Colleges, Universities & Online Colleges in San Francisco

Updated April 27, 2021 • 5 Min Read

Despite its 49.2 square miles, affectionately referred to as 7 by 7, the city of San Francisco is home to a number of colleges and universities as well as a diverse range of career opportunities, from local government to health care to well known corporate companies.

In recent years, the state of California has pushed to expand distance learning, which means that San Francisco and surrounding bay area cities offer many online education options to its on-the-go working professionals. Whether you are looking for continuing education courses or fully online degrees, San Francisco online colleges can help you meet your goals. 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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Colleges in San Francisco

With its diverse culture, cutting-edge research centers and renowned universities, San Francisco is a magnet for college students. The city by the bay has 25 colleges and universities that trains and educates city and nearby residents, granting everything from certificates in specialized areas to PhDs. According to the San Francisco Center for Economic Development (SFCED), more than two-thirds of San Francisco Bay Area residents have some training beyond a high school diploma and more than 43 percent have a bachelor's degree or higher. On top of that, almost 20 percent of San Francisco residents hold a graduate degree.

San Francisco's community college, City College of San Francisco (CCSF), spans nine campuses to offer courses in more than 50 academic programs and over 100 occupational disciplines such as broadcasting, business, computer science, engineering, health care, and women's studies. It is one of the largest community colleges in the country.

Beyond two-year colleges, San Francisco has a number of well-known four-year public and private institutions including San Francisco State University, which was the first college in the nation to establish an International Relations Department and an Ethnic Studies College. Other four-year universities include the University of California, Hastings College of the Law; the University of San Francisco, a Jesuit Catholic college that was the first in the nation to offer a degree in Computer Science; and UC San Francisco, a top health, science, and educational institution as well as a world leader in researching and advancing new techniques to diagnose and treat disease.

The city is also home to dozens of independent schools and career colleges such as Golden Gate University, Alliant International University, Academy of Art Institute, and the California Culinary Academy.

Below is a glance at a few of San Francisco's colleges and universities:

City College of San FranciscoPublicAssociate's degrees, Continuing education, Career & technical education
San Francisco State UniversityPublicCertificates, Credentials, Undergraduate degrees, Graduate degrees, General education
Golden Gate University – San
Not for Profit PrivateCertificates, Undergraduate degrees, Graduate degrees
California Institute of Integral
Not for Profit PrivateBachelor's, MA, MFA, PhD
San Francisco Art InstituteNot for Profit PrivateBachelor's, Post-Baccalaureate Certificates, Master's, MFA and Dual Degree MA/MFA
San Francisco Conservatory of
Not for Profit PrivateBachelor of Music, Master of Music, MM or Artist Certificate in Chamber Music, PSD in Instrumental Performance and PGD in Vocal Performance

Online Colleges in San Francisco

Online courses and degree programs are an ideal educational option for students who need some flexibility to help juggle the everyday responsibilities of adult life or for independent learners who simply prefer to take classes from the comfort of their own home. San Francisco colleges and universities offer a variety of online options to cater to the diverse needs of the city's residents as well as students from afar. San Francisco State University's College of Extended Learning, for example, offers a variety of online continuing education courses and certificates. CCSF also offers online courses in a wide range of subject areas such as anthropology, art, Asian American studies, business, computer science, and engineering. Online classes are just a challenging as on-campus courses and, therefore, require that students be highly self-motivated. CCSF also offers telecourses for an AA degree. Telecourses allow students to watch lectures at home on one of San Francisco's Educational Access Cable Channels or online. Although students do not physically attend classes, they are required to meet with instructors three times during a semester—for orientation, a midterm exam, and a final exam. Some courses require additional in-person meetings for review sessions.

The University of San Francisco also offers online master's degree programs in Collegiate Athletics, Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, Health Informatics, Public Administration, and Nursing. These online degree programs are adapted from the institution's campus-based programs and have an emphasis on flexibility for busy learners.

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Top Industries, Careers and Employers

With its close proximity to Silicon Valley, it is no surprise that San Francisco is a hub for technology. According to SFCED, the following six industries are heavily represented in and vital to San Francisco's economic growth:

  • IT and Software
  • Social and Digital Media
  • Life Sciences and Biotech
  • Environmental and Cleantech
  • Professional Services
  • International Business

That is not to say, however, that other industries are not thriving in the city. According to Business Times, the top five largest San Francisco employers are:

  • City and County of San Francisco
  • University of California, San Francisco
  • Wells Fargo
  • San Francisco Unified School District
  • Gap Inc.

According to May 2013 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, top occupational titles in the San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont metropolitan area include:

  • Office and Administrative Support
  • Sales
  • Food Preparation and Serving related occupations
  • Business and Financial Operations
  • Management
  • Education, Training and Library occupations
  • Transportation and Material Moving occupations
  • Computer and Mathematical occupations
  • Health care Practitioners and Technical occupations
  • Construction and Extraction occupations

Additionally, SFCED projects that biomedical engineers, microbiologists, computer and information research scientists, software developers, market research analysts and marketing specialists, medical scientists, and home health aides will be among some of the fastest growing occupations in the San Francisco metropolitan area between 2010 and 2020.

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City College of San Francisco

CCSF is one of the largest public, two-year community colleges in the nation. It has nine campuses in various locations throughout San Francisco and serves more than 100,000 students. CCSF offers a range of Associate of Arts and Science degrees, most of which meet general education requirements to transfer to a four-year institution.

CCSF Forward

In July 2012, City College of San Francisco was placed on “Show Cause” status, which meant the college was non-compliant with certain accreditation requirements and, therefore, needed to prove why its accreditation should not be withdrawn. Today, CCSF is still open and accredited; this site offers up-to-date news and information on the review and appeal process as well as the school's progress in meeting the requirements outlined by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC).

San Francisco State University

SFSU enrolls the largest number of international students among comprehensive U.S. universities and also consistently ranks in the top 20 nationwide in awarding bachelor's degrees to minorities. Originally established in 1899 as a teacher-training school, SFSU offers bachelor's degrees, master's degrees and various doctoral degrees in a wide range of academic areas. It also has a number of NCAA Division II intercollegiate athletic teams.

University of San Francisco

USF is a Jesuit Catholic university and is home to McLaren School of Business as well as a top-tier J.D. program. The institution offers bachelor's degrees, master's degrees and doctoral degrees in management, business and nursing. It is located just one block from the city's exact center, which means that it is no more than 3.5 miles away from any resource or destination in San Francisco.

University of California, San Francisco

UCSF is a leading university focused on health science research and education. The school has various partnerships around the world to achieve its mission of advancing health worldwide. It is also home to UCSF Medical Center, which provides highly specialized care to referral patients. In 2015, a new medical center at Mission Bay will open to serve women, children and cancer patients.

Colleges & Universities in San Francisco


San Francisco State University32,633$5,472Public
University of San Francisco11,313$37,040Not For Profit (Private)
Golden Gate University-San Francisco5,002$13,920Not For Profit (Private)
University of California-San Francisco3,080N/APublic
California Institute of Integral Studies1,603$23,040Not For Profit (Private)
University of California Hastings College of Law1,321N/APublic
Saybrook University776N/ANot For Profit (Private)
San Francisco Art Institute735$34,046Not For Profit (Private)


City College of San Francisco46,543N/APublic

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Whether you’re looking to earn your online degree or you’re a parent looking for answers, you can find all of your questions covered here. Explore these resources to help you make informed decisions and prepare for whatever is thrown your way.

See All Posts 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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