2021 Best Colleges in Los Angeles

portrait of Meg Whitenton
by Meg Whitenton

Published on November 12, 2021 · Updated on May 6, 2022

Edited by Darlene Earnest
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As the most populous city in California, Los Angeles attracts students and professionals from all walks of life. Los Angeles has thriving healthcare and manufacturing industries and is known as the entertainment capital of the world.

Being around some top schools is also one of the perks of living in Los Angeles. Several LA colleges ranked among the best in the world for their education and economic initiatives.

The city boasts more than 60 colleges and universities. The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Southern California (USC) are not only the two most populous universities in the city, but they are also among LA's leading employers.

Explore the attractions of sunny Los Angeles, the ultimate West Coast destination. For more information about going to college in the Golden State, check out our Resources for Students in California page.

Why Study in Los Angeles?

The greater Los Angeles area houses diverse industrial, cultural, and educational sectors. Students attending college in LA can explore nearby areas and attractions. These include Hollywood, Disneyland in Anaheim, and Universal Studios near Burbank.

Major university systems like UCLA also feature locations in beach communities like Santa Monica and Long Beach, and extension sites including Woodland Hills.

Educational Opportunities

Educational opportunities abound in Los Angeles, beginning in grades K-12. In 2021, the Los Angeles Unified School District increased its operating budget by a whopping 62%.

Gov. Gavin Newsom broke records with a similarly historic expansion of California's higher learning budget. It aimed to improve college housing, campus facilities, and career training programs. Los Angeles also offers unique access to the entertainment industry, global corporations, and national organizations through internships.


Los Angeles has the third-richest city economy in the world, as the largest manufacturing center in the western U.S. and as the nation's largest retail market. The service sector — including business, finance, healthcare, and tourism — makes up the bulk of LA's economy.

Among the largest public finance, technology, entertainment, and healthcare entities with world headquarters near LA, The Walt Disney Co. also ranks 50th on Forbes' Fortune 500.

Cost of Living

The overall cost of living index in Los Angeles is 173, higher than the national index of 100. College students in Los Angeles can expect to pay nearly three times the national index for housing, though LA ranks lower than 100 for healthcare and utilities.

Students might consider a nationally renowned online program at one of LA's leading colleges or universities as an alternative to residing in Los Angeles.

Cultural and Community Offerings

Named the entertainment capital of the world, LA's glamorous history as the birthplace of Hollywood is well documented. Aside from its link to the golden age of film, Los Angeles continues to cultivate a thriving performing and visual arts culture. This includes more than 200 art museums.

The city has been home to multiple championship collegiate sports teams. It also boasts pro teams in nearly every sport, including baseball, football, basketball, hockey, and soccer.


The draw of Los Angeles weather cannot be understated. People outside of California regularly flock to Los Angeles for its mild, subtropical climate. Similar to the Mediterranean but at a lower latitude, LA boasts warmer winters and slightly cooler summers along the Pacific Coast than near the Aegean Sea.

Los Angelenos enjoy an average of 284 days of sun each year. While tourism booms all year, the weather is especially mild from March to May and September to November, before "LA winter" sets in.

Top Degree Programs in Los Angeles

Best Online Business Administration Programs Best Online Healthcare Administration Programs Best Online RN-to-BSN Programs Best Online Web Development Programs Best Online Software Engineering Programs Best Online Master's in Biotechnology Programs Best Online Master's in Data Science Programs Best Online Master's in Psychology Programs

Related Programs That Might Interest You

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

Los Angeles Employment Outlook

Los Angeles has a diverse workforce of nearly 4 million Californians. The education and health services sector employs the largest number of Los Angelenos, with more than 80 hospitals throughout Los Angeles County — including Cedars-Sinai, California's largest. The next-largest employment sector in LA is trade, transportation, and utilities. That is followed by professional and business services.

Popular entry-level healthcare jobs offer much-faster-than-average growth and stability over the long term, with room for advancement. The following jobs are among the fastest-growing in California and LA. They can provide students with established and emerging opportunities in fields like solar energy and healthcare.

5 Los Angeles Jobs in Demand for 2021

Solar Photovoltaic Installer

Solar photovoltaic installers, or PV installers, assemble and maintain solar panels on roofs or other structures. They must develop an installation plan specific to each structure and, once installed, the panels are tested and the surrounding elements (such as shingles) are restored. Most PV installers hold a high school diploma or associate degree in electrical technology or HVAC, and receive on-the-job training.

