MBA Programs in California Overview

Soak up the sun in beautiful California and earn an MBA. Check out this guide for the best business schools in the state, tuition rates, and salary information.
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Published on September 7, 2023
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California became known as "land of sunshine, fruit, and flowers" at the start of the 20th century, but today the Golden State also dominates in terms of education. The state has no shortage of opportunities, including some of the best business schools in California. The state is home to 384 four-year colleges and universities, including 150 public institutions, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

College graduates in the Golden State benefit from entering one of the largest economies in the world. California has a $3.598 trillion gross state product, more than India. Economic opportunities abound for MBA graduates. The governor's office reports California added 96,700 jobs in January 2023, accounting for 18.7% of the country's total job gains. The best business schools in California prepare you for in-demand careers that offer higher-than-average salaries. You can become a director of marketing, finance manager, project manager, or management analyst.

Want to get your big break in business? Consider earning an MBA in California. Learn what it costs and what you can earn.

California at a Glance
Population 39.2 million
Climate Average Annual Temperature: 59.4 F | Annual Precipitation: 22.2 inches
Number of Higher Learning Institutions 150
Per Capita Income $41,276
Fortune 500 Companies 53
Sources: U.S. Census, Current Results, NCES, Statista

Popular Online MBA Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

3 Business Schools in California

Stanford University

California may not have an Ivy League college, but Stanford University, founded in 1885, ranks among the country's most elite institutions. California Senator Leland Stanford and his wife, Jane, opened Stanford in honor of their late son, Leland Stanford Jr. The university offers 67 undergraduate majors and some 200 graduate subject areas to the 7,761 undergraduates and 9,565 graduate students who study there.

  • Public or Private Institution: Private
  • Average Tuition & Fees: $55,473
  • Acceptance Rate: 5%
  • Number of Applicants: 2,216

Stanford Graduate School of Business

The Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) has offered MBA degrees since 1927. You can earn a full-time MBA in two years, studying core business topics and gaining leadership skills through labs. You'll also tailor your education, picking from more than 120 electives.

Through simulations, case studies, and lectures with tenured professionals and business executives, GSB trains future global leaders. You'll study at the campus, completing 98 credits. Experiential courses let you test your classroom lessons. The required global management immersion experience offers opportunities in Asia, Europe, Africa, and Latin America. You can also learn project management in Spain or payment system strategy in Singapore.

Stanford's MBA Specializations

JD/MBA | MA Education/MBA | MPP/MBA | MS Computer Science/MBA | MA Electrical Engineering/MBA | MS Environment and Resources (E-IPER)/MBA

Applying to Stanford

Stanford requires that you have a bachelor's degree from an accredited college to get admitted, but there are no GPA requirements. You'll also need to submit GMAT or GRE scores, two letters of recommendation, an essay, and a resume — although no specific work experience is required.

University of California, Berkeley

The University of California, Berkeley, has a 150-year history of excellence, having started with 10 faculty members and 40 students. The university now boasts 14 schools and colleges that offer more than 350 degrees to its 35,000 students.

  • Public or Private Institution: Public
  • Average Tuition & Fees: $11,442 (in state), $41,196 (out of state)
  • Acceptance Rate: 17%
  • Number of MBA applicants: 3,700

Haas School of Business

Founded in 1898, the Haas School of Business has a reputation for innovative research with two current faculty — Oliver Williamson and John Harsanyi — who hold the Nobel Prize in economic science. Degree-seekers have the option of a full-time, on-campus MBA that takes two years, an evening and weekend MBA program, or an executive MBA for business veterans.

You can take an optional global component with opportunities to consult with worldwide organizations and/or participate in exchange programs in Spain, France, or England. Berkeley Haas, with 247 admitted students for the class of 2024, offers individualized career services through the Career Management Group.

Haas' MBA Specializations


Applying to Berkeley

Berkeley requires prospective MBA students to hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited college and have competitive GMAT or GRE scores. There's no minimum GPA requirement, but most admitted students hold at least a 3.0 GPA. Applications must also include essays and two letters of recommendation.

University of Southern California

Located in central Los Angeles, the University of Southern California, opened in 1880 before the city had electric lights and paved streets. Now this renowned private college has 22 schools and 450,000 alumni. Roughly 49,000 undergraduate and graduate students study at USC.

