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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.
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.
Top 10 Online Colleges in California
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|1||San Diego State University||San Diego, CA|
|2||California State University-Fullerton||Fullerton, CA|
|3||Brandman University||Irvine, CA|
|4||Golden Gate University-San Francisco||San Francisco, CA|
|5||California State University-Northridge||Northridge, CA|
|6||Touro University Worldwide||Los Alamitos, CA|
|7||Biola University||La Mirada, CA|
|8||Fresno Pacific University||Fresno, CA|
|9||California Baptist University||Riverside, CA|
|10||Azusa Pacific University||Azusa, CA|
- How We Rank Schools
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.
Best Accredited Online Colleges in California
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San Diego State University
|San Diego, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 74%||
One of the best online universities in California, SDSU boasts eight entirely online bachelor's and master's degrees in areas such as criminal justice and public health. Practicing California teachers can also consider SDSU for its online master's program in educational leadership. The university also offers hybrid classes and over 20 online certificates.
SDSU supports online students' academic success in many ways. Some online and hybrid programs employ a cohort learning model, wherein a small group of learners takes courses together in lockstep. Other programs use an asynchronous curriculum to provide increased flexibility, and learners can further enrich a program by studying abroad in one of more than two dozen international locations.
Prospective students can sample online learning by registering for a single course. Degree and certificate programs use different application requirements, and SDSU accepts GED scores for undergraduate programs. Each scholarship opportunity requires a separate application, and in-state students may qualify for a full-tuition scholarship or grant.
California State University-Fullerton
|Fullerton, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 66%||
CSUF boasts three online bachelor's programs that target prospective learners who already possess an associate degree. These degrees -- sociology, business administration, and humanities and social sciences -- feature flexible class schedules and confer the same diploma earned by on-campus students. All programs use a three-year cohort learning model and an asynchronous curriculum.
CSUF provides distance education students with valuable resources, including IT support and an online advising center that connects degree-seekers with academic and career-planning experts.
CSUF accepts new cohorts in the spring and fall semesters. Additionally, the university recommends that all prospective degree-seekers complete a 30-minute advising session before applying. Application materials include academic transcripts. Students should submit FAFSA results, and in-state learners may qualify for Cal Grants.
|Irvine, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 79%||
Brandman is a private university that boasts dozens of entirely online bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees. The majority of these programs also offer a hybrid option, wherein students can take some courses on the university's Irvine campus. Bachelor's programs at this top online university in California include organizational leadership, preclinical psychology, and supply chain systems.
Outside of class, online learners can speak to academic advisors -- highly trained professionals who help learners select courses and stay on track for graduation. Career services counselors act as mentors and assist degree-seekers with preparing a resume and applying to jobs. Additionally, Brandman's website hosts informational articles that can help students and alumni navigate the job application process.
Applicants to bachelor's programs should possess at least 12 undergraduate credits that reflect a minimum 2.0 GPA. The school's RN-to-BSN program includes additional requirements. Brandman charges a higher per-credit tuition rate for graduate programs and provides a tuition discount to active-duty service members and their spouses.
Golden Gate University-San Francisco
|San Francisco, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 56%||
At GGU, online learners can select from more than 60 online programs, all of which offer a hybrid option for students who live in and around San Francisco. The school's bachelor's programs in management and business boast multiple concentration options. With an average class size of only 15 students, all learners can receive an individualized educational experience.
GGU provides online learners with math and writing tutoring services at no additional charge. Additionally, academic counselors at this top online California university specialize in helping first-time undergraduates, transfer students, and graduate degree-seekers. Wellness counselors also provide over-the-phone services to learners in need.
Undergraduate application requirements include an associate degree or at least 12 transferable credits. However, GGU does not require standardized test scores. Full-time students may qualify for a 30% tuition reduction and a $2,000 Personal Leadership Grant. Institutional scholarships and grants require a separate application and award up to half of tuition.
California State University-Northridge
|Northridge, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 51%||
Through CSUN's Tseng College, online learners can select from 17 degrees and certificates. Programs that prepare graduates for in-demand jobs include a certificate in radiologic technology and a master's in engineering management. Distance learning experts work with professors to ensure that each course emphasizes knowledge and skills that students can use in a fulfilling career.
