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Best 26 Graduate Schools in California in 2021

March 15, 2021 | Staff Writers

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1. California State University – Fullerton

California State University – Fullerton takes top spot on our list of the best graduate schools in California. CSUF enrolls over 39,000 students total and has 55 graduate programs. Graduate programs at CSUF range from Nursing Leadership to Computer Science.

  • Tuition per year: $6,924 in-state; $18,804 non-resident
  • Graduation rate: 83%

2. California Polytechnic University – Pomona

California Polytechnic University – Pomona, is one of two polytechnic universities in the state, with the other located in San Luis Obispo. Cal Poly Pomona offers dozens of graduate programs, ranging from Agricultural Science to International Apparel Management. As a polytechnic institute, its focus on learning by doing ensures that graduate students get plenty of practical experience during their degree programs.

  • Tuition per year: $7,396 in-state; $19,276 non-resident
  • Graduation rate: 82%

3. San Diego State University

San Diego State University is one of the leading graduate schools in California. It offers graduate degrees at several levels, including certificates, master’s degrees, and doctoral degrees. Graduate programs range from Geophysics to Creative Writing.

  • Tuition per year: $7,510 in-state; $19,390 non-resident
  • Graduation rate: 83%

4. California State University – Long Beach

California State University – Long Beach is another leading graduate school in Southern California. CSULB enrolls nearly 40,000 students. Its graduate degree programs range from Aerospace Engineering to Asian Studies.

  • Tuition per year: $6,834 in-state; $18,714 non-resident
  • Graduation rate: 68%

5. California Polytechnic University

California Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo is the state’s flagship polytechnic institute. Its graduate programs focus on giving students practical experience. Its 39 masters programs range from Nutrition to Quantitative Economics.

  • Tuition per year: $9,943 in-state; $23,833 non-resident
  • Graduation rate: 83%

6. University of California – Los Angeles

The University of California – Los Angeles, better known as UCLA, has one of the best graduate programs in the Los Angeles area. UCLA offers a diverse selection of graduate programs, ranging from Urban Planning to Molecular, Integrative, and Cellular Biology. UCLA is known for offering its graduate students generous financial aid packages.

  • Tuition per year: $13,240 in-state; $32,994 non-resident
  • Graduation rate: 91%

7. University of California – Berkeley

The University of California – Berkeley, commonly known simply as Berkeley, is considered to be one of the best public universities in the world. Its graduate school plays a big part in Berkeley’s prestigious reputation. Graduate programs range from an Executive MBA program to a Ph.D. in Information Management Systems.

  • Tuition per year: $14,253 in-state; $44,007 non-resident
  • Graduation rate: 92%

8. University of California – Irvine

The University of California – Irvine is one of the top campuses in the University of California system. Its graduate school offers over 100 degree programs. The programs available range from Art to Computer Science.

  • Tuition per year: $13,727 in-state; $43,481 non-resident
  • Graduation rate: 87%

9. University of California – San Diego

The University of California – San Diego may finish behind local rival San Diego State, but it is still one of the best graduate schools in California. UCSD is a large institution, with a total enrollment of near 40,000. Its graduate school offers a wide range of programs, from Global Health to Structural Engineering.

  • Tuition per year: $14,415 in-state; $44,169 non-resident
  • Graduation rate: 87%

10. University of California – Davis

The University of California – Davis may not be the best-known campus in the system, but its graduate school is still highly ranked. UC Davis offers dozens of graduate degrees. The programs run the gamut from Forensic Science to Biological Systems Engineering.

  • Tuition per year: $14,495 in-state; $44,249 non-resident
  • Graduation rate: 85%

11. University of California – Santa Barbara

The University of California – Santa Barbara has an elite graduate school. It offers 50 graduate degree programs. These programs include everything from Marine Science to Theater Studies.

  • Tuition per year: $14,391 in-state; $44,395 non-resident
  • Graduation rate: 82%

12. University of California – Santa Cruz

The University of California – Santa Cruz is one of the newer campuses in the University of California system. It offers 123 total degree programs, including many graduate programs. Some of the graduate degrees available include Natural Language Processing, Coastal Science and Policy, and Anthropology.

  • Tuition per year: $13,991 in-state; $43,745 non-resident
  • Graduation rate: 78% 

13. University of California – Riverside

The University of California – Riverside is the final campus in the University of California system on our list. Its graduate school offers over 50 degree programs. The graduate degrees available range from Southeast Asian Studies to Biophysics.

