2022 Best Online Colleges in California

Browse the best online colleges in the state of California. Read on to explore different programs and learn about job outlooks in the state.

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by Stefanie Grodman

Published on January 10, 2022 · Updated on April 25, 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

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.

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.

Statisticians

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

Business Administration Healthcare Administration Political Science Web Development Public Policy Software Engineering Biotechnology Nursing

2022 Best Accredited Online Colleges in California

Rankings compiled by 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.

#1 Online College in California

San Diego State University

School Information
Location San Diego, California
Admission Rate 34%
Graduation Rate 73%
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 50% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad, in state | $270
Undergrad, out of state | $666
Graduate, in state | $532
Graduate, out of state | $928

Founded in 1997, San Diego State University began as a training institution for elementary school teachers. Now a public research institution in San Diego, California, SDSU enrolls 36,000 students annually. Undergraduates pick from 91 majors in the different schools, including engineering, business, and international business. The graduate school offers 76 master's and 23 doctoral programs. 

Like other online colleges in California, SDSU offers many different online degrees, such as finance, education, and history. SDSU faculty members and industry experts teach the online classes. Additionally, the Open University online school offers over 200 courses for non-degree-seeking students. Enrollees sometimes qualify to bypass some of the usual enrollment requirements for degree programs. 

New students apply in the spring and fall semesters. The institution is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

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#2 Online College in California

California State University-Fullerton

School Information
Location Fullerton, California
Admission Rate 53%
Graduation Rate 69%
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 38% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad, in state | $425-$500
Undergrad, out of state | $821-$896
Graduate, in state | $366
Graduate, out of state | $762

Part of the CSU system, Cal State Fullerton is one of many accredited online colleges in California. The public university educates over 40,000 students annually from its Fullerton, California, campus. CSUF's online programs provide the same lectures and assignments as in-person classes with added convenience and flexibility. 

Distance learning lets students virtually ask questions and interact with faculty, as well as communicate with other students. The online college offers certification courses and three-year degree completion courses. Certificate classes include human resources management and digital marketing. Available completion programs include business, sociology, humanities, and social sciences.

First-year admission to Cal State Fullerton requires a high school diploma with a C or better GPA. CSU does not require ACT/SAT scores for the 2021-2022 school year. The university is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

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#3 Online College in California

California State University-Northridge

School Information
Location Northridge, California
Admission Rate 59%
Graduation Rate 55%
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 55% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad, in state | $352
Undergrad, out of state | $748
Graduate, in state | $270
Graduate, out of state | $666

Cal State Northridge is a public university in Los Angeles, California, located in the suburb of Northridge. The institution offers one of many online colleges in California. The online program involves live classes and an opportunity to communicate with other students online. A two-week online orientation class helps new students navigate the online technology and meet peers online. 

Course offerings include master's classes in social work, nursing, humanities, and engineering. Bachelor's degrees include nursing and public sector management. Students interested in online certificate courses choose from radiologic technology, speech-language pathology assistant, perioperative nursing, and others. 

Applicants need a high school diploma, GED certificate, or California High School Proficiency Examination certificate. CSU does not require ACT/SAT scores for the 2021-2022 school year. The online programs are accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

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#4 Online College in California

University of Massachusetts Global

School Information
Location Irvine, California
Admission Rate 89%
Graduation Rate 60%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 96% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad, in state | $500
Undergrad, out of state | $31,420 per academic year
Graduate, in state | $680
Graduate, out of state | $26,060 per academic year

UMass Global, formerly Brandman University, in Irvine, California, opened its doors in 1958. The university is a private nonprofit institution. UMass offers over 90 unique career programs online in the areas of nursing, education, business, arts, and sciences.

UMass counts itself among many online colleges in California designed for working professionals. These students need a flexible format that lets them study any time of day, around their work schedules. Online classes include those in the arts and sciences, education, and business categories. UMass offers associate, bachelor's, and master's classes online. 

The program gives distance learners an opportunity to meet with an advisor to develop their yearly education plan. They also get a chance to work with a specialist to navigate the financial aid process. Online learning takes place via Blackboard. Prospective students view a tutorial on how to participate in classes, access online learning materials, and submit lessons. 

Admission requirements include a high school diploma or GED with a 2.0 GPA. Applicants must score at least a C on math and English entrance exams. The UMass online program is fully accredited by WSCUC.

