The 5 Best Online Colleges in California

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Updated November 28, 2022

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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.

Did You Know?



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.

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 5 Online Colleges in California

Read About Our Methodology Here

#1 The 5 Best Online Colleges in California

San Joaquin Delta College

  • Stockton, CA
  • 2 years
  • Online + Campus

From its campus in Stockton, California, San Joaquin Delta College offers a variety of college-level degree programs to diverse learners. Undergraduate students can enroll in online programs or opt for in-person study.

Enrollees in both modalities connect with premier faculty and gain skills and knowledge from industry-relevant coursework. Enrollees complete foundational and advanced classes throughout their studies. Participants can explore collaborative opportunities throughout the duration of their program, including faculty-led research projects, internships, and professional activities.

While enrolled, students can access numerous institutional resources, such as career services and academic advising. Prospective students can speak with the financial aid office to determine their scholarship eligibility. The college offers a variety of financial aid awards, with 83% of all enrollees receiving aid. Of all enrollees, 30% graduate from their degree programs.

Average Tuition
In-state
$1,288
Out-of-state
$8,708
Retention Rate
72%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
18,533
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
65% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
No

#2 The 5 Best Online Colleges in California

California State University, Stanislaus

  • Turlock, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

From its campus in Turlock, California State University, Stanislaus offers a variety of college-level degree programs to diverse learners. The public college offers 41 bachelor's degree programs and 14 master's degree programs. Graduate students can enroll in one fully remote master's program.

Students benefit from a supportive learning community, whether learning in person or online, and skilled faculty. Enrollees complete foundational and advanced coursework as part of their program curriculum. Participants can explore collaborative opportunities throughout the duration of their program, including faculty-led research projects, internships, and professional activities.

The college connects students with numerous institutional resources, such as career services and academic advising. Prospective enrollees can meet with the financial aid office to explore funding opportunities and determine their eligibility. Given the generosity of the college, 90% of all admitted students receive financial aid awards. Institutional support contributes to the college's 59% graduation rate.

Average Tuition
In-state
$5,742
Out-of-state
$17,622
Retention Rate
83%
Admission Rate
89%
Students Enrolled
10,974
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
46% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#3 The 5 Best Online Colleges in California

Humphreys University

  • Stockton, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Humphreys University offers an impressive array of hybrid degree programs. This private college supports nine bachelor's degree programs and four master's degree programs from its main campus in Stockton, California. Students continuing their education can pursue a fully remote master's program.

Learners across modalities benefit from a supportive learning community, attentive faculty, and competitive degree options. Enrollees complete foundational classes and subject-specific coursework throughout their studies. Participants can explore collaborative opportunities for the duration of their program, including faculty-led research projects, internships, and professional activities.

Learners can access institutional resources, such as career services and academic advising, throughout their studies. Prospective students can speak with the financial aid office to determine their scholarship eligibility. The college discloses that 100% of all incoming students receive some form of financial aid.

Average Tuition
In-state
$14,580
Out-of-state
$14,580
Retention Rate
100%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
486
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
56% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#4 The 5 Best Online Colleges in California

Christian Life College

  • Mount Prospect, IL
  • 4 years
  • Campus

Christian Life College is a Mount Prospect-based institution providing college-level degrees to learners near and far. The school offers bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees from its main campus in Mount Prospect.

Whether learning in person or online, enrollees benefit from a rigorous curriculum, engaged faculty, and experiential learning opportunities. While enrolled, students complete industry-specific and general coursework, gaining the skills and knowledge needed to succeed. Students can collaborate with faculty on research projects, pursue internships, and explore other experiential learning opportunities during their degree.

Students can access career services, academic advising, and other resources throughout their program. Learners can meet with a financial aid counselor to determine their eligibility for scholarships, fellowships, and other funding opportunities.

Average Tuition
In-state
Not provided
Out-of-state
Not provided
Retention Rate
Not provided
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
Not provided
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
Not provided
Accreditation
No

#5 The 5 Best Online Colleges in California

University of the Pacific

  • Stockton, CA
  • 4 years
  • Campus

Located in California, the University of the Pacific offers premier programs to students from all walks of life. To date, the college delivers 60 bachelor's degree programs and 30 master's degree programs.

All students benefit from rigorous core curricula, skilled faculty, and supportive learning environments. Enrollees complete foundational and advanced coursework throughout their studies. To further their learning, students can pursue internships, collaborate on faculty-driven research projects, and explore other learning opportunities.

Learners can access institutional resources, such as career services and academic advising, throughout their studies. Students can learn more about scholarships, fellowships, and other funding opportunities that can be applied to their education through the financial aid office. Typically, 97% of all admitted students receive financial aid awards. The institution reports a 71% graduation rate.

Average Tuition
In-state
$48,904
Out-of-state
$48,904
Retention Rate
83%
Admission Rate
66%
Students Enrolled
6,447
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
Not provided
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
Orthodonitists $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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