Each online program at this top online California university features an academic and program support coordinator who works with students throughout the program. Additionally, all incoming learners complete a two-week orientation that teaches technology best practices and study strategies. Students can also access IT and library resources at any time.
CSUN accepts new online learners in the fall semester, and application requirements vary by program; however, undergraduate applicants should already possess an associate degree or at least 60 transferable credits. CSUN uses an applicant's undergraduate GPA to determine merit-based scholarships. Each scholarship opportunity requires a separate application.
Touro University Worldwide
|Los Alamitos, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 60%||
One of the best online California universities, TUW offers 18 undergraduate and graduate degrees through four schools. First-time college students can earn an AA in general studies, which transfers to most accredited four-year colleges and universities. Additionally, master's and doctoral programs prepare graduates to work in fields related to business, psychology, and public health leaders, among others.
Program resources at TUW include a variety of informational articles on how to turn an online degree into a lucrative career. The university's blog also contains information on the latest job market trends. At the virtual Student Success Center, learners can work with advisors to network with alumni and search for open positions.
TUW accepts new students six times throughout the year. Applicants to bachelor's programs should possess a high school diploma or GED certificate. All learners pay the same per-credit tuition rate, and the university does not charge for virtual textbooks.
|La Mirada, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 73%||
Biola's online degrees and certificates offer educational experiences that allow learners to reaffirm their faith in Jesus Christ. One-third of the university's online degrees focus on Christian topics, while other programs focus on areas like teaching, special education, and business management. Working professionals can also advance their salary potential by earning a certificate in child development or curriculum and instruction, among other topics.
Online learners at Biola benefit from a host of resources. The school's online library features guides on how to perform research and academic search engines. Additionally, the university pairs each online student with a success coach who provides expert advice on how to register for courses and stay on track for graduation.
Prospective students can apply to start on one of six dates throughout the year. Biola does not require standardized test scores, and students seeking to transfer credit should hold a minimum 2.5 GPA. Online learners save approximately 66% on tuition compared to on-campus students.
Fresno Pacific University
|Fresno, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 65%||
Online programs at FPU target first-year and transfer students. This top online university in California puts first-time learners into a cohort where they complete all general education requirements as a group. Afterward, students can select one of five degree completion programs, including criminology and healthcare administration. Additionally, graduate degree-seekers can choose from six options that lead to in-demand careers, such as athletic trainer.
Academic support services at FPU ensure that students possess the tools necessary to graduate and find a fulfilling career. Learners can set up virtual tutoring sessions by contacting the Academic Success Center. Also, the university pairs each degree-seeker with an academic coach; these counselors help students identify and develop effective learning methods.
Transfer applicants should possess a minimum 2.4 undergraduate GPA, and applicants to graduate programs who do not hold a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA should submit GRE or GMAT scores. FPU charges a per-credit tuition rate, and institutional scholarships require a separate application.
California Baptist University
|Riverside, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 59%||
From its Riverside campus, CBU educates over 11,000 students, many of whom earn an online undergraduate or graduate degree. Many online degree-seekers choose this online university in California for its programs in Christian ministries and Christian leadership. Other degrees include a bachelor's in cybersecurity and a master's in education.
CBU offers degree-seekers ample academic flexibility. Students can complete a program entirely online or in a hybrid format. Additionally, professors hold virtual office hours. When learners need academic help or career advice, they can turn to student service advisors to locate additional resources, such as tutors.
Online courses at CBU start every eight weeks, and applicants do not need to submit standardized test scores. The university awards transfer credits based on previous coursework and challenge exam results. As a Yellow Ribbon School, CBU provides additional financial aid opportunities to active-duty service members and veterans. Other incoming learners can apply for financial aid by submitting their FAFSA results.
Azusa Pacific University
|Azusa, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 67%||
One of the best online universities in California, APU emphasizes traditional academics and Christian education. The school offers nearly three dozen online programs, including undergraduate and graduate degrees and credentials. Popular online offerings include an RN-to-BSN track, a master's in screenwriting, and a doctorate in rehabilitation and movement science. Some programs offer or require a hybrid component with courses on the college's Azusa campus.
