2022 Best Online Colleges in California

Browse the best online colleges in California. Explore different programs and learn about job outlooks in the state.

portrait of Stefanie Grodman
by Stefanie Grodman
Published on January 10, 2022
Edited by Rebecca Long

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For many students, remote learning is a way to expand educational opportunities regardless of geographic barriers. But while online learning allows many students to access degree programs that they would not ordinarily have access to, there are numerous reasons to take location into account when choosing an online college.

Students often choose to attend online colleges in California because many of these institutions offer more affordable tuition for in-state learners, especially for low- or middle-income residents.

California is also famous for its pioneering technology and entertainment companies, including industry leaders like Google and Apple. Schools' proximity to major metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco also attract students looking to pursue competitive internships or jobs in demand in California.

For more information about going to college in the Golden State, check out our Resources for Students in California page.

Top Online Degree Programs in California

Related Programs That Might Interest You

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

California Employment Outlook

In 2019, California had a GDP of over $3 trillion, exceeding that of India and the United Kingdom. As a hub for fast-growing industries like healthcare, entertainment, technology, and clean energy, the state had a workforce of 14 million employees the same year.

Although unemployment rates reached a record high in 2020, California's job market has made a considerable recovery in 2021. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, available jobs increased 5% between September 2020 and September 2021. The Employment Development Department (EED) of California reports that the number of available jobs has increased by an average of 101,500 each month from February 2021 to September 2021.

5 In-Demand California Jobs

Software Developer

These professionals design and maintain software programs. They may work alongside programmers to develop systems and conduct tests to monitor how programs will work in practice. In California, the need for these professionals has increased dramatically. According to Forbes, there were 106,000 developers in the state in 2014 compared to 250,000 in 2019, making it one of the most in-demand jobs in California.

Physicians Assistants

Physician assistants perform essential duties alongside doctors, nurses, and surgeons. They may diagnose illnesses or injuries, review medical records, prescribe medications, recommend diagnostic tests, and administer basic treatments.

Marriage and Family Therapists

In California, the number of marriage and family counselors increased by fourfold between 2014 and 2019, according to Forbes. These mental health professionals counsel couples or families, taking into account individuals' mental and emotional diagnoses, relationships, communication styles, and lifestyle needs. They use clinical and behavioral assessments to improve the functionality of family units.


These specialized mathematicians gather, evaluate, and present data, using principles of statistics to generate real-world applications or insights from raw data. Statisticians may work alongside professionals from diverse fields and interpret data within various niches, such as business, marketing, economics, or agriculture.

Information Security Analysts

These professionals design, evaluate, and maintain security infrastructures to protect networks and information, such as digital files. They typically monitor existing security systems, looking for weak points, repairing potential deficits, and ridding systems of security threats or viruses.

Popular Career Paths in California

2022 Best Accredited Online Colleges in California

Rankings compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team

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How We Rank Schools

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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.

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Colleges in California

How many online colleges are in California? true

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many California colleges have created additional online and hybrid programs and made existing programs available online. California's system of public colleges and universities is the largest in the country, and as of 2021, offers 404 entirely remote programs, serving nearly 53,000 undergraduate and over 30,000 graduate students.

Many of the roughly 100 two-year colleges and 150 private four-year colleges in California offer online or hybrid programs as well.

Does California have good online colleges? true

Many of the state's top-ranking institutions offer remote learning options. Even before COVID-19, during the 2018-2019 academic year, the state's government invested $10 million to support the growth of online colleges in California.

At some of the best online colleges in California, remote learners can access the same courses, taught by the same faculty members, as their in-person peers. In some cases, students can earn degrees without any indication that they completed coursework online, making credentials from prestigious institutions accessible to more learners.

How much does it cost to go to college online in California? true

Although remote learners can save thousands of dollars on expenses associated with campus housing and commuting, tuition costs are often comparable to those of traditional programs.

Some private colleges can cost students over $60,000 per year. However, students at California state colleges paid an average in-state tuition of about $14,100 during the 2021-2022 school year. Out-of-state students attending California state colleges paid up to $44,000 a year.

Tuition can vary based on factors like institution type, grants, scholarships, and need-based financial aid.

What is the cheapest online college in California?

Many online colleges in California offer comparatively affordable tuition for both in-state and out-of-state learners. For example, during the 2020-2021 school year, in-state learners paid $7,012 to attend California State University, Northridge. At California State University, Bakersfield, the in-state tuition was just $5,742 per year. Both of these schools charged out-of-state learners an additional $396 per credit.

In the same academic year, California State University, Los Angeles, charged in-state learners $6,782, and out-of-state learners $16,286 per year. San Diego State University charged in-state learners $8,136 and out-of-state learners $20,016. These figures do not include additional expenses such as books, technology fees, or room and board.

Who qualifies for free college in California?

California's public colleges and universities offer some of the most significant financial aid in the country. In 2018, over 1.3 million students attended California colleges tuition-free. Initiatives like the California Promise Program allow full-time, first-time students to enroll at participating community colleges tuition-free for two academic years.

The California College Promise Grant allows lower-income students to attend in-state community colleges for free. Similarly, the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan waives tuition and fees for students whose families earn a yearly household income under $80,000.

Featured Image: Paul Bradbury / OJO Images / Getty Images

Learn the pros and cons of attending college in California. In this guide, we discuss factors like the cost of living and employment opportunities. Discover how to get in-state tuition in California. Learn more about California residency requirements. Compare in-state and out-of-state tuition in California. Discover the cost of attending college and living in California communities. Learn how you can reduce your expenses while studying in California.

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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