  • Tuition per year: $13,853 in-state; $43,607 non-resident
  • Graduation rate: 73%

14. Soka University of America

The Soka University of America is a unique private university with a liberal arts focus. Its graduate school currently offers only one program, but it is a very unique program. The Master’s in Educational Leadership and Societal Change prepares students to make an impact on their communities in a positive way.

  • Tuition per year: $33,982
  • Graduation rate: 90%

Students who are looking for the right graduate school in California can use our website to find an institution that fits their needs.

15. Stanford University

Stanford University is considered to be one of the best universities in the world, and its graduate school contributes a great deal of prestige to the university’s image. There are nearly 100 graduate degree programs at Stanford. Perhaps the best-known programs are the Economics program and the medical school.

  • Tuition per year: $53,529
  • Graduation rate: 94%

16. California Institute of Technology

The California Institute of Technology is one of the leading tech schools in the world. As you might expect, its graduate programs are mostly in the STEM fields. These programs range from Space Engineering to Geobiology.

  • Tuition per year: $54,600
  • Graduation rate: 93%

17. Loyola Marymount College

Loyola Marymount College is a liberal arts college with a strong graduate school. It offers over 40 programs. Its graduate school is well-known for its film programs.

  • Tuition per year: $50,683
  • Graduation rate: 83%

18. Santa Clara University

Santa Clara University is a private institution with a leading graduate school. Its graduate school offers a wide-ranging yet small list of degree programs. Available degrees include an MBA, an Engineering Management program, a Pastoral Ministries program, and a Counseling Psychology program.

  • Tuition per year: $53,634
  • Graduation rate: 89%  

19. Claremont McKenna College

Claremont McKenna College is one of the top liberal arts colleges in the world. It offers only one graduate program, a Master’s in Finance. However, this single program is very highly regarded in the field, making it one of the best graduate schools for finance in California.

  • Tuition per year: $56,475
  • Graduation rate: 93%

20. St. Mary’s College of California

St. Mary’s College of California is a small Catholic institution with several strong graduate degree programs. These programs include degrees in Education, Counseling, Leadership, and Business. The school is known for offering students a great deal of financial aid.

  • Tuition per year: $49,188
  • Graduation rate: 73% 

21. University of Southern California

The University of Southern California is a large private university with a correspondingly large graduate school. Its graduate school offers dozens of programs in a wide variety of fields. USC is known for having a leading medical school and a leading law school. 

  • Tuition per year: $58,195
  • Graduation rate: 92%

22. Pepperdine University

Pepperdine University is a private university with a Christian affiliation, though students of all faiths can apply. It has a mid-size graduate school with a wide variety of programs. Its best-known graduate programs are its JD and MBA degree programs.

  • Tuition per year: $55,892
  • Graduation rate: 87%

23. University of the Pacific

The University of the Pacific is a small private institution with a well-respected graduate school. It offers a variety of programs in health care, engineering, business and natural & social sciences, most notably Social Work, Data Science, and Clinical Nutrition. The small size of the graduate school ensures that students get plenty of personalized attention.

  • Tuition per year: $49,588
  • Graduation rate: 71%

24. University of Redlands

The University of Redlands is another small private institution with an excellent graduate school. It is a leader in online education, with several top online graduate degrees. These degrees include an MBA, a Master’s in Curriculum and Instructional Design, and more.

  • Tuition per year: $50,980
  • Graduation rate: 74%

25. University of San Francisco

The University of San Francisco is one of the top private institutions in the Bay Area. Its graduate school offers several highly ranked programs. These programs range from Applied Economics to Catholic Education Leadership.

  • Tuition per year: $50,282
  • Graduation rate: 71%

26. Occidental College

Occidental College is the leading liberal arts college in Los Angeles. Its small but highly rated graduate school offers a Master’s in Biology. The quality of the college’s research and faculty make Occidental one of the top graduate schools in California for biology students.

  • Tuition per year: $56,576
  • Graduation rate: 81%

Our Ranking Methodology

Each school on this list was ranked based on a rating from our proprietary formula. Our formula takes two statistics into account: yearly tuition rate and graduation rate. Many of the institutions on this list are public and charge different tuition rates for resident students than they do for non-resident students. If this was the case for a specific school, we only looked at that school’s resident tuition rate. After determining the correct tuition rate, we added a multiplier equivalent to the percentage of enrolled students who did not end up with a degree. Example: University A has a yearly tuition rate of $20,000 and a graduation rate of 70%. Our formula would give this school a rating of 26,000 (20,000 x 130%). Schools with lower ratings will have better rankings.

If you’re looking for the best graduate schools in California, our services will help you find the perfect program.

Representatives of the schools on this list can contact us with any questions or corrections they may have.

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