As of 2019, the California community college system comprises 114 separate institutions, some with multiple campuses and many with online learning programs. With so many choices, you may find selecting the right school for you a challenging task. Our ranking of the best community colleges in California can help you choose a school that meets your academic needs while preparing you for a new career.
Top 10 Community Colleges in California
- Las Positas College - Livermore, CA
- College of San Mateo - San Mateo, CA
- Irvine Valley College - Irvine, CA
- Diablo Valley College - Pleasant Hill, CA
- Santiago Canyon College - Orange, CA
- Moorpark College - Moorpark, CA
- Mt San Antonio College - Walnut, CA
- Citrus College - Glendora, CA
- Imperial Valley College - Imperial, CA
- De Anza College - Cupertino, CA
For each college, you'll learn about academic offerings, application requirements, scholarship opportunities, and other valuable information. As you review the information, keep in mind that even if one school ranks higher than another, it may not offer the academic program that aligns with your career or personal goals. Other excellent schools may not offer something specific that you require, such as asynchronous, online learning or accelerated degree tracks. For these reasons, consider all schools on this ranking equally until you research them in depth.
Additionally, when exploring community colleges in California, consider how the program you select may impact your career path and salary potential. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the state's highest-paying careers in May of 2018 were primarily in the fields of healthcare, engineering, law, architecture, and information technology. However, the majority of Californians work as office and administrative support specialists, sales associates, food preparers, and transportation professionals. According to the BLS, the state has maintained an unemployment rate of less than 4.5% as of September 2019. In these economic conditions, employers typically offer higher salaries to attract recent college graduates and talented professionals interested in switching careers.
Although professions in California often pay higher than the same jobs in other states, California's high cost of living may not translate into a higher quality of life, especially if you live in or near a major city (e.g., San Francisco or Los Angeles). Finally, use the link in each profile to learn more about the school. While our goal is to provide the most helpful information possible, you should always contact a school's admissions advisors with any specific questions.
Ranking the Best Community Colleges in California
Las Positas College
|Livermore, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 39%||
Established as an independent college in 1988, LPC offers associate degrees, certificates, and continuing education classes on its Livermore campus. The college also delivers online associate programs in arts and humanities, business, computer science, marketing, and sociology.
Most degree tracks require learners to complete 60 credits of coursework. Students start with general studies classes and complete their degree with major coursework. Most learners can earn their degree in two years. They must maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA to stay in good academic standing.
Prospective degree-seekers apply by submitting the standard California community college application, the FAFSA, and official transcripts. The college accepts up to 48 transfer credits from regionally accredited colleges and universities. In-state students save approximately 85% on tuition compared to out-of-state students.
LPC holds regional accreditation from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, a division of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
College of San Mateo
|San Mateo, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 39%||
CSM provides learning opportunities to roughly 10,000 students through both classroom and online learning. This regionally accredited college offers more than 66 associate degrees, including programs in architecture, building inspection, chemistry, and geology. CSM's certificate programs prepare learners for a range of careers, such as tax preparer and certified public accountant. Most students can earn their degree in two years or a certificate in one year or less.
In general, associate programs consist of 60 credits of general education and major coursework, while certificate programs require between 6 and 37 credits. Most associate programs offer a transfer track that enables credits to transfer seamlessly to California state universities.
Like many community colleges in California, CSM does not charge an application fee and boasts open enrollment. The college awards scholarships to eligible full-time students.
Irvine Valley College
|Irvine, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 45%||
Located on a roughly 60-acre campus providing a small-college feel, IVC divides into 11 academic schools, including guidance and counseling, business sciences, and life sciences and technologies. Students can choose from 70 associate degree programs and professional certificate options, including many available entirely online.
Most learners can earn a degree in two years or less, depending on their prior educational experience. They can also customize their degree through electives. Visit the IVC website for detailed information on each program's major requirements and elective options.
Prospective students can apply for entry in the spring, summer, or fall semester. Application requirements include high school or undergraduate transcripts and FAFSA results. Credits earned at a prior college must reflect a minimum 2.0 GPA to be eligible for transfer. The college offers a variety of scholarships based on academics, financial hardship, and community service. IVC holds regional accreditation from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges.