Online learners use Canvas to access asynchronous course content, and APU offers software tutorials to help students familiarize themselves with online learning. Other valuable resources include virtual writing tools, such as APA, MLA, and Chicago style guides. Students can also access virtual library resources at any time.
APU accepts GED scores but prefers undergraduate applicants who possess a minimum 3.0 high school GPA as well as a 19 or higher on the ACT or a 990 or higher on the SAT. First-year learners may qualify for a full-tuition scholarship that renews automatically, while transfer degree-seekers can receive up to $21,000 per year in merit-based financial aid.
The Master's University and Seminary
|Santa Clarita, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 55%||
With eight-week courses and an asynchronous curriculum, TMU's eight online undergraduate and graduate degrees may appeal to busy individuals. Undergraduate programs at this top online university in California boast generous transfer credit policies, meaning that incoming learners can earn a degree in just two year years. Additionally, graduate students who take courses in an accelerated format can earn an MBA, a master's in biblical studies, or a master's in education in just one year.
Online learners use Canvas to complete coursework and interact with professors and peers. TMU offers multiple IT services, such as help guides and assistance over the phone. Other resources include a self-service portal where students can pay tuition, register for courses, and buy textbooks.
Along with high school transcripts or GED scores, applicants must submit a statement of faith. TMU accepts up to 94 transfer credits into its undergraduate programs. Financial aid opportunities include federal grants and loans. TMU uses a March 2 financial aid application deadline.
|Irvine, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 65%||
Another top online university in California, CUI is affiliated with the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. Online programs at the school include undergraduate and graduate tracks, along with certificates. Bachelor's offerings include leadership studies -- a program CUI launched in 2019. Additionally, the university offers an online doctoral program in educational leadership, which most students can complete in three years.
From the moment learners enroll, they are partnered with an academic advisor who stays with them until graduation. The university's four-year career development plan helps undergraduates explore career opportunities, apply to internships, and prepare a resume.
Each program uses different application requirements, and some do not accept GED scores. All applicants should submit FAFSA results, and financial aid counselors help students research outside scholarship opportunities and loans. Learners remain eligible for financial aid as long as they stay in good academic standing.
California State University-Monterey Bay
|Seaside, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 60%||
Although CSUMB offers only three online degrees -- including a bachelor's in computer science -- the college boasts a hybrid physician assistant program where students take some courses on campus. The computer science program accepts learners who already possess an associate degree. Additionally, the master's in instructional science track gives degree-seekers the option to learn in a hybrid format.
CSUMB features small class sizes, and the same professors who teach on campus deliver online courses. Bachelor's students who still need to complete general education courses can do so online.
Application requirements at this top online California university vary by program. Applicants to the bachelor's in computer science program should possess adequate transfer credit, while master's program applicants should hold a bachelor's degree. Degree-seekers may qualify for a variety of institutional scholarships, which range in value from $300-$3,000 per year.
University of La Verne
|La Verne, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 66%||
La Verne's 10 online associate, bachelor's, and master's programs make the institution an attractive option for prospective learners interested in education, business, public administration, or technology. Students benefit from small class sizes at this top California university, and professors who teach online courses also instruct learners on campus. Additionally, all courses use an asynchronous curriculum.
Although online learners may never set foot on La Verne's campus, they can still take advantage of the university's extensive student support services. The Veteran Students Success Program pairs veterans with advisors knowledgeable about financial aid benefits and Veterans Affairs policies. Also, the Office of Career Services and Professional Development leads workshops and helps learners locate internship and career opportunities.
La Verne requires that prospective students attend a virtual information session and speak with an admissions advisor. Although online learners do not qualify for institutional scholarships, La Verne's website showcases many private scholarship opportunities.
California State University-San Bernardino
|San Bernardino, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 54%||
At CSUSB, distance education students can choose from five entirely online programs and five hybrid programs. Fully online programs include a master's in criminal justice and a master's in teacher leadership. Curricula at this top online California university may use a blend of asynchronous and synchronous components, with many professors broadcasting lectures live from classrooms in San Bernardino or Palm Spring. Degree-seekers use Blackboard to access course materials and submit assignments.
CSUSB features a two-year graduation pledge for learners seeking bachelor's completion and a four-year graduation pledge for incoming first-year students. Other student services include specialized academic advising.
