Online Colleges in California

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Become Team
Updated November 10, 2021 is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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California boasts the fifth-largest economy in the world, outpacing advanced countries such as the U.K. and France. In Silicon Valley, major technology companies change the world with their inventions, while in Los Angeles, the entertainment industry produces the films and television series people all around the world enjoy. To enter this thriving economy, consider earning your degree from one of the best online colleges in California.

In this article, you can learn much about California's job outlook and thriving professions. You can also examine average tuition rates at California's two- and four-year colleges and discover how studying as an out-of-state student may impact how much you pay for your degree. This article includes 10 scholarships exclusive to either California residents or students earning their degrees in California. The last section features five resources that can help you make your online college experience a success.

Job Outlook for Students with College Degrees in California

Those who graduate from top accredited colleges in California find work at some of the highest paying jobs in the state. The state's top nine paying professions relate to medicine; professionals can earn an annual mean wage between $215,000 and $284,000 per year in these careers. Computer and information systems managers earn nearly $175,000 per year. These lucrative jobs require, at a minimum, a bachelor's from an accredited online college in California. For students who need a master's or doctoral degree to achieve their career goals, the best online colleges in California offer these programs, as well.

For job seekers without a college degree, many job opportunities exist, but they do not necessarily pay well considering the state's high cost of living. The state's top three positions that do not require degrees -- office and administrative support, sales, and food preparation -- all pay lower than $45,000 per year. In California's metropolitan areas, this salary falls far below what residents require to buy a home or raise a family. However, even for workers without a degree, California's low unemployment rate constitutes what economists call full employment.

Unemployment Rate, August 2018

California 4.1%
United States 3.8%

Source: BLS

Annual Mean Wage, May 2017

California $57,190
United States $50,620

Source: BLS

Cost of Online Colleges in California

For in-state students, earning a degree at an online college in California boasts significant savings over the U.S. average for both public two-year and four-year colleges. The rates in the table below reflect on-campus tuition. However, colleges and universities that offer online programs charge the same, and in many cases less, to their online students. Online students benefit from not paying certain fees applicable to on-campus students as well. Despite offering competitive tuition to in-state students, some affordable public schools charge higher tuition to out-of-state students. In the next section, you can learn more about how in-state students' and out-of-state students' tuition bills differ at California public colleges and universities.

Studying at a top-accredited online school conveys financial benefits no matter where you live or decide to earn your degree. For example, online students do not have to pay for on-campus housing, which can sometimes exceed local rent prices. Also, online students need not to commute to campus to attend class, so they may save money on gas, car maintenance, insurance, and/or commuter passes.

You can use the CollegeBoard link below to compare your home state's average college tuition against California's.

Average Price for In-State Tuition and Fees by Institution Type, 2018-19

  Public Two-Year Public Four-Year
California $1,430 $9,870
U.S. Average $3,660 $10,230

Source: The College Board

In-State vs. Out-of-State Tuition in California

On average, out-of-state students attending a California public college spend $5,000 more for their degrees than the average college student who attends an out-of-state school. Another way to put this figure, some out-of-state students at California colleges pay up to 300% more in tuition compared to in-state students. Online community colleges in California also follow this trend, meaning that out-of-state student may find more competitive tuition rates at private colleges or universities.

UC Berkeley, California's premier public college, uses nonresident supplemental tuition, a flat rate that discourages nonresident applicants by effectively doubling their tuition. Each public online college in California uses unique a system to determine tuition rates for its out-of-state students.

Average Tuition and Fees, 2018-19

  Public Two-Year In-State Public Four-Year Out-of-State
California $9,870 $31,360
U.S. Average $10,230 $26,290

Source: The College Board

Financial Aid in California

No matter whether you qualify for in-state or out-of-state tuition, begin your financial aid journey by submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). If you qualify for aid, you may receive federally backed grants, loans, or work-study opportunities. You do not pay back grants or the money you earn from work-study, and federal loans include low interest rates compared to those private lenders may offer you. Continue reading to learn more about loan forgiveness and tuition reimbursement, two options California students in in-demand fields use to pay for college.