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#5 Online College in California

Pepperdine University

School Information
Location Malibu, California
Admission Rate 32%
Graduation Rate 86%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 18% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad, in state | $1,290
Undergrad, out of state | $1,290
Graduate, in state | $1,365
Graduate, out of state | $1,365 

A private Malibu, California, Christian institution founded in 1937, Pepperdine University enrolls 3,500 undergraduate students annually. The university is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

The online program at Pepperdine features classes in real time. Online classes integrate collaborative tools, such as small breakout group chat rooms. Classes available online include those offered through the Graziadio Business School, School of Public Policy, and the Caruso School of Law. 

Other subjects students can take online include psychology, education, and human resources. The school offers 24/7 tech support for all distance learners. Pepperdine graduates get access to job boards with listings from employers interested in hiring alumni. They also enjoy access to virtual networking events.

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#6 Online College in California

Pacific Oaks College

School Information
Location Pasadena, California
Admission Rate 5%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 68% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad, in state | $360-$855
Undergrad, out of state | $360-$855
Graduate, in state | $1,115
Graduate, out of state | $1,115

Pacific Oaks College in Pasadena, California, boasts a rich history. Several local Pasadena families founded the elementary school, run by Quakers, in 1945. Pacific Oaks College then opened in 1958 and applied the education model to train future early childhood educators. The college has grown to offer undergraduate and graduate programs in education, business, and social work. 

The online college is one of many colleges in California offering a flexible program through the Canvas platform. Distance learners get direct online access to faculty and other students. Most online classes follow seven-week sessions. Topics include early childhood and elementary education, leadership and management, and credentialing for teachers. 

Admission requirements include an admissions interview, a personal statement, and a high school diploma with a 2.0 GPA. The institution is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

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#7 Online College in California

Touro University Worldwide

School Information
Location Los Alamitos, California
Graduation Rate 100%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 98% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad, in state | $400
Undergrad, out of state | $400
Graduate, in state | $500
Graduate, out of state | $500

A Los Alamitos, California, nonprofit university, TUW started in 1970 in New York to incorporate Jewish traditions into higher education. Today, the university operates five campus locations, enrolling over 19,000 students nationwide. The institution is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

TUW's online courses include those in business, psychology/counseling, human services, and health science. Students pursue associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees online. Admission requirements include a high school diploma or equivalent. TUW accepts international students, but they must meet the school's English proficiency criteria. 

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#8 Online College in California

The Master's University and Seminary

School Information
Location Santa Clarita, California
Admission Rate 67%
Graduation Rate 70%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 18% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad, in state | $450
Undergrad, out of state | $450
Graduate, in state | $595
Graduate, out of state | $595 

A private Christian institution in Santa Clarita, California, The Master's University started in 1927 as Los Angeles Baptist Theological Seminary. Each subject incorporates a religious world view. The institution is accredited by The WASC Senior College and University Commission.

Online classes cover biblical studies, Christian ministries, business administration, education, accounting, and the arts. First-year applicants must submit an official high school transcript with a 2.75 GPA. As part of the process for acceptance to TMU, applicants must show their religious faith.

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#9 Online College in California

Northcentral University

School Information
Location La Jolla, California
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad, in state | $395
Undergrad, out of state | $395
Graduate, in state | $550
Graduate, out of state | $550

Located in LaJolla, California, NCU is a private, non-profit university with a religious affiliation. The regionally accredited online institution started in 1996. The university also holds several programmatic accreditations.

NCU offers online courses in business administration, digital media, and church and humanitarian leadership. Admission requirements for first-year undergraduate applicants include a high school diploma. Although NCU does not set a strict grade requirement, most accepted students boast a 3.14 or higher GPA.

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#10 Online College in California

Biola University

School Information
Location La Mirada, California
Admission Rate 70%
Graduation Rate 74%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 36% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad, in state | $1,894
Undergrad, out of state | $1,894
Graduate, in state | $667-$796
Graduate, out of state | $667-$796 

Founded in 1908, Biola University offers an education centered around biblical and Christian beliefs. Its on-campus and online programs enroll over 6,000 students each year. The institution is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. 

Like at many online colleges in California, Biola students can do online classes at their own pace. Distance learners use the Canvas platform to communicate with faculty members and other students. 

Bachelor's programs include psychology, early childhood education, biblical ministries, business administration, communications, and public relations. Biola also offers online master's degrees in theology, business, education, fine arts, and technology and health. 

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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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