California’s Best Research Universities of 2021

Interested in attending a STEM school in California? Our ranking of top research universities for bachelor’s degrees displays schools that will best prepare you for STEM careers.

California’s Best Research Universities 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.

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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.


What are California’s Colleges & Universities?

California’s Best Overall

Related: Differences between research universities and teaching colleges

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How do we determine California's best colleges and universities?

Methodology

The people affiliated with a school are ultimately what make it great. This is why, at the undergraduate level, we rank the best colleges and universities based on what we call “Concentrated Influence”. Concentrated Influence takes the combined influence score of a college or university’s top academic influencers (including faculty and alums) and divides it by the school’s total number of undergraduates.

Using concentrated influence gives small and mid-sized schools an opportunity to shine by taking away the size advantage of larger universities. A small school with proportionately more influential faculty than a large school, whose influence in absolute terms may be bigger, will nonetheless score higher in a concentrated influence ranking. Our approach highlights undergraduate schools that truly rank for excellence, regardless of size.

If you are serious about finding the best colleges and universities for a bachelor’s degree, you should be asking where the most influential professors are teaching and whether their graduates are themselves advancing the school’s reputation for academic excellence.

Most ranking sites rely on an opaque combination of reputation surveys and arbitrary performance metrics. Concentrated Influence provides a ranking that is free from bias, insulated from manipulation, and reflective of real-world educational outcomes.


California’s Best Research Universities for Undergraduates

A research university is a great option for students interested in obtaining STEM degrees. Research universities invest heavily in research, which consequently provides meaningful and extensive opportunities for its students and faculty to participate in research. There are 30 research universities in California. The list below of the 25 best research universities in the state satisfies the following three conditions:

  1. It must be a fully accredited university.
  2. It must offer doctoral degrees across the range of STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math).
  3. It must report high levels of research activity based upon the number of research and/or practice doctorates awarded each year.

  1. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $57K

    Acceptance

    7%

    Graduation

    92%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1545/35

    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

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  2. #2

    Stanford University

    Stanford , CA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $56K

    Acceptance

    5%

    Graduation

    95%

    Student body

    15K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1505/33

    What is Stanford University known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

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  3. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    17%

    Graduation

    92%

    Student body

    43K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1430/33

    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
    • Philosophy
    • Literature
    • Economics
    • Chemistry
    • Business

    Most Influential Alumni

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  4. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $60K

    Acceptance

    16%

    Graduation

    92%

    Student body

    40K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1445/32

    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
    • Biology
    • Literature
    • Education
    • Law
    • Political Science
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

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  5. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Acceptance

    14%

    Graduation

    91%

    Student body

    45K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1415/32

    What is University of California, Los Angeles known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

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  6. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $15K

    Acceptance

    37%

    Graduation

    87%

    Student body

    39K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1370/30

    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
    • Medical
    • Physics
    • Engineering
    • Chemistry
    • Psychology
    • Philosophy
    • Literature

    Most Influential Alumni

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  7. Tuition + fees

    $58K

    Acceptance

    42%

    Graduation

    89%

    Student body

    9K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1340/29

    What is Pepperdine University known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

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  8. Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    37%

    Graduation

    84%

    Student body

    27K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1355/30

    What is University of California, Santa Barbara known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

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  9. Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    65%

    Graduation

    76%

    Student body

    20K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1290/29

    What is University of California, Santa Cruz known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

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  10. #10

    Santa Clara University

    Santa Clara , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $53K

    Acceptance

    51%

    Graduation

    92%

    Student body

    8K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1360/30

    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
    • Mathematics
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Religious Studies

    Most Influential Alumni

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  11. Tuition + fees

    $15K

    Acceptance

    46%

    Graduation

    86%

    Student body

    37K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1290/28

    What is University of California, Davis known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  12. Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    30%

    Graduation

    85%

    Student body

    38K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1295/28

    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
    • Engineering
    • Mathematics
    • Chemistry
    • Psychology
    • Physics

    Most Influential Alumni

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  13. Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    66%

    Graduation

    77%

    Student body

    25K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1230/26

    What is University of California, Riverside known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

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  14. #14

    Loyola Marymount University

    Los Angeles , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $53K

    Acceptance

    50%

    Graduation

    83%

    Student body

    9K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1320/29

    What is Loyola Marymount University known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

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  15. Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    85%

    Graduation

    69%

    Student body

    9K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1090/22

    What is University of California, Merced known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  16. #16

    University of San Diego

    San Diego , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $53K

    Acceptance

    59%

    Graduation

    80%

    Student body

    8K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1280/28

    What is University of San Diego known for?

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

    • Business
    • Law
    • Education
    • Engineering
    • Medical
    • History
    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • Philosophy
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  17. #17

    Chapman University

    Orange , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $57K

    Acceptance

    58%

    Graduation

    80%

    Student body

    9K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1285/28

    What is Chapman University known for?

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

    • Business
    • Economics
    • Law
    • Literature
    • Education
    • Philosophy
    • Physics
    • Psychology
    • Computer Science
    • Political Science
    REQUEST INFO
  18. #18

    University of San Francisco

    San Francisco , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $52K

    Acceptance

    70%

    Graduation

    71%

    Student body

    10K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1230/26

    What is University of San Francisco known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  19. #19

    Biola University

    La Mirada , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $44K

    Acceptance

    64%

    Graduation

    71%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1195/24

    What is Biola University known for?

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

    • Religious Studies
    • Philosophy
    • Education
    • Business
    • Literature
    • Psychology
    • Communications
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Medical
    REQUEST INFO
  20. Tuition + fees

    $51K

    Acceptance

    71%

    Graduation

    70%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1240/27

    What is University of the Pacific known for?

    University of the Pacific ’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

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

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  21. Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    37%

    Graduation

    76%

    Student body

    34K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1215/25

    What is San Diego State University known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  22. Tuition + fees

    $41K

    Acceptance

    94%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    9K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1145/23

    What is Azusa Pacific University known for?

    Azusa Pacific University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

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

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  23. #23

    Brandman University

    Irvine , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Acceptance

    95%

    Graduation

    8%

    Student body

    8K

    What is Brandman University known for?

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

    • Education
    • Business
    • Computer Science
    • Political Science
    • Nursing
    • Social Work
    • Psychology
    • Law
    • Medical
    • Criminal Justice
    REQUEST INFO
  24. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    90%

    Graduation

    58%

    Student body

    21K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1035/19

    What is California State University, Fresno known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  25. #25

    University of La Verne

    La Verne , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $46K

    Acceptance

    76%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    6K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1115/21

    What is University of La Verne known for?

    University of La Verne’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Law
    • Business
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Psychology
    • Mathematics
    • Medical
    • Philosophy
    • Religious Studies

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO

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