Best Research Universities in California 2022

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.

Best Research Universities in California 2022

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. There are over 30 high quality online degrees programs that would literally allow you to study from anywhere in California, or the world. 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! 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 in their fields of study.

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

To rank the influence of schools, we first determine the influence of scholars and professionals based on the number of citations and publications they have had over the past 10 years. In addition to publications and citations, we consider the web links to and from these sources, and the page views of those sources. We then match the influential people to their alma maters and institutions of employment, so that their influence is attributed to those schools. Our machine-learning Influence Ranking algorithm produces a numerical score of academic achievements, merits, and citations across Wikipedia, wikidata, Crossref, Semantic Scholar and an ever-growing body of data. If you are interested in exploring how and why we rank by influence, explore our methodology in more depth.

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. We’ve identified 29 research universities in California. To be included in our ranking, schools must be a fully accredited universities and must must offer doctoral degrees across the range of STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math).

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Best Research Universities in California 2022

  1. #1

    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
    • Business
    • Psychology
    • Engineering
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Law
    • Education
    • Mathematics
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  2. 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:

    • Chemistry
    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science
    • Physics
    • Engineering
    • Literature
    • Communications
    • Anthropology
    • Sociology
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. 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
    • Nursing
    • Anthropology
    • Chemistry
    • Sociology
    • Earth Sciences
    • Social Work
    • Mathematics
    • Medical
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. #4

    University of Southern California

    Los Angeles , CA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $62K

    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:

    • Social Work
    • Business
    • Engineering
    • Education
    • Criminal Justice
    • Political Science
    • Computer Science
    • Law
    • Communications
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $59K

    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:

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. Other Rankings

    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
    • Anthropology
    • Sociology
    • Earth Sciences
    • Psychology
    • Chemistry
    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science
    • Engineering
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. Other Rankings

    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:

    • Philosophy
    • Computer Science
    • Anthropology
    • Literature
    • Sociology
    • Chemistry
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Earth Sciences
    • Physics

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. Other Rankings

    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
    • Criminal Justice
    • Earth Sciences
    • Chemistry
    • Sociology
    • Economics
    • Anthropology
    • Mathematics
    • Medical
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  9. Other Rankings

    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:

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  10. 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:

    • Sociology
    • Earth Sciences
    • Chemistry
    • Biology
    • Physics
    • Psychology
    • Anthropology
    • Economics
    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  11. #12

    Santa Clara University

    Santa Clara , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $56K

    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:

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

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  12. #13

    San Diego State University

    San Diego , CA

    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:

    • Communications
    • Anthropology
    • Social Work
    • Earth Sciences
    • Sociology
    • Literature
    • Business
    • History
    • Education
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  13. #14

    University of San Francisco

    San Francisco , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $53K

    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
    • Nursing
    • Communications
    • Psychology
    • History
    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science
    • Philosophy

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  14. #15

    Pepperdine University

    Malibu , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $60K

    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:

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

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  15. #16

    Chapman University

    Orange , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $59K

    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:

    • Economics
    • Physics
    • Sociology
    • Philosophy
    • Law
    • Psychology
    • Literature
    • Education
    • Business
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  16. #17

    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
    • Chemistry
    • Engineering
    • History
    • Sociology
    • Nursing
    • Mathematics
    • Philosophy
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

  17. #18

    University of the Pacific

    Stockton , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $52K

    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
    • Political Science
    • Chemistry
    • Engineering
    • Earth Sciences
    • History
    • Education
    • Communications
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

  18. #19

    Loyola Marymount University

    Los Angeles , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $54K

    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
    • Philosophy
    • Education
    • Engineering
    • Psychology
    • Business
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

  19. #20

    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
    • Psychology
    • Anthropology
    • Literature
    • Communications
    • Education
    • History
    • Business
    • Chemistry

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  20. 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:

    • Physics
    • Anthropology
    • Engineering
    • Chemistry
    • Computer Science
    • Economics
    • Earth Sciences
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  21. #22

    Azusa Pacific University

    Azusa , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $42K

    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
    • Nursing
    • Psychology
    • Philosophy
    • Education
    • Communications
    • Literature
    • Sociology
    • Political Science
    • Business

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  22. #23

    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:

    • Law
    • Political Science
    • Mathematics
    • History
    • Psychology
    • Business
    • Anthropology
    • Philosophy
    • Education
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

  23. #24

    Northcentral University

    La Jolla , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Student body

    7K

    What is Northcentral University known for?

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

    • Psychology
    • Political Science
    • Business
    • Law
    • Criminal Justice
    • Social Work
    • Education
    • Computer Science
    • Nursing
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

  24. Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Acceptance

    95%

    Graduation

    8%

    Student body

    8K

    What is University of Massachusetts Global known for?

    University of Massachusetts Global’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Social Work
    • Nursing
    • Computer Science
    • Law
    • Psychology
    • Medical
    • Business
    • Sociology
    • Political Science
    • Education
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Find the Best Research Universities in California for Your Area of Interest

Frequently Asked Questions About Research Universities, Liberal Arts Colleges, Online Colleges

In pursuing a bachelor’s degree, you will need to choose between three kinds of schools: research universities, liberal arts colleges, and online colleges.