Occupational Therapy Assistant

Occupational therapy assistants work with occupational therapists to provide direct support to patients. They assist therapists in helping patients recover and improve the daily movement and agility skills needed to live and work. Employers typically require occupational therapy assistants to hold an associate degree in occupational therapy assisting with specialized accreditation.

Medical Assistant

Medical assistants provide clinical and administrative support to hospitals, healthcare facilities, and individual physicians and healthcare providers. They may specialize in providing clinical, administrative, ophthalmic, or podiatric assistance. While not always required, most employers prefer medical assistants with an associate degree and professional medical assisting certification.

Home Health and Personal Care Aide

These aides assist seniors and patients with disabilities and chronic illnesses with daily activities, including exercise, bathing, and housekeeping. They may check vital signs and/or administer medication, only under the supervision of a healthcare practitioner or nurse. Most employers prefer candidates with an associate degree, though typically not required. Some employers and fields, like hospice, require additional certification and experience.

Physical Therapy Assistant

Physical therapy assistants work under the guidance of physical therapists to treat patients recovering from an illness or injury. They often perform clinical duties such as helping patients stretch or walk to improve daily movement, as well as clerical duties including taking notes, and cleaning and preparing the exam area. Employers require an associate degree, and certification or a state license.

Popular Career Paths in Los Angeles

Business Administration Healthcare Administration Political Science Sports Medicine History Public Policy Education Biotechnology Mechanical Engineering

2021 Best Accredited Colleges in Los Angeles

Rankings compiled by the the BestColleges Ranking Team

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How We Rank Schools

At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you can make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering transparent, inclusive, and relevant school rankings.

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 Colleges in Los Angeles

  1. California Institute of Technology

    Pasadena, CA

    Caltech is one of the world's renowned science and engineering institutes. The school's distinctions include 45 Nobel Prize winners. Over 930 Caltech students enroll in 28 undergraduate programs such as chemical engineering, economics, and planetary science. Undergraduates can engage in mentored research.

    Caltech enrolls about 1,300 students in 30 graduate programs. One of the best colleges in Los Angeles, Caltech offers graduate degrees in subjects such as astrophysics, chemical engineering, and computing and mathematical sciences. Full-time tuition costs about $56,000 per year for undergraduates. Most graduate students receive full funding.

    Caltech is a very competitive college. Applicants must possess a minimum GPA of 3.5. However, SAT or ACT scores are not required for undergraduates, and graduate school applicants do not need to submit GRE scores for most programs.

    Caltech holds regional accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

  2. University of Southern California

    Los Angeles, CA

    USC is a leading private research institution. USC enrolls about 50,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Degree-seekers study on campus in the heart of Los Angeles. Students pursue programs offered by 23 schools and divisions.

    Top undergraduate majors include business, management, and the social sciences. Students earn graduate degrees in diverse fields like business, engineering, and gerontology.

    Undergraduate tuition costs over $60,400 per year. Tuition varies for graduate programs. Fellowships, scholarships, and assistantships help graduate students pay for tuition at one of the best accredited colleges in Los Angeles.

    USC enrolls students who demonstrate high academic performance. The school has a test-optional policy for undergraduate applicants, but graduate school applicants must submit entrance test scores. USC holds regional accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

  3. University of California-Los Angeles

    Los Angeles, CA



    UCLA ranks among the nation's top public colleges. The school enrolls about 45,000 students. Undergraduates choose from 130 majors such as business, psychology, and environmental science. Recently, UCLA started offering a BA in labor studies and a BS in mathematics with a focus on data theory. The school is also home to a strong undergraduate linguistics program.

    Graduate students earn master's and doctoral degrees in more than 120 academic and professional fields. The options include engineering, healthcare, and management programs.

    California residents pay about $13,200 annually in tuition and fees for undergraduate programs. Out-of-state students must pay an additional $29,700 per year. Most graduate programs cost about $17,700 annually for residents, and $32,900 for non-residents.