Diablo Valley College
|Pleasant Hill, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 45%||
DVC serves over 22,000 students on campuses in Pleasant Hill and San Ramon and through online learning. DVC's academic programs include over 40 associate degrees and certificates. Most students can earn their degree in two years by following the school's suggested course sequences.
DVC features AS degrees in civil, electrical, computing, and mechanical engineering that allow students to enter a California state four-year engineering program as a junior. For all majors, the college provides a detailed graduation chart that clearly defines required courses, electives, and program milestones. These charts also feature program learning outcomes and potential careers.
DVC accepts first-time college students, transfer students, and lifelong learners returning to school for personal enrichment. Freshmen applicants submit FAFSA results, complete an online orientation, and take placement tests. The Veterans Services Office helps veterans and active-duty military personnel use federal tuition benefits.
DVC holds regional accreditation from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, a division of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Santiago Canyon College
|Orange, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 39%||
Part of the Rancho Santiago Community College District, SCC offers 45 associate degree programs and a number of certificates for learners wishing to become career-ready or further their studies at a four-year institution. Students can also enter the SCC Honors Program, which features small class sizes and peers with similar academic ambition. In addition, the college offers dozens of courses entirely online.
Most associate programs require 30 or more credits of major coursework accompanied by general education classes. They also typically include career education training opportunities that allow learners to work in the field while earning a degree. SCC also boasts apprenticeship programs in carpentry, electricity, and surveying, and other in-demand fields.
Similar to other community colleges in California, SCC is an open-enrollment institution, but all applicants must complete an application. Students who earned a minimum 2.8 high school GPA may qualify for one of two SCC scholarship opportunities.
SCC holds regional accreditation from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, a division of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
|Moorpark, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 38%||
MC opened its doors in 1967 and today serves over 15,000 students across California. The school's academic programs include three types of distance education offerings: online only, hybrid, and online with on-campus assessment. Most full-time students can earn an associate or transfer degree in two years.
MC boasts more than 36 academic departments, including astronomy, counseling, and game design. Most associate programs comprise 60 credits of general education classes, major coursework, and multiple electives. Both online learners and on-campus students can access web-based resources including library research, financial aid, and student records.
Prospective students 18 years and older can apply for the summer, fall, or spring semester. MC charges the same out-of-state tuition rate as all other community colleges in California. The college announces new scholarship opportunities each spring.
MC holds regional accreditation from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, a division of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Mt San Antonio College
|Walnut, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 32%||
One of the largest regionally accredited community colleges in the state, Mt. SAC offers both accelerated bachelor's degrees and associate degrees in addition to a range of certificate and vocational programs. Some classes are available in fully online or hybrid formats.
Most associate programs consist of 60 credits, including general education classes, 18 or more credits of major coursework, and electives. Students interested in certificate programs have more than 85 options, most of which take only one year to complete. Learners planning to transfer to a four-year school can take advanced placement exams to earn additional credit.
Prospective degree-seekers without prior college experience submit FAFSA results and complete placement tests. All incoming students must meet with an academic counselor and attend student orientation before registering for classes.
|Glendora, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 38%||
Founded in Los Angeles County in 1915, Citrus College offers 64 on-campus and online associate programs in liberal arts and scientific disciplines. Unique, nontransfer programs at the college include peace studies, design and engineering drawing technology, and recording technology.
Most associate degree programs comprise a minimum of 60 credits. Students take 25-39 credits of general education classes such as English and philosophy followed by major coursework and electives. Learners who complete an associate degree for transfer are guaranteed transfer admission to a California state college.
Both online and on-campus learners follow the same application process. New students complete a required online orientation and meet with a counselor to create an education plan. The college awards scholarships each spring to eligible degree-seekers.
Like other community colleges in California, Citrus College holds regional accreditation from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges.
Imperial Valley College
|Imperial, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 27%||
With roots going back over 50 years, IVC provides quality education to over 7,000 undergraduates. The school features 24 transfer associate degrees and more than 50 occupational associate degrees and certificates. In addition to classroom offerings, IVC provides many class sessions entirely online. Online learners can access virtual tutoring and counseling resources at any time of day.
