Best Colleges in San Francisco
San Francisco is home to a rich cultural and ecological history. The fourth-largest city in California features a topography all its own, including the "most crooked street in the world" and Twin Peaks. It's also close to the stunning natural beauty of nearby Big Sur, Point Reyes, and Muir Woods.
The city also boasts a higher percentage of bachelor-educated residents than elsewhere in California and the United States. Students flock to San Francisco to study popular majors like business administration and management.
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Of the dozens of colleges and universities scattered throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, San Francisco State University, City College of San Francisco, and the University of San Francisco are the largest, offering a variety of in-person and online programs.
For more information about going to college in the Golden State, check out our Resources for Students in California page.
Why Study in San Francisco?
San Francisco is part of more than 30 cities comprising the San Francisco Bay Area. Among the most well-known cities surrounding San Francisco are Berkeley, Oakland, and San Jose. San Francisco's efficient public transportation systems enable easy commuting to and from all Bay Area locales.
San Francisco offers a wealth of higher education opportunities and houses a large population of college-educated residents. According to TownCharts, 89% of San Franciscans have at least a high school education, more than the U.S. and state figures for this demographic. Furthermore, an even greater margin exists between the 58% of San Franciscans with at least a bachelor's degree, compared to 34% and 32% of Californians and Americans, respectively.
Prospective students can find plenty of well-known schools in the wider San Francisco Bay Area, including UC Berkeley, Stanford University, and San Jose State University.
The economy in San Francisco is the sixth-largest in the country, with a GDP of $501 billion, according to the JP Morgan Chase Institute. And the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that as of August 2021, San Francisco's shrinking unemployment rate of 5% nearly reached the national rate of 4.8 percent. Among the city's non-farm employment categories, jobs in San Francisco increased in the service and government sectors from August 2020 to August 2021.
Cost of Living
At 269.3, San Francisco's cost of living greatly exceeds the national index of 100. Housing costs account for the majority of the city's high cost of living, at a rate of more than three times the rate of overall California housing costs and roughly five times that of average Americans. Even though San Franciscans pay more for transportation than the national index, they enjoy one of the best public transit systems in the nation.
Online colleges in San Francisco may offer more affordable learning options than in-person options because of this high cost of living.
Cultural and Community Offerings
San Francisco features diverse cultural influences as an international tourism destination. More than 52% of San Franciscans are foreign-born, primarily from Mexico, the Philippines, and China, respectively. Attractions include the world-famous Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman's Wharf, the Haight-Ashbury district, and multiple world-renowned museums including SFMOMA. The city is home to the oldest Chinatown in the United States.
San Franciscans enjoy the city's pleasant, spring-like temperatures almost year-round, with cool summers and moderate winters. The annual climate averages between 51 and 63 degrees, with an ever-present breeze coming off of the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay. The water surrounding San Francisco stays chilly all year, producing the fog the city is known for. The favorable climate inspires nearly year-round tourism in and around the Bay Area.
Top Degree Programs in San Francisco
Related Programs That Might Interest You
Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.
San Francisco Employment Outlook
San Francisco employs more than 2.3 million workers, concentrated in computer, management, and business and finance occupations. The city follows Los Angeles in paying the second-highest wage for government workers in California.
San Francisco's largest employment sectors include professional and business services, education and health services, and trade, transportation, and utilities. The following jobs are among the most popular for entry-level candidates with an associate degree, offering room for advancement into higher-paying positions in San Francisco's top industries.
5 San Francisco Jobs in Demand for 2021
Home Health/Personal Care Aide
Home health and personal care aides provide daily support to patients with chronic illnesses or disabilities and elderly clients. They typically assist with services including bathing, dressing, grocery shopping, and light housekeeping. Aides may work under the supervision of a physician or nurse to check vital signs or administer medication. Employers prefer candidates with an associate degree. Some states, employers, and specializations require professional certification.
Food and Beverage Service Worker
Workers in the food and beverage service industry may perform a variety of tasks, depending on their work environment. They typically provide services including taking orders, busing tables, and/or serving food and beverages to customers. Workers can choose from dining rooms, bars, and non-restaurant settings, though fast food service jobs were most popular in San Francisco in 2020.
Hand Laborer/Material Mover
Hand laborers and material movers manually wrap and pack materials for moving. They typically work in warehouses, retail, and wholesale businesses. They may specialize in a particular type of labor such as machine feeding, hand packing, or freight, stock, and material moving. Other hand laborers clean vehicles, collect refuse and recyclables, and stock and fill orders of merchandise.
Janitors and cleaners ensure that facilities including schools, offices, hospitals, stores, and hotels remain clean and tidy. Some professionals provide only cleaning services, while others also maintain the grounds surrounding a building by performing tasks like mowing, plowing snow, and/or clearing walkways. Some janitors and cleaners also perform light maintenance including fixing minor plumbing or electrical issues.
Customer Service Representative
Customer service representatives provide information to customers about a particular product or service, process orders, and help resolve issues. Nearly every industry employs customer service representatives. While the BLS projects negative job growth from 2020-2030 due to the automation of some customer services, it projects an increase in related business support jobs, including call center customer service operations.
Popular Career Paths in San Francisco
2021 Best Accredited Colleges in San Francisco
Rankings compiled by the the BestColleges Ranking Team
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Frequently Asked Questions About Colleges in San Francisco
How many colleges are in San Francisco?
There are 50 colleges located in the San Francisco Bay Area, which also includes Oakland, Berkeley, Hayward, and San Jose. Types of schools include four-year universities, two-year community colleges and vocational programs, and specialized arts institutions.
The city's largest colleges, in order, are San Francisco State University, City College of San Francisco, and the University of San Francisco. Some colleges in San Francisco offer satellite programs as part of a statewide university system such as California State University, or the multi-campus Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising.
Does San Francisco have good colleges?
Yes, colleges in San Francisco prepare graduates to join the lucrative local economy. San Francisco boasted a higher percentage of residents with a bachelor's degree than both the state of California and the United States in 2020, according to TownCharts. San Francisco is home to distinctive college programs in popular majors like business and management and liberal arts.
How much does it cost to go to college in San Francisco?
Students attending four-year colleges in California paid $22,000-$50,000 in 2018-2019, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Public, two-year institutions charged between $3,000 and $8,000 in tuition and fees that same year.
The true cost of college depends on factors like whether a school is public or private and whether it assigns tuition rates based on state residency. Generally, private universities cost more than comparable four-year programs at a public institution. Community colleges and online programs tend to offer the most affordable options, many including set or in-state tuition rates.
What is the cheapest college in San Francisco?
While costs vary, schools like the University of San Francisco and San Francisco State University are among the cheapest colleges in San Francisco. Such four-year schools typically offer a variety of federal financial aid options to qualifying students, as determined by the FAFSA. Community colleges including City College of San Francisco also offer affordable two-year programs.
Applicants can attend a high-quality college in San Francisco while avoiding the city's exorbitant cost of living by pursuing an online degree, which commonly offers accelerated completion options and set or in-state tuition rates.
Is San Francisco a good place to live and study?
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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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