Best PhD programs in California in 2021

June 9, 2021 | Staff Writers

PhD Programs in California
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Why Choose PhD Programs in California?

Like in any state, choosing a PhD is done because you are passionate about your field and a specific subject. PhD students use research time to make discoveries in their field and to focus on their own research. Programs in California are available online, in hybrid formats and in person, so students choose to learn the way they learn best.

Choosing PhD Programs in California

There are many excellent schools in California that offer PhD programs. Most PhD programs can be completed in between two and six years, and graduates earn around 26% more than others who did not attend college or university at all. Depending on the PhD, it could be highly lucrative to complete a post-graduate program.

The following are 14 schools that offer PhD programs in California. These schools are among the best in the state and offer excellent PhD options for students looking to move forward with their post-graduate studies.

The Top 14 Schools for a PhD Programs in California

1. Concordia University Irvine

Concordia University Irvine offers online doctorate programs as well as in-person programs. Synchronous program styles allow online learners to work at the same time as in-class classmates. Students have the option of meeting in-person in Irvine or at satellite campuses.

  • Tuition (in-state): $7,953
  • Enrollment: 3,911

2. Trident University International

Trident University International offers completely online courses for doctorate programs. Students still need to complete dissertations and oral defenses of their doctoral degrees. The school offers the Higher One TuitionPay program, so tuition rates are broken down into smaller payments without interest.

  • Tuition (in-state): $6,120
  • Enrollment: 7,298

3. Southern California Seminary

Southern California Seminary has eight post-graduate programs available online, one of which includes the Doctor of Ministry, which is a hybrid program. The courses are flexible and start every seven weeks for new students.

  • Tuition (in-state): $15,588
  • Enrollment: 176

4. Point Loma Nazarene University

At Point Loma Nazarene University, students can take graduate programs online and through hybrid program options. The school offers a unique doctorate of nursing in a hybrid format as well as others. The school is a Christian faith-based university with a small 14-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio.

  • Tuition (in-state): $11,880
  • Enrollment: 4,567

5. California Institute of Integral Studies

At CIIS you will join a community of activists and scholars, learn from renowned faculty, train in award-winning clinics, and leave career-ready. CIIS opens doors to a life inspired through 25 degrees and certificates in things that matter.

Their programs combine rigorous scholarship with experiential training through the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Each department is grounded in historical context and contemporary research. Courses are taught in a way that honors exploration and discussion of social, cultural, and spiritual issues.

Many of their faculty members co-founded their fields, and they are committed to educating tomorrow’s psychotherapists, scholar-activists, thought leaders, and wellness practitioners.

  • They offer Doctorates in:
    • Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine
    • Anthropology and Social Change
    • Clinical Psychology
    • East-West Psychology
    • Ecology, Spirituality, and Religion
    • Human Sexuality
    • Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness
    • Transformative Studies
    • Women’s Spirituality
  • Tuition (in-state): ~$25,000 (Full Time Doctorate)
  • Enrollment: 1,550

6. Brandman University

Brandman University is a private, nonprofit institution accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) offering 90+ career paths—including degree programs, emphasis areas, credentials, and specialties across its schools of arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and health. Programs available at more than 25 campuses throughout California and Washington and online.

  • Tuition (in-state): $11,880
  • Enrollment: 10,231

7. California State University, Fullerton

California State University, Fullerton, offers online post-graduate programs in a variety of fields. Programs are available online, in a hybrid format or even in person, depending on the preferences. The university has nine colleges and departments.

  • Tuition (in-state): $7,176
  • Enrollment: 40,445

8. Loma Linda University

Loma Linda University offers doctoral degrees online and in hybrid forms. For some programs, such as those in the medical field, students will still need to participate in clinicals. Some programs are available in off-campus locations, as well.

  • Tuition (in-state): $26,880
  • Enrollment: 4,462

9. Samuel Merritt University

Samuel Merritt University has three campuses in Oakland, Sacramento and San Francisco. It offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree online, but students may also attend the different campuses for their work. Students have access to clinical experiences in over 1,000 health care facilities through the university’s programs.

  • Tuition (in-state): $51,313
  • Enrollment: 2,029

10. Azusa Pacific University

Azusa Pacific University has over 200 programs that it offers, including online doctoral degrees. On-campus courses are available, so students can choose to come to class or work online as needed. Online courses allow faculty and students to talk in real-time with online chat features.

  • Tuition (in-state): $17,592
  • Enrollment: 9,297

11. California Baptist University

California Baptist University Division of Online and Professional Studies (CBU Online) has more than 40 fully online and fully accredited degree programs designed for busy adults. Programs include doctoral degrees that can be completed in as little as 36 months. CBU Online has over a decade of experience in online education backed by California Baptist University’s main campus, established in 1950. Programs also are available in a hybrid format or in person.

  • Tuition (in-state): $15,600
  • Enrollment: 11,317

12. Loyola Marymount University

Loyola Marymount University is located in Los Angeles and has 2,200 graduate students, on average. It offers three doctoral degree programs and has been recognized as being a top producer of Fulbright student scholars.

  • Tuition (in-state): $18,606
  • Enrollment: 9,822

13. Pepperdine University

Pepperdine University is a Christian institution that offers online doctoral degree options. The majority of the time, these programs offer a hybrid experience, requiring at least some in-person coursework. The school has six campuses across California.

  • Tuition (in-state): $34,900
  • Enrollment: 8,824

14. University of Southern California

The University of Southern California has online professional and graduate programs as well as those on campus. Students can select from hundreds of programs online or on campus, making it easy to get the right degree program. The majority of courses have flexible scheduling for working professionals.

  • Tuition (in-state): $46,272
  • Enrollment: 48,321

Ranking Specifications

The schools listed in this article were ranked based on total tuition costs and enrollment. Lower tuition and enrollment rates were scored higher, while high tuition or high enrollment resulted in lower scores. The two scores were added and then ranked from best to worst, creating the list above.

The list contains information that is subject to change. It is not guaranteed.

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