California Colleges and Universities

Public and Private Colleges in California

California is home to hundreds of public colleges and universities. The state employs a three-tier organizational scheme for its public college and university institutions, acknowledging the University of California and the California State University as its two major systems of public higher education and including a statewide distribution of community colleges.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) lists a total of 873 universities in California, 581 of which are two- or four-year institutions. As of 2013 there were 36 public 4-year institutions, 118 public 2-years, 163 private 4-year nonprofit schools, 18 private 2-year nonprofits, 92 private 4-year for-profits and 154 private 2-year for-profit schools. Here’s a break down into the six major postsecondary institutional classifications:

Number of Institutions in California

The remaining 292 schools in California operate primarily as career academies, technical training centers and other non-degree-granting institutions. About 13 percent operated as nonprofit schools in 2014, while the remaining 253 educated students for profit.

California public universities and colleges serve millions of both graduate and undergraduate students. According to the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, community and junior colleges in California served 1,562,741 total enrolled learners on 112 campuses in Spring 2014.

The California State University system served 446,530 total students on its 23 campuses in Fall 2013. Of these students, 402,375 were enrolled as undergraduates and 44,155 were pursuing graduate degrees. The University of California system reported a total student enrollment of 234,464 students on its 10 campuses in 2010, with full-time undergraduates composing approximately 76 percent of the overall student body and full-time graduate students constituting about 21 percent.

All these big enrollment numbers translate to a significant amount of educational attainment among students and graduates of California colleges and universities, according to the NCES. A 2014 report shows California graduated 481,758 students in 2011-12, which totaled more than 10 percent of the 4,529,790 college graduates nationwide the same year.

Online Colleges in California

Many of the accredited public colleges and universities in California also offer online classes for students who may not have the resources of money and time necessary to commit to a full-time traditional university education. Here’s a list of some nationally recognized online programs at colleges and universities in California, along with where their programs placed on the U.S. News & World Report rankings:

  • University of Southern California
    • Best Online Graduate Information Technology Programs (2015): No. 1
    • Best Online Graduate Engineering Programs (2015): No. 4
  • California State University – Fullerton
    • Best Online Graduate Engineering Programs (2015): No. 16
    • Best Online Graduate Education Programs (2015): No. 22
    • Best Online Graduate Business Programs (2015): No. 23
  • California Baptist University
    • Best Online Bachelor’s Programs (2015): No. 37
    • Best Online Graduate Business Programs (2015): No. 110
    • Best Online Graduate Education Programs (2015): No. 123
  • California State University – Sacramento
    • Best Online Graduate Business Programs (2015): No. 75

Prospective online students in California can also visit California Virtual Campus, a distance education portal funded by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office. The portal, which focuses on California colleges and universities, provides students with a robust search tool with which they can be turned on to options for online education they may not otherwise have considered.

Top Jobs and Careers in California

Check out this table of occupational and education information about some of the top careers in California:

