2021 Best Online Colleges in California

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by Staff Writers
Published on July 30, 2021

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With a gross state product of over $3 trillion, California ranked between Germany and India as the world’s fifth-largest economy in 2020. The Golden State is home to many technology giants, including Apple, Intel, and Google.

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

California also houses many accredited colleges and universities, which offer a diverse array of programs and degrees. For students looking to bridge their academic and career goals, proximity to companies in the Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego metropolitan areas can grant access to phenomenal internship and networking opportunities.

Many accredited California-based institutions offer online programs, catering to students interested in earning a degree with greater flexibility. Take a look at our list of the best online colleges in California to find a school that aligns with your unique goals.

What Are the 2021 Best Online Colleges in California? Here Are Our Top 10:

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#1 California State University-Northridge Northridge, CA
#2 Biola University La Mirada, CA
#3 William Jessup University Rocklin, CA
#4 University of La Verne La Verne, CA
#5 California State University-Chico Chico, CA
#6 California State University-San Marcos San Marcos, CA
#7 California State University-Stanislaus Turlock, CA
#8 Hope International University Fullerton, CA
#9 California State University-Dominguez Hills Carson, CA
#10 Concordia University-Irvine Irvine, CA
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At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you will make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering school rankings that are transparent, inclusive, and relevant for online students.

Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our Ranking Methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.

2021 Best Accredited Online Colleges in California

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California State University-Northridge View School Profile Northridge, CA

A public university established in 1958 and the third-largest in the sprawling California State University system, CSUN enrolls nearly 40,000 online and on-campus students each year.

CSUN's Tseng College offers more than a dozen online master's degree and certificate options. It also provides bachelor's degree completion programs in liberal studies and public sector management. Master's programs run the gamut from engineering management to instructional design.

Bachelor's degree completion candidates need at least 60 transferable credits, including 48 credits of general education requirements and a minimum GPA of 2.0. Admission requirements for a master's degree are set by each program and can vary significantly.

Biola University View School Profile La Mirada, CA

An evangelical Christian university founded in 1908, Biola serves approximately 5,600 campus-based and online students every year.

Biola's Bible-based online programs include eight bachelor's offerings, such as applied psychology, Christian apologetics, and public relations. All undergraduate students, regardless of major, must take 30 credits of biblical studies classes. Biola also offers a wide variety of master's, doctoral, and certificate programs.

Applicants must submit a statement of Christian faith as part of their application. First-year applicants also need a minimum 3.0 high school GPA. Transfer students with at least 15 credits need a minimum 2.5 college GPA. The university grants credit by exam for CLEP, AP, and IB tests and credit for prior learning.

William Jessup University View School Profile Rocklin, CA

Jessup was founded as a Christian university in 1939. Today, the school welcomes about 1,700 on-campus and online students per year.

Taught from a Christian perspective, Jessup's online branch offers six bachelor's degrees, three master's degrees, and five certificates. Bachelor's programs include a bachelor of arts in leadership and a bachelor of science in computer science. Master's programs include an MBA and a master of science in kinesiology. Certificate options include project management and executive coaching and ministry.

Each program sets its own admission requirements, but all programs require official transcripts. Bachelor's degree applicants under the age of 21 must submit ACT or SAT scores. Depending on the program, other requirements may include a personal essay, one or more letters of recommendation, and a resume depending.

University of La Verne View School Profile La Verne, CA

La Verne — a private university established in 1891 — serves roughly 4,500 online and in-person students annually.

La Verne Online offers six bachelor's programs. Notable options include a bachelor of arts in business administration and a bachelor of science in criminal justice and criminology. The school also offers master's degrees in child development, leadership and management, and business administration for experienced professionals.

Each program sets its own requirements for admission. Bachelor's degree applicants must submit official transcripts, and some programs require additional materials. Some online programs only accept applicants who are at least 25 years old. Admission requirements for graduate tracks include transcripts reflecting a GPA of 2.5 or above, letters of recommendation, and a writing sample, along with any other materials requested by the program.

California State University-Chico View School Profile Chico, CA

Founded in 1887 and the second-oldest campus in the California State University system, Chico State now enrolls more than 17,000 online and campus-based students annually.

The Chico Distance and Online Education division offers a master of science in nursing and five bachelor's degree completion programs. Options include a BA in social science and a bachelor of arts in liberal studies. The school also grants a career and life planning certificate.

Applicants to a bachelor's degree completion program need either an associate degree or 60 transferable credits earned with a minimum GPA of 2.0. Applicants to the master of science in nursing track must hold a bachelor's degree in nursing, a GPA of 3.0 or above, and a current California nursing license.

California State University-San Marcos View School Profile San Marcos, CA

Established in 1989 and one of the newer campuses in the California State University system, CSUSM serves roughly 14,000 students each year.

CSUSM's extended learning branch offers various options, including two bachelor's degree completion programs, four master's degrees, and an RN-to-BSN program. Highlights include a bachelor of science in wildfire science and a master of arts in reading, language, and literacy. The school also offers an online master of public health and a master of science in cybersecurity. Eight online certificate programs include paralegal studies and global teacher studies.

Degree completion program applicants must transfer in at least 60 credits earned with a GPA of 2.0 or higher. Admission requirements for master's programs vary widely.

California State University-Stanislaus View School Profile Turlock, CA

Founded in 1957 and part of the California State University system, Stan State welcomes nearly 11,000 students per year.