    Admission is competitive, but prospective students do not need to submit SAT or ACT scores. Graduate school applicants must have a minimum GPA of 3.0. UCLA holds regional accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

  4. University of California-Irvine

    Irvine, CA



    Founded in 1965, UCI boasts rigorous academics, research, and innovation. UCI offers 87 undergraduate and 59 master's programs, with majors across disciplines.

    Traditional undergraduate majors include business administration, engineering, and computer science. Notable programs at one of the best colleges in Los Angeles include a BS in genetics and a BS in neurobiology.

    UCI also administers a strong business program, offering an MBA and a master of innovation and entrepreneurship. Other graduate majors include public health, engineering, and ecology and evolutionary biology.

    California residents pay about $11,400 annually for tuition. Nonresidents pay an additional $29,800 in tuition per year. Undergraduate admission does not require SAT or ACT scores. Graduate school must possess a minimum GPA of 3.0, but also do not need to submit entrance exam scores for most programs. UCI holds regional accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

  5. California State University-Long Beach

    Long Beach, CA



    Students at CSULB study on a 322-acre campus. One of the best colleges in Los Angeles, CSULB offers top-notch academics for comparatively low tuition.

    The school offers 189 academic programs and educates nearly 40,000 students. The business program offers majors in accountancy, finance, management, and information systems. CSULB also administers elementary and secondary teacher preparation programs. Health and human services degrees include gerontology, healthcare administration, and social work.

    About 6,000 learners pursue graduate degrees, certificates, and credentials in 65 fields at CSULB. California resident undergraduates pay $5,700 in tuition and fees per year, and non-residents pay $16,000. Graduate students pay $7,100. Nonresidents add $396 to their cost per credit.

    Admission requires SAT or ACT scores for first-year students and a minimum GPA of 2.5 for graduate school applicants. CSULB holds regional accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

  6. California State University-Fullerton

    Fullerton, CA



    Cal State Fullerton enrolls about 41,000 students and offers 110 degrees. Undergraduate majors in the human and social sciences include psychology, aging studies, liberal studies, and history. Business students can pursue degrees in economics, business administration, and international business.

    A degree completion program allows learners to earn a BA online in just three years. Students choose from three majors: sociology, business administration, and humanities and social sciences.

    The Flex MBA offers 11 concentrations and full- and part-time enrollment. Other graduate degrees include counseling, athletic training, and teacher preparation with online options.

    Undergraduate California residents pay $2,900 in tuition per 7 or more units, and graduate students pay $3,600 for 7 or more units. Nonresidents pay an additional $396 per credit.

    Undergraduate applicants do not need to submit SAT or ACt scores. Graduate school applicants must possess a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5. Cal State Fullerton holds regional accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

  7. Occidental College

    Los Angeles, CA

    Oxy is a small liberal arts college founded in 1887. The college offers 45 programs in the arts, humanities, and sciences. Students can earn bachelor's degrees in fields such as biology, cognitive science, media arts and culture, and Japanese studies. Oxy even allows students to design their own curricula.

    All students must also submit senior compositions. This requires seniors to demonstrate their knowledge with theses, research projects, presentations, or creative works.

    Tuition at Oxy cost about $57,800 for the 2021-2022 academic year. The school offers comprehensive financial aid to help pay for tuition. Oxy has a test-optional policy for undergraduate applicants. Oxy holds regional accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

  8. Loyola Marymount University

    Los Angeles, CA

    LMU is a Jesuit college with about 10,000 students. LMU offers 60 majors and 49 master's programs. Students study in small classes that promote personalized learning.

    All undergraduates complete LMU's university core. The 13-course core develops students' intellect, morality, and creativity. Undergraduates can pursue bachelor's degrees in fields such as applied mathematics, communication studies, and environmental studies. LMU's business programs routinely make national rankings.

    One of the best colleges in Los Angeles, LMU offers an MBA and MFA, as well as master's programs in educational studies and elementary education. Undergraduate tuition costs about $53,000 per academic year. Graduate school tuition varies depending on the program.

    LMU has a test-optional policy for undergraduate applicants. Graduate school applicants must have a minimum GPA of 3.0 and submit GMAT or GRE scores. LMU holds regional accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

  9. Chapman University

    Orange, CA

    Chapman enrolls about 10,000 students on two campuses. The college offers 65 bachelor's degrees and 53 master's programs. Chapman's robust business program includes majors in accounting and business administration. Non-business majors include art history, broadcast journalism, and chemistry.

