California’s Best Graduate Schools of 2021

Graduate school may be a critical step in your higher education, whether you are interested in expanding your knowledge, learning a specialization, or earning advanced credentials required by your profession. The best graduate schools in California offer advanced degrees, such as master’s and doctoral degrees, as well as opportunities for independent research, mentorships, and professional networking.

California’s Best Graduate Schools of 2021

Colleges and Universities in California

California’s higher education institutes span across the entire state, allowing students to study by the beach, in the forest, in small towns, and in large cities. The largest university, the University of California, Los Angeles, serves nearly 44,000 students and offers a tuition rate around $13,000. This isn’t the only school with a large student body though. California is home to 23 colleges and universities with student populations of over 20,000 students.

Find college admissions consultants in your state.

However, more than half of the state’s schools serve smaller student populations, offering plenty of options for students who crave a more intimate campus experience. Additionally, California boasts 50 religiously affiliated schools. Many of these schools have high graduation rates, though tuition costs can range greatly, from $8,000 at Bethesda University up to $54,000 at Pepperdine University.

Additionally, many of California’s colleges and universities boast influential faculty and alumni, including Neil Armstrong, Jerry Lewis, and Weird Al Yankovic. In addition to famous alumni and professors, California’s schools are also home to some of the country’s top degree programs, including nursing, business, religious studies, education, literature, and law.

Though Hollywood has given an inside look into California’s most popular landmarks and attractions, these one-of-a-kind places aren’t the only reason people flock to The Golden State. With hundreds of colleges and universities to choose from, students have countless opportunities to further their education in California.

To learn more about earning your degree in California, check out some of the state’s top programs and career paths.

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What are California’s Colleges & Universities?

California’s Best Overall


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There are 97 graduate schools in California. The list below of the 25 best graduate schools in the state is composed of both private and public schools that satisfy the following three conditions:

  1. It must be a non-profit institution.
  2. It must be fully accredited.
  3. It must offer doctoral degrees and a broad array of graduate degrees.

How do we determine California's best graduate schools?

The people affiliated with a school are ultimately what make it great. This is why influence gets at the heart of what is truly best in education. At the undergraduate level, the best colleges and universities are those with the highest concentration of influence. Our Concentrated Influence metric adjusts overall influence by size of undergraduate student body, thus allowing smaller schools to compete with larger schools so long as they have proportionately as strong influential faculty and alums.

But at the graduate level, the combined influence score of a college or university’s top academic influencers is the best indicator of academic excellence. Overall influence, and not influence controlled by other variables, thus becomes the best gauge of academic excellence at the graduate level. Where smaller size is an advantage at the undergraduate level (hence Concentrated Influence), graduate studies benefit from a large and vibrant community of graduate students, who promise to become the new generation of academic influencers.

If you are serious about finding the best graduate schools, you should be asking where the most influential professors are teaching, and whether their graduates themselves are advancing the school’s reputation for academic excellence. Most ranking sites rely on an opaque combination of reputation surveys and arbitrary performance metrics. Influence, as measured by our InfluenceRanking engine, provides a ranking that is free from bias, insulated from manipulation, and reflective of real-world educational outcomes.

Find out more about our methodology here.

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Best Grad Schools in California

  1. #1

    Stanford University

    #10 institution's historical influence
    #1 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $54K

    Acceptance

    5%

    Graduation

    95%

    Student body

    15K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1505/33

    Stanford, CA

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    What is Stanford University known for?

    Stanford University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Computer Science
    • Biology
    • Engineering
    • Business
    • Mathematics
    • Psychology
    • Economics
    • Law
    • Literature
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

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  2. #2

    University of California, Berkeley

    #6 institution's historical influence
    #29 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    17%

    Graduation

    92%

    Student body

    42K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1430/33

    Berkeley, CA

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    What is University of California, Berkeley known for?

    University of California, Berkeley’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    • Biology
    • Engineering
    • Physics
    • Literature
    • Philosophy
    • Economics
    • Chemistry
    • Business

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. #3

    University of California, Los Angeles

    #20 institution's historical influence
    #31 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Acceptance

    14%

    Graduation

    91%

    Student body

    44K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1415/32

    Los Angeles, CA

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    What is University of California, Los Angeles known for?