Unlike other states, California's state lottery does not fund college scholarships; funding goes to K-12 schools. However, in-state and out-of-state students attending online colleges in California can lower their tuition bills through other methods. For instance, student health professionals can receive up to $50,000 in loan forgiveness if they work in a high-need area for two years; participants receive a salary during their service but do not decide where they work in California. Also, your employer may pay for your degree if you agree to continue working for him/her for a specific time period after you graduate. Major companies in California and throughout the U.S. extend this benefit to their employees.

State Grant Aid per Full-Time Equivalent Undergraduate Student, 2016-17

California $1,180
U.S. Average $820

Source: The College Board

Scholarships and Grants for California College Students

Multiple California companies, nonprofits, and other organizations award scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students. The scholarships below do not discriminate against students who earn their degrees online. Besides academic requirements, which vary among scholarships, these institutions will require you to attend a regionally accredited university. The Western Association of Schools and Colleges grants regional accreditation to California colleges and universities.

Best Majors for Online Students in California

The California state government projects that between 2016 and 2026, over 50 careers should grow more than 15%, making them excellent opportunities for professionals earning their degrees over the next few years. The five fastest-growing occupations that require a bachelor's or graduate degree include nurse practitioner, statistician, physician assistant, postsecondary health specialties teacher, and nurse anesthetist. Workers in each of these fields earn high salaries that easily exceed California's cost of living. Certificate programs in green tech prepare non-degree-seeking students for careers as solar panel installers or repairers; California projects that this career will grow 130% in the coming years.

Many online colleges in California offer RN-to-BSN programs and MSN (master of science in nursing) degrees that health workers need to advance to many of the state's top-paying jobs. Below, you can learn more about both of these programs and an additional degree path that leads to one California's highest-paying careers.


Registered nurses make some of the highest salaries in California. To excel in this profession, nurses who earned their RNs by taking online courses at California community colleges complete their bachelor's through an online program that lasts one to two years. By earning an RN-to-BSN degree, nurses make higher salaries and can apply to more open nursing positions throughout the state.


Nurse practitioners represent the nursing profession's pinnacle, and as such, they earn the highest nursing salaries in California. Like doctors, they can diagnose patients' conditions and prescribe medication. Earning an MSN requires two to three years, supervised working experience, and a concentration. MSN graduates who concentrate in anesthesiology earn, on average, more than $200,000 per year.


Some of the largest and most influential companies in the world base their headquarters in California. These companies need trained business professionals to ensure their continued success. Online MBA programs require one to two years to complete. MBA students select a concentration in areas such as supply chain management, innovation, or information technology.

Resources for Online College Students in California

Cal State Online: These value schools offer some of the cheapest four-year degrees for in-state students. Like other California public colleges, Cal State Online degrees charge a premium to out-of-state students. However, the website boasts ample financial aid information for prospective and current students.

California Student Aid Commission: A state government agency, the CSAC simplifies the financial aid process for California residents. To apply, complete the FAFSA -- or the CA Dream Act application for undocumented immigrants -- and submit high school transcripts. The application window opens on Oct. 1 and closes on Mar. 2. Some qualified applicants receive grants that cover 100% of their tuition.

FAFSA Help: The FAFSA can seem intimidating to first-time applicants. However, the FAFSA Help website includes answers to common questions. Applicants should review this resource before submitting the FAFSA, as it can stop them from making mistakes that affect their aid eligibility determinations. The main FAFSA website also features vital information on federally backed loans, grants, and work-study opportunities that help students lower their tuition bills.

University of California: UC's Additional Resources website includes essential information for prospective students exploring online programs at UC schools. Topics include admissions requirements and resources for undocumented students. The website also contains links to information regarding transfer admission, graduation requirements, and financial aid. Visitors can download quick reference guides on these topics.

Early Academic Outreach Program: The EAOP prepares California community college students to transfer their associate degrees to a bachelor's program at a University of California or a California State University (CSU) school. The website includes an academic planner, transfer planner, and a calendar detailing application due dates. Transfer students can also browse programs at UC and CSU institutions to find the online programs that match their academic interests and career goals.

Become Team
Become Team
Contributing Writer is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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