Most associate degrees require students to complete 60 credits of coursework, approximately half of which relate directly to their major. Learners stay in good academic standing by earning a minimum 2.0 GPA in all major courses. Full-time students can earn an associate degree in two years or less.
IVC allows incoming students to either take placement tests or complete a self-assessment process to determine initial English and math courses. Some military veterans may qualify for a tuition waiver.
De Anza College
|Cupertino, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 62%||
De Anza is located in Silicon Valley, an area with abundant connections to high-tech companies and prominent four-year institutions. The school offers over 70 associate degrees and 90 certificate programs. Degree-seekers typically graduate in two years, with many gaining admission to their first-choice California state university.
This regionally accredited community college in California maintains an honors program for academically gifted students. Eligibility requirements include a minimum 3.5 high school GPA. Honors students take rigorous courses, maintain at least a 3.3 GPA, and write an extended research essay based on a college-selected theme. Other learning opportunities at De Anza include the first-year experience.
Incoming students who complete orientation receive priority registration privileges. Some learners with financial need may qualify for the De Anza College Promise, which awards free tuition and textbooks to first-time college students who study full time. De Anza presents other scholarships and grants to eligible learners.
Orange Coast College
|Costa Mesa, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 39%||
From its Costa Mesa campus, OCC boasts 10 academic divisions offering associate degrees in business, technology, athletics, and liberal arts. Students can enhance their educational experience by joining the honors program, an academic society, or a career training program.
OCC's online and on-campus associate programs prepare learners for a range of careers. Transfer associate degrees enable students to enter a bachelor's-completion program at a California public college or university. In general, associate degrees consist of 60 credits. All programs at this California community college require degree-seekers to earn at least a 2.0 GPA in all courses.
New students can enroll for the spring, summer, or fall semester. Degree-seekers who already possess another associate degree are not required to complete an online orientation. Learners may apply for OCC scholarship opportunities from December through February.
OCC holds regional accreditation from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, a division of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Los Medanos College
|Pittsburg, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 34%||
One of three community colleges in Contra Costa County, LMC boasts more than 45 associate degree programs plus numerous certificates. With courses offered online as well as on its Pittsburg and Brentwood campuses, LMC attracts learners throughout California.
Unique academic programs at this California community college include associate degrees in child development, networking and security, and theater arts. The school's automotive technology, appliance service technology, and emergency medical services programs prepare learners for lucrative careers.
Prospective degree-seekers can enroll for the summer, fall, or spring semester. LMC admits current high school students via its early college credit program. The college accepts scholarship applications from November through February each academic year. LMC holds regional accreditation from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, a division of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Pasadena City College
|Pasadena, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 36%||
PCC serves over 30,000 students through its on-campus and online course offerings. This regionally accredited California community college offers classes in over 90 academic areas and provides exciting enrichment opportunities, including study abroad and an honors program. High school students can enroll concurrently or through dual-enrollment programs. Non-degree learning opportunities include culinary arts and elder care among other occupational skills training.
Degree-seekers planning to transfer to a four-year school can select from 29 associate programs, such as elementary school education, public health, and communication studies. A transfer degree automatically qualifies graduates for admission to a California state university. All associate programs require learners to complete a minimum of 60 credits.
Prospective students can take a sample course through PCC's extension school. The college's outreach office can answer questions concerning enrollment and financial aid. Financial aid opportunities include PCC-sponsored scholarships.
|Taft, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 39%||
Part of the West Kern Community College District, TC provides education and training to over 5,700 students in its AS, AA, and certificate programs, including 15 transfer options that enable automatic admittance to California state four-year institutions.
Unique programs at this community college in California include kinesiology, energy technology, and dental hygiene, the last of which accepts only 20 students each year. Learners earning STEM degrees at TC may qualify for the Hutchinson Engineering Promise Program (HEPP). HEPP provides tuition assistance and covers additional costs for eligible students. HEPP applicants must possess a minimum 2.75 GPA and apply by the April 30 deadline.
All prospective students apply online and receive a student ID number within 30 minutes. The college maintains specialized counseling services for veterans, international students, and working professionals. TC holds regional accreditation from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, a division of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Glendale Community College
|Glendale, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 29%||
Founded in 1926 as part of the Glendale Unified School District, GCC serves over 25,000 students through a variety of on-campus and online courses. This regionally accredited college provides over 100 AS, AA, and certificate programs and offers continuing education programs for working professionals pursuing career advancement.