    University of California, Los Angeles’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Philosophy
    • Mathematics
    • Biology
    • Literature
    • Computer Science
    • Medical
    • Business
    • Engineering
    • Psychology
    • Law

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. #4

    University of California, San Diego

    #51 institution's historical influence
    #71 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    37%

    Graduation

    87%

    Student body

    38K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1370/30

    La Jolla, CA

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    What is University of California, San Diego known for?

    University of California, San Diego’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Biology
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    • Physics
    • Engineering
    • Medical
    • Psychology
    • Literature
    • Chemistry
    • Philosophy

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. #5

    University of Southern California

    #31 institution's historical influence
    #30 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $58K

    Acceptance

    16%

    Graduation

    92%

    Student body

    40K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1445/32

    Los Angeles, CA

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    What is University of Southern California known for?

    University of Southern California’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Engineering
    • Medical
    • Computer Science
    • Literature
    • Biology
    • Education
    • Law
    • Political Science
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. #6

    California Institute of Technology

    #29 institution's historical influence
    #9 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $55K

    Acceptance

    7%

    Graduation

    92%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1545/35

    Pasadena, CA

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    What is California Institute of Technology known for?

    California Institute of Technology’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Physics
    • Biology
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    • Engineering
    • Chemistry
    • Business
    • Literature
    • Economics
    • Earth Sciences

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. #7

    University of California, Santa Barbara

    #103 institution's historical influence
    #100 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    37%

    Graduation

    84%

    Student body

    26K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1355/30

    Santa Barbara, CA

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    What is University of California, Santa Barbara known for?

    University of California, Santa Barbara’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Physics
    • Psychology
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Engineering
    • Chemistry
    • Computer Science
    • Literature
    • Business
    • Philosophy

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. #8

    University of California, Davis

    #129 institution's historical influence
    #163 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    46%

    Graduation

    86%

    Student body

    36K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1290/28

    Davis, CA

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    What is University of California, Davis known for?

    University of California, Davis’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Biology
    • Medical
    • Engineering
    • Literature
    • Mathematics
    • Psychology
    • Computer Science
    • Chemistry
    • Law
    • Business

    Most Influential Alumni

  9. #9

    University of California, Irvine

    #114 institution's historical influence
    #87 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    30%

    Graduation

    85%

    Student body

    37K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1295/28

    Irvine, CA

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    What is University of California, Irvine known for?

    University of California, Irvine’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Biology
    • Philosophy
    • Computer Science
    • Literature
    • Medical
    • Mathematics
    • Engineering
    • Psychology
    • Business
    • Chemistry

    Most Influential Alumni

  10. #10

    University of California, San Francisco

    #136 institution's historical influence

    Student body

    1K

    San Francisco, CA

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    What is University of California, San Francisco known for?

    University of California, San Francisco’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Biology
    • Medical
    • Engineering
    • Physics
    • Nursing
    • Sociology
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Anthropology

    Most Influential Alumni

  11. #11

    University of California, Santa Cruz

    #144 institution's historical influence
    #734 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    65%

    Graduation

    76%

    Student body

    20K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1290/29

    Santa Cruz, CA

    View profile

    What is University of California, Santa Cruz known for?

    University of California, Santa Cruz’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Biology
    • Literature
    • Philosophy
    • Physics
    • Psychology
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    • Anthropology
    • Communications
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

  12. #12

    University of California, Riverside

    #301 institution's historical influence
    #919 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    66%

    Graduation

    77%

    Student body

    24K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1230/26

    Riverside, CA

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    What is University of California, Riverside known for?

    University of California, Riverside’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Business
    • Literature
    • Engineering
    • Psychology
    • Mathematics
    • Economics
    • Physics
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

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  13. #13

    San Francisco State University

    #252 institution's historical influence
    #255 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    84%

    Graduation

    55%

    Student body

    26K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1045/20

    San Francisco, CA

    View profile

    What is San Francisco State University known for?

