California Colleges and Universities

College Degree Finder

In addition to having some of the best weather, year round sunshine and beautiful, never-ending coastline, California is home to the largest number of colleges and universities of any state in the nation. Between public 4-year universities, private colleges, community colleges and technical schools, California offers over 750 higher education institutions for aspiring students and education oriented professionals to choose from. You’re sure to find a California college or university for just about every type of student, personality and career aspiration.

Public Colleges in California

One of the largest, most reputable college systems in the nation is that of the University of California (UC) college system. It is one of California’s three public higher education systems, the other two being the California State University (CSU) system and the California Community College system. The University of California (UC) system is made up of made up of 10 different campuses, 5 medical centers, 3 national laboratories, 150 academic disciplines, 600 graduate degree programs, and is at the top of California’s three-tier public higher education system. Each UC campus has a chancellor who is appointed by the Regents of the University of California. University of California campuses employ only the most distinguished faculty from every field and the university is almost universally regarded as one of top public university systems in the world.

University of California campuses are among the many colleges in southern California. There are UC locations in in Los Angeles, Berkeley, San Diego, Santa Cruz, Davis, Irvine, Santa Barbara, Merced, Riverside and San Francisco. Unique among UC campuses is the University of Califonia, San Francisco, which is the only UC campus to offer exclusively graduate health-sciences programs. The UC Hastings College of Law, also located in San Francisco, while affiliated with the University of California, is not directly administered by the UC Regents. While admission rates vary from campus to campus, overall, University of California campuses accept the top 12% of student applicants. The UC System also offers the largest selection of graduate programs of any higher education system in the state and supports the largest level of research of any university system in California.

The University of California is well known for the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a national laboratory the school administers directly for the U.S. Department of Energy. Other laboratories the university manages indirectly include the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Third-largest university system in the United States is the California State University (CSU) system; it comprises 11 different colleges in southern California. Unlike the UC system that focuses on admitting the top 12.5% of high school students, the CSU system is charged with admitting the top one-third of high school applicants. California State University system universities are primarily intended for undergraduate education, but several universities within the CSU system offer graduate programs and many are becoming more involved in research. Over the last decade, CSU schools including Long Beach State, Cal Poly, Fresno State, Cal State Fullerton, San Francisco State, San Jose State, and San Diego State have become much more research oriented, especially in the area of applied sciences. In 2007, CSU began granting doctoral degrees in education (EdD) for the first time.

The third tier of higher education systems is the California Community Colleges system, which offer lower level general education courses that are transferable to schools within the University of California and California State University systems. California community colleges also provide vocational education, continuing education, and remedial education. California Community College system members, which include 112 individual colleges in 72 districts, award associate degrees and certificates.

Private Colleges in California

In addition to an extensive selection of public higher education institutions, California boasts an impressive selection of some of the top private colleges and university in the nation, including the University of Southern California (USC), Stanford University, the University of San Francisco (USF), Loyola Marymount University, Santa Clara University, St. Mary’s College, the University of the Pacific, Pepperdine University, the Claremont Consortium of Colleges, Thomas Aquinas College, Westmont College, Occidental College, and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

In addition to those previously listed, there are hundreds of other private colleges and universities in California, including many special-purpose and religious institutions. For example, there are several art and film colleges in southern California near Los Angeles and several more in northern California’s Bay Area, including the CalArts Institute and the California College of the Arts.

Before attending any higher education institution in California, we recommend reviewing their accreditation status. While there are several professional and national accrediting agencies the main regional accreditation body for 4-year colleges and universities in California is the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

Top Ranked California Colleges by Major

Regionally and Nationally Accredited California Colleges and Universities

Below is a comprehensive list of all of the regionally and nationally accredited 4-year colleges and universities in California. These schools offer certificate, associates, bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral and first professional degree programs. To narrow your search of prospective colleges in California, try zeroing in on one of the many metropolitan areas by making your selection from the cities list below.

To explore California colleges and universities by city simply select a city below. The list below contains only accredited 4-year colleges and universities. For a list of technical schools and community colleges in California visit the “community colleges” section of this site.


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