Unique associate programs include an AA in pilot training, an AS in child development - master teacher, and an AS in hospitality management - dietetic services supervisor. Many programs have two or more specializations, perfect for degree-seekers wanting a customizable educational experience. Most associate degrees require a minimum of 18 credits of major coursework and 60 credits in total.
GCC is an open-enrollment college that accepts current high school students in addition to high school graduates, transfer students, and working professionals. Learners who do not qualify for scholarships can spread out tuition payments by setting up a no-interest payment plan.
El Camino Community College District
|Torrance, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 32%||
Located on a 126-acre campus close to Torrance, ECC boasts nine academic divisions offering 99 rigorous associate programs and certificates to over 34,000 students. In addition, the college provides study abroad opportunities and an honors program targeted to high-achieving students who wish to transfer to other California state colleges and universities.
Like the majority of community colleges in California, AS and AA degrees at ECC are composed of 18 or more credits of major coursework, general education requirements, and electives -- 60 credits in total. Most full-time learners can complete their degree in two years.
The college features more than 500 scholarship opportunities. To be eligible, students must possess a minimum 2.0 GPA and have completed at least six credits at ECC.
All prospective students must complete an online application and send official transcripts from any prior high school or colleges attended.
ECC holds regional accreditation from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, a division of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
East San Gabriel Valley Regional Occupational Program
|West Covina, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 78%||
Although East San Gabriel Valley ROP offers AA and AS degrees, most students choose this school for its numerous certificate programs. These intensive programs prepare learners for in-demand careers such as emergency medical technician, medical assistant, and HVAC installer. Most certificates take less than one year to complete.
Certificate programs at this community college in California consist of evening courses that meet 2-3 times per week. This format allows learners to continue working full time and apply new knowledge and skills on the job. The school also offers four associate programs: child development, criminal justice, medical assisting, and paramedicine.
Student resources include grant programs, FAFSA assistance, and veterans services. The school does not offer scholarships or grants at this time.
East San Gabriel Valley ROP holds regional accreditation from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, a division of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
|Mission Viejo, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 38%||
From its Mission Viejo campus, regionally accredited Saddleback provides associate degrees or professional certificates in over 100 academic areas. Distance learners can choose from over 40 programs. The school also hosts an Emeritus Institute that creates lifelong learning opportunities for learners who are not seeking a degree.
AA and AS programs comprise 60 credits, approximately half of which are major coursework. Most associate degrees take full-time students two years to complete. The college participates in the UC transfer admission guarantee program, which includes University of California colleges in Davis, Irvine, Merced, Riverside, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz.
The college boasts many support programs for degree-seekers, including childcare services for learners with young children. Student activities at Saddleback include on-campus radio and TV stations.
Prospective students must submit an online application. Learners with previously earned college credits should complete a matriculation request. Saddleback offers a variety of scholarships based on academic performance or financial need.
San Diego Miramar College
|San Diego, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 39%||
Founded in 1969, Miramar delivers quality education to approximately 14,000 students through over 150 associate degree and certificate programs. This regionally accredited community college in California emphasizes career and technical education, making it an excellent choice for aspiring IT professionals, aviation maintenance technicians, and automotive technicians. Most degree-seekers can transfer to four-year programs or start a career after only two years. Some degree paths feature seven-week courses that allow learners to graduate even faster.
Miramar's associate programs span a wide range of subjects, from art history to political science. Transfer tracks allow students to easily transfer to another California state university. All programs require learners to complete a minimum of 60 credits of coursework, with major requirements varying based on the chosen degree path.
All prospective students must submit an online application, send official transcripts, and complete an online orientation in addition to English and math assessments.
|Porterville, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 28%||
Founded in 1927, PC sits on a 60-acre campus near the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Students benefit from a range of academic programs that provide enhanced job skills and prepare them for entry to four-year California state colleges. Most degree-seekers can earn an associate degree in 1-2 years.