Application requirements for online graduate programs include a minimum 2.5 undergraduate GPA, although CSUSB does not require test scores. Students in a hybrid graduate program may qualify for a graduate assistantship. Other degree-seekers can apply for one of the many private scholarship opportunities that CSUSB posts on its website.
California State University-Chico
|Chico, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 66%||
Online education at Chico State includes five bachelor's programs, a master's program, and a certificate program. The university boasts one of only four online bachelor's in religious studies programs in the U.S., and the school's master's in nursing program allows California nurses working in rural areas to advance their careers and salary potential. Programs use a mix of synchronous and asynchronous courses.
Online students need only pick up the phone to access Chico State's support services, including tutoring and career planning aid. Learners living in the Chico area can also attend on-campus workshops that convey essential time management and test preparation skills. Additionally, students can access IT support at any time.
Prospective learners can apply for the spring or fall semester. Applicants should submit materials through the Cal State Apply website, and requirements vary by program. Financial aid opportunities at this top online California university include the Chico President's Scholarship Program, which awards $7,500 per year for up to four years.
California State University-San Marcos
|San Marcos, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 53%||
Online degrees and certificates at CSUSM prepare learners for a variety of in-demand careers, including education administrator, cybersecurity expert, and speech-language pathologist. This top online California university also offers over two dozen professional development courses in areas such as legal studies and video game design. Additionally, many bachelor's programs feature an accelerated option, wherein students who already possess an associate degree can graduate in just 16 months.
Learners can access academic success resources no matter which degree or certificate they select. All degree-seekers complete a one-day orientation; some orientations take place on campus. Students can meet with an academic or career advisor by making an appointment. Also, learners who live near campus can visit the school's writing center to receive one-on-one assistance.
Most online programs at CSUSM offer a monthly virtual information session for prospective students. Application materials include a resume and personal statement. Incoming learners interested in institutional scholarships or other financial aid should submit their FAFSA results during the October 1 to February 1 application window.
Point Loma Nazarene University
|San Diego, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 74%||
One of the best online California universities for adults who already possess significant college credit, PLNU boasts online bachelor's completion tracks that students can complete in just 15 months. Programs include criminal justice, business administration, and an RN-to-BSN track. Unlike many other colleges and universities on this ranking, PLNU requires a hybrid component for all programs; students attend class once per week at one of seven local community colleges.
PLNU offers traditional academic support and specialized support for service members and veterans. All learners can meet with academic planning advisors, tutors, and success coaches. Military support -- benefits that extend to spouses and dependents -- include expert financial aid advisors and counselors trained in PTSD, among other services.
Applicants should hold an associate degree from an accredited college or university. Students can talk with financial aid advisors and receive scholarship application critiques, among other services. PLNU also offers a host of information to help incoming learners navigate the FAFSA and federally backed loans.
California State University-Stanislaus
|Turlock, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 53%||
At Stan State, online programs include two online bachelor's tracks (in gender studies and an RN-to-BSN pathway) and one online master's program in business administration. The university also offers a hybrid master's in social work program. Gender studies degree-seekers can select from three concentration options, and MBA students choose from two specializations. All programs feature asynchronous curricula delivered through Blackboard.
Through the student portal, learners can access over 60 student services, including the Academic Success Center (ASC). ASC counselors help degree-seekers select a major and create a graduation plan. Additionally, the Career and Professional Development Center uses Handshake software to connect seniors and alumni with job opportunities throughout the state.
Online programs at Stan State do not accept out-of-state applicants. Application requirements mirror those of other Cal State institutions, and incoming learners can apply for scholarship opportunities between November 1 and March 2. Students who live near campus can also participate in work-study programs.
Hope International University
|Fullerton, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 48%||
At HIU, distance education students can pursue an associate or bachelor's degree from one of five colleges: arts and sciences, business and management, education, psychology and counseling, and ministry and biblical studies. No matter the subject material, each program emphasizes Christian teachings and service learning. Additionally, degree-seekers complete a rigorous general education curriculum.
Outside of class, students can access online library services, which include many of the latest periodicals. Also, the library's academic databases make conducting research simpler. The Hope Counseling Center offers psychological counseling services at a low price while maintaining learners' confidentiality.