Research universities are colleges and universities whose faculty are active in research and publishing. These schools offer a wide array of doctoral programs, especially in the sciences. They tend to be big, with tens of thousands of students.

Do you prefer a larger university setting, such as largest public university in your state? Research universities are typically big, offering degrees in many different disciplines. Is a big high-powered research environment the thing for you. If not, you should think about a liberal arts college. In deciding on an undergraduate institution, ask yourself what sort of environment will best help you to be happy and excel.

  • Consider whether you are self motivated enough to be a face in the crowd for some classes and largely unknown on campus at a large university. Of course you can find clubs and friends at a large university, but often liberal arts colleges have a more personal quality to them. If you want the community feel, a research university may not fit you well.
  • Are you interested in STEM fields? Research universities have that name for a reason – real research is happening there. This can create an exciting atmosphere for students interested in STEM. Attending a research university can give you a better chance of getting into better programs for graduate degrees, although a lot of that depends on your performance.
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Often referred to as “teaching colleges” liberal arts colleges put a premium on undergraduate studies and offers a broad range of subjects for students to study. A college of liberal arts typically provides smaller class sizes, more direct engagement with professors, and, most importantly, the opportunity to sample a wide range of subject areas on the way to a bachelor’s degree.

  • Do you want your professors to know you? Liberal arts colleges strive to cultivate campus cultures that encourage tight bonds between professors and students. Professors at these schools will typically conduct original research. Yet the best of these schools offer their faculty reduced teaching loads so that they can both be productive researchers and still have plenty of time for students (both in and outside the classroom).
  • Do you want to feel like you know everybody? One of the most enticing features of a liberal arts college is that in very little time, you can feel like you know who’s who, which can create strong friendships, but also more pleasurable walks across campus. While your sports teams may never be on ESPN, it’s more likely that you’ll know the athletes as your peers. Beyond student and faculty relationships, it’s not unusual for the school president and other administrators to learn who you are. When faced with problems with your student account or the need to switch classes, this can be comforting during a stressful moment.
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Online colleges are typically the same colleges and universities you could attend in-person, but for certain degree programs the college or unviersity has made the degree programs available to be completed online. For over 5 million students, online degree programs allow students to earn their degrees in the most flexible format available. Online degrees are as respected as the on-campus degress you could earn from the same schools. There’s usually no disctinction between the two degrees, and your degree and transcript will not say that the degree was earned online. Online degree programs are offered by a vast majority of colleges and universities, and the number of offering continues to grow. Whehter you are searching for an associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate, there’s a good chance you can earn your degree online from a respectable online college.

  • Are you a self-driven student? Perhaps the hardest aspect of obtaining an online degree is whether you will be disciplined enough to manage your time and course demands. Many online students report that online college made them more disciplined in all areas of their lives, but the flexible, self-paced learning that makes online colleges attractive can often be the same qualities that make it difficult. If you tend to be a procrastinator, you need to be honest with yourself. You can change your habits and propensities, or you can throw money down the drain.
  • Do you need the flexibility of an online degree program? Most online students study online because of time demands balancing work and life, or becuase the online colleges afford them the chance to attend a better school without moving. If you are serious about earning your degree for career advancement, online colleges make it possible. The most flexible options among online degrees are those that are aynchronous, meaning you don’t have scheduled times to meet with your class online. However, many students seek synchronous online degree programs so that they have some structure – set meeting times, scheduled exams, etc.
  • The good news is that attending an online college doesn’t mean you will miss out on getting to know your professors and classmates. In fact, many online students who have experienced both online and on-campus courses report having easier access to their professors. Since most communication with your professor is expected to be in text – via email or your class learning management system – it makes asking your questions easier. The same students also report that they got to better know the thoughts of their classmates. While in-person course conversations can be dominated by a few extroverts, online courses that require online discussions make it so that you see all of your classmates’ thoughts and questions.

If you interested in an online bachelor’s degree, check out what the best online colleges offer, or search our online degrees for the exact program that interests you. In either case, you will find well respected colleges and universities that offer online degrees.

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Resources for College-Bound Students

2021 Ranking Archive

Many of our 2022 undergraduate focused rankings look considerably different than 2021. That’s because we took a fundamentally different apporach. For 2021 we utiulized our Concentrated Influence algorithm, designed to take away the size advantage larger schools have when we rank their faculty and alumni’s academic influence. Concentrated influence highlights smaller schools that are proportionally as successful as larger universities at cultivating influential alumni and faculty.

  1. California Institute of Technology
  2. Stanford University
  3. University of California, Berkeley
  4. University of Southern California
  5. University of California, Los Angeles
  6. University of California, San Diego
  7. Pepperdine University
  8. University of California, Santa Barbara
  9. University of California, Santa Cruz
  10. Santa Clara University
  11. University of California, Davis
  12. University of California, Irvine
  13. University of California, Riverside
  14. Loyola Marymount University
  15. University of California, Merced
  16. University of San Diego
  17. Chapman University
  18. University of San Francisco
  19. Biola University
  20. University of the Pacific
  21. San Diego State University
  22. Azusa Pacific University
  23. University of Massachusetts Global
  24. California State University, Fresno
  25. University of La Verne