    Several accelerated programs allow learners to earn a bachelor's and master's in five years. Options include a BS/MS in accounting, BA/MA in film studies, and BS/MS in behavioral and computational economics. Standalone graduate degrees at one of the best colleges in Los Angeles include an MBA, MFA, and MS in patient safety.

    Undergraduate tuition costs about $29,100 per semester. Graduate school tuition varies depending on the program. Chapman has a test-optional policy for undergraduate applicants, while graduate school requirements vary.

    Chapman holds regional accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

  10. California State Polytechnic University-Pomona

    Pomona, CA



    Cal Poly Pomona is a public college located in Los Angeles County. The school blends rigorous academics with experiential learning. Students learn how to put their knowledge to practice with hands-on projects, internships, research, and service-learning.

    One of the best colleges in Los Angeles, Cal Poly Pomona houses its degree programs in nine colleges. Bachelor's degrees include various engineering majors, computer science, economics, and accounting. Graduate programs include an MBA and master's degrees in agriculture, dietetics, and hospitality management. Undergraduates pay about $1,670 in tuition for 0-6.0 units. Graduate students pay roughly $2,080 in tuition for 0-6.0 units.

    First-year applicants must complete college preparatory coursework and possess a minimum GPA of 2.5-3.0 GPA. Graduate school hopefuls must have a minimum GPA of 2.5 in the last 60 semester credits of their undergraduate coursework.

    Cal Poly Pomona holds regional accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

Frequently Asked Questions About Colleges in Los Angeles

How many colleges are in Los Angeles? true

Los Angeles County is home to more than 70 colleges and universities. This geographical area includes the city of Los Angeles and surrounding areas including Santa Monica, Glendale, and Long Beach. The county offers a variety of schools, including public and private, nonprofit and for-profit, and state-run university systems with multiple locations across LA and California. Students can choose from diverse traditional, technical/trade, and creative arts majors. Many colleges offer a choice of on-campus or online course delivery options.

Does Los Angeles have good colleges? true

Yes, LA offers exceptional higher learning opportunities for college students. Students can attend a nationally renowned college. This can lead to unique career opportunities in the entertainment industry, finance, business, or healthcare. Los Angeles is home to many award-winning colleges and universities like UCLA, which has its own business and law schools and healthcare system. LA's prestigious colleges draw applicants from around the world. Many students aspire to study in a culturally rich environment and potentially launch a lucrative career.

How much does it cost to go to college in Los Angeles? true

The average full-time U.S. undergraduate tuition and fees was $13,360 at two- and four-year colleges in 2019-2020, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The true cost of tuition depends on factors like a school's reputation and whether it classifies as public or private. In-state and out-of-state status also can determine tuition rates. Students can expect to pay more to attend a four-year university than a two-year community college. While the cost of living is high in LA, enrolling in online colleges may save time and money through accelerated programs and in-state tuition rates.

What is the cheapest college in Los Angeles?

California State University, Los Angeles offers one of the lowest per-credit tuition rates for out-of-state students. While tuition rates and financial aid vary per individual, students can consider a variety of options to pursue college affordably in Los Angeles. Most colleges require students to submit the FAFSA, which determines eligibility for federal and some institutional financial aid, with their application. Additionally, online programs typically offer major financial benefits including accelerated completion options and set or in-state tuition rates for distance learners.

Is Los Angeles a good place to live and study?

Yes. LA's wealth of college and career opportunities, especially in key industries like entertainment and healthcare, is among the best in the United States. Students can benefit from living and learning in close proximity to the international hubs of many finance, business, and hospitality fields. Studying in LA can lead to exclusive internship opportunities and prepare graduates to join the city's global workforce, serving the third-largest economy in the world. Enrollees in an online or hybrid program may still enjoy the benefits of learning in LA while avoiding the high housing and utility costs of becoming a resident.

Featured Image: Andrew Kennelly / Moment / Getty Images

Discover the cost of attending college and living in California communities. Learn how you can reduce your expenses while studying in California. What are the highest-paying jobs in California? Discover the top-paying jobs in California for your degree, and beat the high cost of living. Learn the pros and cons of attending college in California. In this guide, we discuss factors like the cost of living and employment opportunities.

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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