The university offers three online degree programs and one hybrid option. The online offerings include a bachelor of arts in gender studies, an RN-to-BSN bridge program, and a master of business administration. Stan State also offers a hybrid master of social work program that features some in-person requirements.

Distance learners access class material through the Blackboard learning management system. Additionally, online students can access a variety of services, including a writing center, online tutoring, an academic success center, and career services. Admission requirements vary widely depending on the selected program.

Hope International University View School Profile Fullerton, CA

HIU operates as a small, Christian university. The school was established in 1928 and enrolls about 1,000 online and on-campus students annually.

HIU's large collection of online undergraduate degrees spans multiple colleges and covers arts and sciences, business and management, education, psychology and counseling, and ministry and biblical studies. Notable degree options include a bachelor of science in human development and a bachelor of science in business administration.

Applicants must submit official transcripts, have a minimum 2.5 GPA, and write a 250-word essay focused on their personal strengths and five-year vision.

California State University-Dominguez Hills View School Profile Carson, CA

A member of the California State University system, CSUDH serves close to 18,000 students online and on campus every year.

CSUDH's online learning division offers three bachelor's degree completion options and six master's programs. Available degrees include a bachelor of science in quality assurance and a bachelor of science in applied studies. Master's highlights include a master of arts in negotiation, conflict resolution, and peacebuilding and a master of science in radiologic and imaging sciences.

Admission requirements for degree completion programs include 60 transferable credits earned with a minimum 2.0 GPA. Each master's program sets its own requirements, which differ widely between programs.

Concordia University-Irvine View School Profile Irvine, CA

A member of the Lutheran Church's Concordia system, CUI welcomes nearly 4,000 students each year.

CUI's vast online campus allows students to choose from 20 separate degree programs, including five bachelor's degrees, 13 master's programs, and two doctoral pathways. The university offers a popular 15-month master of science in coaching and athletics, as well as a bachelor of arts in Christian education leadership, a master of arts in executive coaching and consultation, and a Ph.D. in counselor education and supervision.

Applicants should check with their selected program for specific admission requirements. Most undergraduate tracks require a minimum 2.4 GPA, transcripts, and a statement of purpose.

California Baptist University View School Profile Riverside, CA

A Christian university established in 1950 and affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, CBU enrolls more than 11,000 students every year.

CBU Online offers more than 40 different pathways, including three doctoral programs, 17 master's degrees, and 23 bachelor's degrees. Bachelor's options include degrees in graphic design, digital media, and kinesiology. Graduate students can pursue options like a master's in logistics and operations and a doctor of education in organizational change and administration.

Admission requirements vary widely between programs — applicants should check with their program of choice before applying.

San Diego Christian College View School Profile Santee, CA

SDCC — a small, evangelical Christian school founded in 1970 — serves about 500 students on campus and online each year.

SDCC offers six bachelor's degree programs through its online campus, all of which are strongly grounded in the Bible and Christian faith. Choices include a bachelor of science in business management, a bachelor of arts in communication, and a bachelor of arts in human development. The college also offers a bachelor of arts in Christian ministries.

Applicants must submit official high school transcripts reflecting a GPA of 2.75 or above. Transfer applicants need to send in official college transcripts showing a minimum 2.5 GPA. Transfer students who live in California or have fewer than 24 transferable credits also need to submit their high school transcripts.

California State University-East Bay View School Profile Hayward, CA

Founded in 1957 and a member of the California State University system, Cal State East Bay welcomes close to 15,000 students every year.

Cal State East Bay offers a variety of online programs. These options include five bachelor's degrees, such as a bachelor of arts in human development and a bachelor of science in business administration. Online master's options include a master of science in e-learning and a master of science in hospitality, recreation, and tourism.

The admissions process utilizes a multi-part undergraduate admissions formula, in which local applicants take priority. However, undergraduate applicants from other states generally qualify with a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Aspiring graduate students must show a minimum 2.5 GPA, and many programs also set additional requirements.

Mount Saint Mary's University View School Profile Los Angeles, CA

A Catholic university established in 1808, MSMU houses the second-largest Catholic seminary in the United States. Today, the university serves more than 2,200 students each year.

MSMU's online college features 11 different bachelor's degree completion pathways. Choices include a combined bachelor of arts in English and business administration, a bachelor of fine arts in professional photography, and a bachelor of arts in religious studies. Students can also pursue degrees in criminology, film and media, and religious studies.

Applicants need a minimum of 12 transfer credits earned with a GPA of 2.0 or at least three years of professional work experience. All applicants must also participate in an admissions interview.

Life Pacific University View School Profile San Dimas, CA

A Bible college founded as Echo Park Evangelistic and Missionary Training Institute in 1923, LPU now welcomes about 600 students annually.

LPU Online offers two associate degrees, three bachelor's programs, and three master's options. In addition to associate programs in biblical and general studies, LPU offers a bachelor of arts in organizational management and a bachelor of arts in ministry and leadership. The master's options comprise leadership (Spanish), strategic leadership, and theological studies.

Undergraduate applicants must submit official transcripts reflecting a minimum 2.5 GPA. They also need to submit a character reference from a Christian leader and write a personal essay describing their faith and church involvement. Graduate applicants typically need a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 2.5 and three years of leadership experience.

Top Degree Programs in California

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We've ranked the most affordable online colleges in the U.S. Begin earning a high-quality degree with low annual tuition. Learn which Emerald City schools provide the best online programs with our ranking of the best online colleges in Seattle. Find the top-ranked online colleges in 2021 from BestColleges. See our picks for the 25 best online schools and find the right match for you.

BestColleges.com 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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