PC boasts over a dozen online and hybrid degrees, including early childhood education, business management, and computer information systems. Active-duty military personnel and veterans can access special resources for course load planning and managing federal financial assistance. The college's child development center offers students a low-cost alternative to traditional childcare.
Like all community colleges in California, PC features a matriculation office that helps students determine initial English and math course placement. Degree-seekers may qualify for scholarships if they study full time and maintain a minimum 2.5 GPA.
Porterville holds regional accreditation from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, a division of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
|Fremont, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 41%||
From its Fremont and Newark campuses, Ohlone offers 196 associate degree and certificate programs that enable learners to become career-ready and gain entry to California state university bachelor's programs. The college also offers distance education opportunities that are ideal for students with work or family responsibilities.
Along with many traditional liberal arts degrees, the college offers certificates in health communication and journalism, among other fields. This regionally accredited community college in California is also recognized for its excellent physical therapy and nursing programs.
Learners lacking college success skills can enroll in the intensive university preparation program before starting a degree. Focus areas for Ohlone include assisting students with disabilities and helping high school learners enter STEM careers.
Ohlone boasts multiple scholarship opportunities that fall under three categories: foundation scholarships, general scholarships, and veterans and military-dependent scholarships. Degree-seekers who do not receive scholarships may qualify for an on-campus work-study opportunity.
College of the Canyons
|Santa Clarita, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 36%||
Located approximately 30 miles north of Los Angeles in Santa Clarita, Canyons provides more than 170 associate degree and certificate programs covering arts, business, humanities, technology, and other subjects. The college offers early-college programs for local high school students in addition to accelerated online programs that allow learners to earn an associate degree in less than two years.
Most associate degrees at this community college in California require 60 credits of general education classes and major coursework. Through its University Center, Canyons allows students to easily transfer to bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs at partner institutions across the state.
Prospective students must complete an online application and online orientation program. The college offers multiple information sessions throughout the year to answer questions about the application process, enrollment, financial aid, and scholarships. Canyons holds regional accreditation from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, a division of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Golden West College
|Huntington Beach, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 34%||
GWC offers over 100 academic programs on its Huntington Beach campus and provides distance education students with more than 200 online course options each semester. At GWC, classes last 6-18 weeks, making this community college in California an excellent choice for learners wishing to earn an associate degree in less than two years.
Students can select from a number of unique programs such as peace studies, computer business applications, and digital arts. GWC boasts special language resources for Spanish- and Vietnamese-speaking students and awards associate degrees in both languages.
Prospective degree-seekers can enroll for the fall, spring, or summer semester. GWC is an open-enrollment institution that allows incoming students to skip assessment tests and self-select initial English and math courses. Each spring, the college awards over 100 scholarships to eligible learners, including high school students who take advantage of dual-enrollment options.
GWC holds regional accreditation from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, a division of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
|Hayward, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 33%||
Founded in 1961, Chabot College educates approximately 13,000 students through over 100 associate degree and certificate programs. This community college in California holds regional accreditation from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. The school's dental, medical assisting, and nursing programs also boast programmatic accreditation.
Students can select from a wide range of study areas, including applied technology and business; health, kinesiology, and athletics; and science and mathematics. Chabot College's technical programs make it the perfect choice for learners entering the automotive, bookkeeping, and healthcare management fields. The school also offers several special programs geared to support African American, Mexican American, and first-generation students.
Chabot College accepts new students in the fall, spring, and summer semesters. To apply, prospective learners must create an OpenCCC account. The distance education program uses a separate online system (CLASS-Web). The college requires placement tests for new degree-seekers planning to enroll in English, math, or chemistry courses.
|Rocklin, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 35%||
One of four community colleges in the nation that hosts an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, California's Sierra College boasts traditional academic programs, online learning opportunities, noncredit education, community education, and workforce professional development programs.
The school's associate programs fall into one of seven academic interest areas, including language and literature, applied technologies, and visual and performing arts. Students who wish to transfer to a bachelor's program at another California state institution can opt for any of 26 transfer tracks.
New students at Sierra College can start in the spring, summer, or fall semester. Full-time learners with financial need may qualify for up to two years of free tuition. Other financial aid programs include a variety of scholarships, student employment, and state education grants. Sierra College holds regional accreditation from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, a division of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.