Prospective students can sample an online course before applying and attend a virtual information session. HIU does not require standardized test scores. As a private school, it does not charge out-of-state tuition rates. Ample financial aid opportunities make HIU one of the best online universities in California.
William Jessup University
|Rocklin, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 64%||
At Jessup, students can select from six online bachelor's degrees and four online master's degrees. Bachelor's programs accept up to 90 transfer credits, and learners without prior college experience can earn a degree in three years if they take courses in an accelerated format. General studies courses emphasize communication and critical thinking. Additionally, professors instruct courses from a Christian viewpoint.
Student services at this top online university in California include a free sample course and advisors who provide personalized academic support. Other resources include free tutoring sessions, career planning advisors, and writing experts that help learners polish essays and learn new skills.
Jessup accepts new students in the spring and fall semesters. Applicants meet with an enrollment advisor before submitting high school transcripts or GED scores. Other application materials include ACT or SAT scores. Active-duty service members, veterans, and police officers qualify for a reduced tuition rate.
California State University-Dominguez Hills
|Carson, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 43%||
Distance education at CSUDH offers more than degrees and certificates; learners can also take many open-enrollment courses without needing to apply. In this way, prospective students can sample a program before committing to it. Certificates at this top online California university include assistive technology, supply chain management, and technical writing.
Students at CSUDH can take advantage of the Office of Educational Partnerships, which employs a group of professionals who provide specialized services to minority students. Mentors and advisors coordinate resources and host workshops related to career readiness and community involvement, among other topics.
Application requirements for master's programs include a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA, recommendation letters, and an essay. For undergraduate transfer applicants, transfer credit should reflect a minimum 2.0 GPA. Incoming learners may qualify for a full-tuition scholarship, and all scholarship opportunities require only one application.
Vanguard University of Southern California
|Costa Mesa, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 61%||
Located in Costa Mesa, VUSC is affiliated with the Assemblies of God. The university's nontraditional accelerated programs help busy professionals earn a bachelor's degree or certificate in one of six areas. Like other top online universities in California, VUSC uses a cohort learning model. Courses last 5-8 weeks, and many programs mix synchronous and asynchronous components.
The Academic Resource Center at VUSC provides online and on-campus students with success coaching, additional instruction in general education topics, and one-on-one tutoring sessions. Additionally, the university also boasts a special advocacy program for first-generation college students. Additionally, learners and alumni can contact the Career Service Center to network with employers and work on their resume.
VUSC requires an application essay; the essay prompt varies for each program. Incoming students should submit FAFSA results, and VUSC awards merit-based scholarships each year.
Mount Saint Mary's University
|Los Angeles, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 66%||
MSMU stands apart from many other top online universities in California due to its emphasis on women's education. The university's online offerings include three bachelor's degrees, one master's degree, and one certificate program. The bachelor's in liberal arts teaches skills and knowledge applicable to many career tracks.
Additionally, the master's in creative writing program features both an online option and a hybrid option where students meet on campus six times each semester. All online courses are delivered through Canvas.
After new students complete orientation, MSMU pairs them with a success coach. Success coaches provide more than academic and career advice; their expertise also allows them to help learners overcome personal and financial issues that might otherwise lead to dropping out of college.
Application requirements include academic transcripts or GED scores and a recommendation letter. Applicants also submit FAFSA results. MSMU announces new private scholarship opportunities throughout the year, and each scholarship requires a separate application.
|Redding, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 57%||
Distance education at Simpson features two online bachelor's programs, one online master's program, and three hybrid master's programs. Undergraduates can major in psychology or organization leadership, and hybrid coursework prepares aspiring lay and ordained ministers. Professors teach all courses from a Christian perspective, making this top online California university a suitable choice for prospective students who want to reaffirm faith.
In addition to using asynchronous curricula for all programs, Simpson supports online learners' success in many ways. For example, courses provide many opportunities (e.g., discussion boards and live chats) for students and professors to interact. Other academic resources include a Student Success Center, where learners can receive academic and spiritual guidance.
Admission requirements vary by program but typically include a personal reference and an associate degree for bachelor's programs. Individuals applying to master's tracks should hold a minimum 2.5 undergraduate GPA. Students in an online or hybrid program may qualify for INSPIRE, EOPS, and Simpson Scholarships.