    San Francisco State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Business
    • Philosophy
    • Computer Science
    • Education
    • Engineering
    • Communications
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

  14. #14

    San Diego State University

    #323 institution's historical influence
    #189 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    37%

    Graduation

    76%

    Student body

    33K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1215/25

    San Diego, CA

    View profile

    What is San Diego State University known for?

    San Diego State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Business
    • Biology
    • Engineering
    • Education
    • History
    • Communications
    • Medical
    • Psychology
    • Philosophy

    Most Influential Alumni

  15. #15

    Pepperdine University

    #490 institution's historical influence
    #903 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $56K

    Acceptance

    42%

    Graduation

    89%

    Student body

    8K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1340/29

    Malibu, CA

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    What is Pepperdine University known for?

    Pepperdine University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Political Science
    • Law
    • Psychology
    • Education
    • Literature
    • Philosophy
    • History
    • Communications
    • Religious Studies

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  16. #16

    Claremont Graduate University

    #392 institution's historical influence

    Student body

    1K

    Claremont, CA

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    What is Claremont Graduate University known for?

    Claremont Graduate University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Philosophy
    • Business
    • Psychology
    • Religious Studies
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Mathematics
    • Literature
    • Economics
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

  17. #17

    Santa Clara University

    #355 institution's historical influence
    #1245 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $54K

    Acceptance

    51%

    Graduation

    92%

    Student body

    8K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1360/30

    Santa Clara, CA

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    What is Santa Clara University known for?

    Santa Clara University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Law
    • Computer Science
    • Engineering
    • Philosophy
    • Psychology
    • Political Science
    • Education
    • Mathematics
    • Religious Studies

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  18. #18

    California Institute of the Arts

    #734 institution's historical influence
    #83 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $51K

    Acceptance

    27%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    2K

    Valencia, CA

    View profile

    What is California Institute of the Arts known for?

    California Institute of the Arts’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Communications
    • Computer Science
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

  19. #19

    California State University, Long Beach

    #599 institution's historical influence
    #183 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    42%

    Graduation

    73%

    Student body

    32K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1145/23

    Long Beach, CA

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    What is California State University, Long Beach known for?

    California State University, Long Beach’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Business
    • Education
    • History
    • Engineering
    • Political Science
    • Biology
    • Communications
    • Psychology
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

  20. #21

    California State University, Los Angeles

    #561 institution's historical influence
    #865 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    76%

    Graduation

    52%

    Student body

    24K

    Median SAT/ACT

    985/17

    Los Angeles, CA

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    What is California State University, Los Angeles known for?

    California State University, Los Angeles’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Mathematics
    • Philosophy
    • Psychology
    • History
    • Medical
    • Engineering
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

  21. #22

    Loyola Marymount University

    #698 institution's historical influence
    #1202 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $50K

    Acceptance

    50%

    Graduation

    83%

    Student body

    8K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1320/29

    Los Angeles, CA

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    What is Loyola Marymount University known for?

    Loyola Marymount University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Law
    • Education
    • Business
    • Engineering
    • Political Science
    • Philosophy
    • History
    • Medical
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  22. #23

    University of California, Merced

    #1623 institution's historical influence
    #275 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    85%

    Graduation

    69%

    Student body

    9K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1090/22

    Merced, CA

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    What is University of California, Merced known for?

    University of California, Merced’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Engineering
    • Computer Science
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Medical
    • Business
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • Chemistry
    • Physics

    Most Influential Alumni

  23. #24

    University of San Francisco

    #397 institution's historical influence
    #339 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $50K

    Acceptance

    70%

    Graduation

    71%

    Student body

    10K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1230/26

    San Francisco, CA

    View profile

    What is University of San Francisco known for?

    University of San Francisco’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Law
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • Education
    • Literature
    • Mathematics
    • History
    • Communications
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  24. #25

    Chapman University

    #687 institution's historical influence
    #1410 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $55K

    Acceptance

    58%

    Graduation

    80%

    Student body

    9K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1285/28

    Orange, CA

    View profile

    What is Chapman University known for?

    Chapman University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Law
    • Economics
    • Literature
    • Education
    • Philosophy
    • Computer Science
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Engineering

    Most Influential Alumni

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