The Best Colleges in San Diego
San Diego, known for some of the best beaches in the U.S. and over 260 days of sunshine a year, is also home to some of the best colleges in California and the nation. Over 20 universities and colleges make San Diego their home.
Some of these universities hold claim to the top research facilities in the nation, while others boast outstanding reputations in business administration, engineering, public health, and the performing arts. With some schools offering more than 100 majors, students with many different career goals can find a degree option that inspires them.
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For more information about going to college in the Golden State, check out our Resources for Students in California page.
Why Study in San Diego?
As California's second-largest city, students find a wealth of activities, attractions, and cultural diversity within San Diego's 4,200 square miles. Some of the most well-known towns include La Jolla, known for its idyllic coastal setting, and Coronado, reachable by ferry, water taxi, or a two-mile-long bridge. Cities with some of the most popular colleges include La Jolla, Escondido, Oceanside, San Marcos, and Santee.
All of the four-year universities in San Diego offer something unique. The University of California San Diego has been lauded as one of the best research universities in the nation and its college campus has a prime location next to the beach. San Diego State University, known for its international business program, ranked 23rd on Forbes' most entrepreneurial universities.
San Diego's key industries include aerospace and defense, clean technology, tourism, healthcare, cybersecurity, and manufacturing. San Diego is home to one of the world's largest concentrations of military assets. One out of every five jobs in the area is connected to the defense industry. A few of the other top San Diego employers include UC San Diego, Sharp Healthcare, and Qualcomm.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that San Diego's unemployment rate sits at 6.6%, with average weekly wages coming in at $1,430.
Cost of Living
According to PayScale, the cost of living in San Diego is 44% higher than the national average. Housing ranks substantially higher, at 136% higher than the U.S. average, and transportation comes in at 29% over the national average. An example of average costs includes a median home price of $817,184, median rent at about $2,560, and a loaf of bread coming in at $3.76.
Of course, like most cities, the coastal regions experience higher costs, while inland communities generally have lower home prices and cost of living.
Cultural and Community Offerings
San Diego's diverse culture means students choose from numerous events, from Little Italy's farmers market to the Latino Film Festival. For outdoor enthusiasts, Torrey Pines State Reserve offers hiking trails along the coast, and surfers and paddleboarders enjoy the 10 beaches that grace San Diego's shoreline.
Of course, nothing beats Balboa Park, San Diego's center for arts and culture. This 1,200-acre property is home to The Old Globe theater, multiple museums, and the famous San Diego Zoo.
With an average temperature of 72 degrees, San Diego offers the outdoor enthusiast a year-round playground. The Mediterranean climate brings dry days with little rain and temperatures that rarely fall below 44 degrees or above 84 degrees. You can, however, expect some June gloom, a cloudy marine layer that settles over the land.
Top Degree Programs in San Diego
Related Programs That Might Interest You
Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.
San Diego Employment Outlook
The Employment Development Department forecasts approximately 569,200 job openings from 2014 to 2024, with the greatest growth in professional and business services, followed by educational service, healthcare, social assistance, and leisure and hospitality.
San Diego is also one of the best cities in California to find jobs in the technology sector, arguably surpassed only by San Jose, home of Silicon Valley. Top companies hiring tech professionals in the area include Qualcomm, Northrop Grumman, and Booz Allen Hamilton.
The BLS reports that the average hourly wage in San Diego as of May 2020 was $30.91, about 14% above the national average. San Diego is also known for its venture capital presence, claiming several of the fastest-growing startups in the nation.
The top 5 San Diego Jobs in Demand
Physical Therapy Assistant
- 2020 Annual Median Salary: $49,970
- 2020-2030 Job Outlook: 32% growth rate
Physical therapy assistants work under the supervision of physical therapists. They work directly with patients, helping them manage their pain and increase their mobility. A few of the tasks they perform include assisting patients with exercises, instructing them on how to use special equipment, and performing stretching and massage techniques.
- 2021 Annual Median Salary: $62,810
- 2020-2030 Job Outlook: 23% growth rate
Respiratory therapists care for people with breathing disorders, such as emphysema, asthma, or premature infants with undeveloped lungs. They may perform diagnostic tests, treat patients using various therapeutic measures, and connect those who cannot breathe on their own to ventilators. These therapists may work in hospitals, nursing care facilities, and physicians' offices.
- 2021 Annual Median Salary: $36,260
- 2020-2030 Job Outlook: 15% growth rate
Veterinary technicians work under licensed veterinarians, usually in private clinical practices. They may perform diagnostic tests such as taking X-rays. A few common tasks include administering anesthesia, preparing animals for surgery, and administering vaccines and other medications. They may specialize in certain areas, such as emergency care or zoological medicine.
- 2021 Annual Median Salary: $77,200
- 2020-2030 Job Outlook: 13% growth rate
Computer Network Support Specialist
- 2021 Annual Median Salary: $65,450
- 2020-2030 Job Outlook: 9% growth rate
Computer network support specialists analyze computer network issues. Typical tasks include testing network systems, performing maintenance, and troubleshooting issues with internet systems and local area and wide area networks. These specialists may help keep a company's network operating sufficiently and perform file backups to secure critical information.
Popular Career Paths in San Diego
The Best Accredited Colleges in San Diego
Rankings compiled by the the BestColleges Ranking Team
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Frequently Asked Questions About Colleges in San Diego
How many colleges are in San Diego?
San Diego is home to over 20 colleges, universities, and community colleges. Four-year colleges are located throughout the county in the city of San Diego, Escondido, La Jolla, Oceanside, San Marcos, and Santee. In addition, you can find community colleges in El Cajon, Oceanside, San Marcos, and Chula Vista.
Does San Diego have good colleges?
San Diego has some of the best colleges in the nation. Several are known for their research opportunities, while others gained solid reputations for their business schools and film and theater programs.
With a strong military presence, you can also find several colleges that offer veterans and service members support through reduced fees and/or flexible scheduling. The San Diego Community College District is one of the largest community college districts in California, serving about 100,000 students every year.
How much does it cost to go to college in San Diego?
Tuition and fees for colleges in San Diego vary based on type of school. In most cases, students find the lowest tuition rates at public colleges and the highest fees at private institutions.
For example, San Diego State University's tuition and fees for 2021-2022 are $8,136 for in-state students and $20,016 for non-residents. Comparatively, the University of San Diego, a private Catholic university, charges $52,864 in tuition and fees for the 2021 school year.
What is the cheapest college in San Diego?
The annual tuition and fees for San Diego State University for the 2021 school year are $8,136. This represents one of the lowest tuition costs for any four-year college in San Diego. However, keep in mind that nonresidents pay an additional $11,880. Some online colleges offer lower nonresident fees.
Students can also choose to attend one of San Diego's community colleges for two years and either earn an associate degree or fulfill general education requirements before transferring to a four-year college. The San Diego Community College District charges an enrollment fee of $46 per credit. Out-of-state students pay an additional $307 per credit.
Is San Diego a good place to live and study?
If you like beaches, sunshine, and attending some of the top-rated schools in the nation, San Diego is a great place to live and study. With some universities offering over 100 different degree options, students can find a major that appeals to their academic interests.
Between La Jolla Cove, Balboa Park, and the Birch Aquarium at Scripps, you never need to worry about finding something to do. Your greatest challenge may involve making sure you set aside time to study.
Featured Images: Ron and Patty Thomas / E+ / Getty Images
How Much Does It Cost to Study and Live in California?
In-State vs. Out-of-State Tuition 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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