OccupationTop regionsWhy it’s hotNecessary skillsRelevant degrees
Bookeeping, Accounting and Auditing ClerksLos Angeles, Riverside, SacramentoOverall economic growth is driving increases in the number of for-profit corporations and non-profit organizations, which in turn is creating enhanced demand for the bookkeeping and accounting clerks who keep enterprise finance from going off the rails. The California Employment Development Department (CEDD) forecasts around 43,100 new positions for bookkeeping clerks will emerge in the state between 2012 and 2022.Mathematical reasoning, critical thinking, bookkeeping, written expression, professional communication, office computing, time management, information organization, active listeningWhile the position usually only requires a high school diploma, many employers of bookkeeping clerks prefer candidates who have taken extra steps to meet the demands of the position. Earning an associate degree in accounting can prepare students with a comprehensive foundation of accounting knowledge, and bookkeeping career training helps ensure students at least have the basics down before entering the workforce.
Elementary School TeachersLos Angeles, San Diego, the Bay AreaA push to decrease student-teacher ratios in public schools between 2012 and 2022 is expected to create nearly 50,000 opportunities for elementary school teachers in California, according to the CEDD. Expected growth is attributable to the desire to assign fewer students to each teacher at a time when overall elementary school enrollment is on the rise.Instructional design, group speaking, active listening, organization, social perceptiveness, critical thinking, problem solving, conflict mediation, written and oral comprehensionElementary school teachers must typically have at least a bachelor’s degree. Some states specify the bachelor’s degree must be in the teacher’s subject area, requiring history degrees for aspiring history teachers for example, while others approve of degrees in early childhood education or similar plans that focus on curriculum design and pedagogy.
Office and Retail SupervisorsOakland, Sacramento, Los Angeles metro areaJobs in service-oriented fields are on the rise all over the country, and service professions need trained supervisors to ensure that everything runs smoothly. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates first-line supervisory work is expected to add more than half a million new jobs nationwide between 2012 and 2022, and CEDD data indicates expected growth of around 65,000 positions in California alone.Personnel management, resource management, professional communication, deductive reasoning, decision making, performance monitoring, active listening, conflict mediation, negotiationFirst-line supervisors often have college experience in subjects like marketing, accounting, management and communications and may hold a business administration degree. Some institutions offer online management training courses, which can teach aspiring supervisors the essential skills of leadership, personnel management, finance, conflict resolution and more.
Applications Software DevelopersSan Jose, Los Angeles, San FranciscoThe BLS projects 23-percent employment growth between 2012 and 2022 for applications software developers, more than twice the average national growth rate across all occupations. Tech advancement in communications devices and other computing hardware are driving the runaway job growth in the field, which the CEDD has projected will lead to 40,000 new jobs in California by 2022.Computer programming, systems analysis, critical thinking, computer code comprehension, mathematical reasoning, software testing, system performance evaluation, technical writingEarning a computer science degree is a time-tested first step to a career as a software developer, even though employers are increasingly beginning to prefer master’s degrees and other advanced training for senior development positions. Aspiring developers may also be able to find a bachelor’s degree in software engineering, which may have a more career-oriented curriculum than a standard academic computer science program.
Medical AssistantsLos Angeles, the Bay Area, AnaheimAn updated list of on-the-job tasks and increasing modernization of healthcare delivery and health information technology is causing a surge in workforce demand for medical support personnel in health care facilities. The BLS expects nationwide employment growth of 29 percent among medical assistants between 2012 and 2022, while CEDD data suggests around 35,000 new positions will emerge in California.Health care terminology, medical technology, clinical hygiene, attention to detail, clerical fundamentals, sanitary sampling and testing practices, electronic recordkeepingAn associate degree in medical assisting is one of the more common educational paths that lead to a career in the field. Candidates who have a degree in biology or other training in the life sciences, are also fairly well positioned to seek medical assistant jobs. Many institutions offer medical assisting diploma programs, as well, to help students accelerate their path to the workforce.

There’s no degree in the world that can be considered a guarantee of employment upon graduation, but students who tailor their educational experience toward a particular profession can increase their chances of finding the job they want.

California Financial Aid Information

The cost of tuition can vary quite a bit, depending on the institution attended, degree sought and the method by which a student chooses to pay. However you slice it, though, make no mistake that the data shows a general upward trend in the cost of college over the last several years.

The College Board reports tuition and fees rose significantly in California between 2004 and 2014, with tuition costs and fees for in-state public four-year schools coming in at $9,037 in 2013-2014 compared to $5,174 in 2004-2005. Similarly, tuition for private four-year nonprofits in 2013-2014 was $36,914 versus $30,474 for the 2004-2005 period. Here’s a quick list that shows, with tuition and fee costs adjusted to 2013 dollars, how much things have changed for California students:

California Tuition and Fee Costs

What’s more, the report also showed that the cost of public 2-year college tuition and fees in California rose a whopping 111 percent in just the last five years of the study. Fortunately for prospective students in California, there are private, state and national financial aid options that can help a prospective student with the burden of a continued education.

The Federal Application for Student Aid, or FAFSA, is the go-to option for California financial aid seekers. Many sources of financial aid look specifically to the FAFSA for the information necessary to determine levels of need and award amounts.

California residents have additional state-specific options like Cal Grants, which uses FAFSA information along with its own eligibility requirements to make its calculations. The California Student Opportunity and Access Program, or Cal-SOAP, can be a great resource as well — it isn’t an aid-granting organization in itself, but it works to expand the understanding of financial aid programs and requirements to students who may need it most.

To find out more about some of the schools and programs available in California, be sure to check out the ones featured in our school listings below.

Article Sources


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  8. U.S. News and World Report: “University of Southern California, Online Programs,”, “University of California — Los Angeles, Online Programs,”, “University of California, Fullerton, Online Programs,”, “California Baptist University, Online Programs,”, “California State University, Sacramento, Online Programs,”
  9. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2014-2015 Edition: “Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks,”, Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers,”, “Software Developers,”, “Medical Assistants,”
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  12. About Us, California Virtual Campus,
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  15. Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education, Occupation Profile, Career InfoNet,
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  17. Supervisory Management Associate Degree, Northcentral Technical College,
  18. Software Developers, Applications: California, Occupation Profile, Career InfoNet,
  19. Software Development Degree Online, Southern New Hampshire University,
  20. Medical Assistants: California, Occupation Profile, Career InfoNet,
  21. Tuition and Fees by Sector and State over Time, Trends in Higher Education, The College Board,
  22. California Student Aid Commission,
  23. Cal Grants, California Student Aid Commission,
  24. Student loans: California Student Loan Refinancing Program, California Legislative Information,;jsessionid=5b2fbcaae2404554ccb41ccd442d
  25. Fact Sheet, California Student Opportunity and Access Program,

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