  • Public or Private Institution: Private
  • Average Tuition & Fees: $59,260
  • Acceptance Rate: 16%

Marshall School of Business

The Marshall School of Business, established in 1920, offers numerous MBA degrees that you can complete at the LA campus or online. The MBA program you choose depends on your career experience. Full-time MBA students work on consulting projects for LA-based companies, complete summer internships, and spend 10 days abroad to gain global business experience.

USC also offers a 22-month executive MBA for more experienced professionals, a part-time MBA program, a one-year accelerated MBA for mid-career professionals, and a 21-month online MBA degree. Graduate students get help from career strategists and have the opportunity to participate in case workshops and coaching sessions for national competitions.

Marshall's MBA Specializations

JD/MBA | MBA/MA in East Asian Area Studies | MBA/Master of Planning | MBA/Master of Real Estate Development | MBA/MS in Gerontology | MBA/MS in Industrial and Systems Engineering | MBA/EdD | MBA/MD | MBA/Doctor of Pharmacy | MBA/MA in Jewish Nonprofit Management | MBA/MSW

Applying to USC

MBA candidates need a bachelor's degree from an accredited school and GMAT or GRE scores unless you have a test waiver. Your application also needs to include a resume and 2-3 essays. The Marshall full-time MBA admissions process does not require letters of recommendation.

Why Go to College for an MBA in California?

People relocate to California for the sunny weather but stay for the job and educational opportunities. In terms of size, California ranks as the largest state in the country, with nine national parks. The Golden State offers the most diversity in terms of landscape, socioeconomics, and culture. Roughly 39 million people live in California, 40.3% of which are Hispanic or Latino/a — the largest population in the nation.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), California has the highest employment levels of management occupations, with professionals earning an annual mean wage of $155,120 as of 2022. California is also home to the cities with the highest employment of management occupations. Los Angeles and San Francisco respectively employ 426,300 and 234,350 people in these sectors.

Going to the best business schools in California allows you to build a network of alumni in a state with a growing job market. California has added 3 million jobs to its workforce since April 2020.

Accreditation for California Schools

Accreditation denotes quality. Colleges and universities receive institutional accreditation based on a holistic review of the entire institution, including the academics, faculty, and organizational structure. In California, schools get accredited on a voluntary basis by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. You need to attend an accredited college to receive federal financial aid and to transfer credits to another institution.

MBA programs nationwide get accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs, or the International Accreditation Council for Business Education. Employers prefer candidates from accredited MBA programs in California.

Paying for Your MBA Degree

California residents pay more for a private college education. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), students attending private nonprofit colleges paid $28,445 in tuition and $14,301 at for-profit private colleges. Public colleges charged students a national average of $12,394.

In the 2021-2022 school year, families paid for the majority of college costs out of pocket, spending on average $25,313, according to a report commissioned by Sallie Mae. Roughly 73% of families receive scholarships or grants to pay for their college tuition. Another 41% of families borrowed money. College students can borrow private or state and federal loans, with varying interest rates.

To receive state and federal financial aid, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Grants do not need to be repaid, but you may need to meet certain requirements. Scholarships provide no-strings-attachment money for college

In-State Versus Out-of-State Tuition

Pursuing a degree at the best business schools in California can be expensive, especially if you do not qualify for in-state tuition. Out-of-state tuition rates vary by college. However, you can get in-state tuition, even without California residency. For instance, high-achieving students, veterans and active duty military members, and students experiencing financial hardships may qualify for exemptions. Under the California Dream Act, undocumented students and other qualifying students can get in-state tuition rates.

Additionally, as a member of the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE), California offers discounted tuition rates to students in participating states. Students qualify for in-state tuition if they live in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Cost of Living in California

Attending college in California comes at a cost. California ranks as the fourth-most expensive state in the nation, just after Hawaii, Washington D.C., and Massachusetts. The California cost-of-living index stands at 134.50 compared with the national baseline of 100, according to the World Population Review. The index reflects what California residents pay over the national average for housing, food, and healthcare, among other basic expenses.

The cost of living varies by city, with residents in Los Angeles and San Francisco paying more for housing than residents in Chico or Sacramento. No matter the city, attending the best business schools in California requires budgeting for a higher-than-average cost of living.

