional
Computer and Information Systems Managers $176,870 Bachelor's
Natural Sciences Managers $175,510 Bachelor's
Pediatricians, General $169,570 First-Professional
Architectural and Engineering Managers $169,130 Bachelor's
Medical Dosimetrists $167,140 Bachelor's

Source: BLS

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Colleges in California

How long do you need to live in California to get in-state tuition?

You can qualify for in-state tuition after living in California for over one year (at least 366 days). You must also prove financial independence and indicate that you plan to remain in the state after graduation.

Note that some online colleges in California may have different rules for distance learners regarding who can qualify for in-state tuition or if in-state tuition is even available to online students.

Do I need to be a resident of California to attend an online college in California?

You don't need to reside in California to attend an online college in California. Online colleges are open to any student, regardless of where they live. Since you won't need to attend any in-person classes, there's no need for you to physically be in California.

What is the cheapest college in California?

The cheapest colleges in California will likely be community or technical colleges. But expenses will vary for each student depending on whether you live in-state, the program you choose, and if you qualify for any financial aid.

How many colleges and universities are in California?

There are over 500 colleges and universities in California. It's the third largest state in the U.S. and home to many prestigious schools. If you wish to attend a school based in California, your options are nearly endless.

What schools offer online courses in California?

The vast majority of colleges in California will offer online courses. Schools like San Diego State University, California State University, Pepperdine University, and Biola University all offer online courses.


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AccreditedSchoolsOnline.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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