Careers for MBA Graduates in California

California has the most management and business and financial operations occupations in the country. The BLS reports, that as of May 2022, about 1.273 million Californians worked in management occupations, beating out Texas, New York, Florida, and Illinois. California also boasts the highest level of people employed in business and financial occupations, with a workforce of 1.19 million.

Although the cost of living in the state is higher than average, Californians earned an annual mean wage of $73,220 — above the national mean salary of $61,900, according to the BLS. Most Californians who work in management hold positions as general and operations managers, but you can also land a role as a marketing manager, sales manager, or medical and health services manager. Other popular MBA careers, as we outline next, include accountants and auditors and management analysts. These professionals enjoy lucrative salaries in California.

Popular MBA Careers in California

General and Operations Managers

General and operations managers supervise daily operations in multiple departments in the private and public sectors. Their duties include handling customer relations and human resources, but specific job functions depend on the industry. The highest-paid general and operations managers work in monetary authorities, computer manufacturing, and for agents and managers of talent.

Job Outlook in California (2020-2030): 18.7%

Accountants and Auditors

Accountants and auditors work in accounting services, finance and insurance, government agencies, and management companies. Accountants often work with external auditors during year-end audits, answering questions. Internal auditors follow an audit plan to perform financial and operational audits and report their findings to management. Companies need accountants and auditors to analyze and monitor financial documents and to maintain compliance with laws.

Job Outlook in California (2020-2030): 12.9%

Management Analysts

Management analysts, or management consultants, use performance improvement methodologies to improve operations and maximize profits. They assist management teams to make suggestions that optimize efficiency. Duties may also include preparing manuals and training materials or monitoring budgets and project timetables. Most management analysts work in professional, scientific, and technical services, but others also find careers at government agencies, in finance and insurance, and in management companies.

Job Outlook in California (2020-2030): 16.9%

MBA Salaries by Career
Career California Employment California Average Annual Salary National Average Annual Salary
Accountants and Auditors 157,080 $96,210 $86,740
Administrative Services Managers 35,420 $118,720 $115,640
Advertising and Promotions Managers 3,750 $179,680 $147,050
Budget Analysts 5,520 $99,720 $87,680
Chief Executives 36,710 $275,040 $246,440
Compensation, Benefits, and Job Analysis Specialists 13,010 $89,150 $75,920
Financial and Investment Analysts 30,210 $116,480 $108,790
Financial Managers 99,340 $187,410 $166,050
Fundraising Managers 3,090 $135,020 $124,450
General and Operations Managers 273,130 $148,270 $122,860
Management Analysts 121,140 $103,180 $104,660
Marketing Managers 56,920 $186,550 $158,280
Project Management Specialists 101,770 $119,130 $101,610
Public Relations Managers 8,410 $172,590 $150,030
Purchasing Managers 7,790 $154,450 $140,650
Sales Managers 108,020 $148,920 $150,530
Securities, Commodities, and Financial Services Sales Agents 55,440 $102,380 $100,740
Training and Development Managers 5,880 $150,010 $132,100

Questions About Business Schools in California

Is it expensive to get an MBA in California?

You cannot get an MBA in California — or any state — without a substantial investment. In the 2020-2021 school year, public graduate students spent an average of $12,394 on tuition. Earning an MBA in California costs more at private colleges. USC charges $66,640 per year for graduate tuition, compared to its rival UCLA, which charges $13,225 per year in tuition for California residents.

How do I qualify for in-state tuition in California?

Colleges determine your residency status after you gain admittance. Generally, you need to have resided in a state for at least 12 months to qualify for in-state residency. Exceptions to this rule apply to veterans or active military members and their families. Online learners may also qualify for in-state tuition regardless of where they live.

Is UCSD a good school for business?

Yes. The UCSD's Rady School of Management features numerous MBA programs that offer flexible formats. You can study part time in the evenings or enroll in the executive program and study on the weekends.

Is UCLA a good business school?

Yes. UCLA's Anderson School of Management, with a reputation that extends beyond California, offers a traditional 22-month MBA and 22-month and 33-month MBAs designed for working students who can study during the night and/or on the weekends. 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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