2021 Best Colleges in California by Salary Score
We ranked the top 25 colleges in California based on their bachelor's degree Salary Scores. We compared the median alumni earnings in the first year after graduation for each major at a college to alumni earnings for the same major across all colleges. Program scores are then combined to provide an overall score at the bachelor's level for each college. A higher score indicates that as a whole, graduates at that school earn more than graduates at other colleges. Four of the top five ranked schools in California are in the San Francisco Bay Area, and two of these (Stanford University and Dominican University of California) also rank in the top 10 of our Best Colleges in the U.S. list. All 25 schools on the list are in the top 40 percent of schools nationwide.
To be considered for our state rankings, schools must offer and provide data for at least 8 bachelor's programs. You can click on a school's name to view individual program scores. Read our methodology to learn more about how schools were ranked.
|Rank||School||Annual Tuition||Salary Score|
|#1||Santa Clara University Santa Clara||Santa Clara||$53,634||98.23|
|#2||Stanford University Stanford||Stanford||$53,529||97.52|
|#3||Dominican University of California San Rafael||San Rafael||$46,940||97.21|
|#4||University of California - Berkeley Berkeley||Berkeley||$14,253||93.80|
|#5||University of Southern California Los Angeles||Los Angeles||$58,195||92.85|
|#6||University of San Francisco San Francisco||San Francisco||$50,282||92.74|
|#7||California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo San Luis Obispo||San Luis Obispo||$9,943||90.16|
|#8||California State University - East Bay Hayward||Hayward||$7,000||88.36|
|#9||Pepperdine University Malibu||Malibu||$55,892||88.00|
|#10||National University La Jolla||La Jolla||$13,320||87.96|
|#11||San Jose State University San Jose||San Jose||$7,852||87.70|
|#12||Saint Mary's College of California Moraga||Moraga||$49,188||85.77|
|#13||University of San Diego San Diego||San Diego||$51,186||83.62|
|#14||Mount Saint Mary's University - CA Los Angeles||Los Angeles||$42,792||81.70|
|#15||Chapman University Orange||Orange||$54,924||78.93|
|#16||Sonoma State University Rohnert Park||Rohnert Park||$7,880||75.93|
|#17||San Francisco State University San Francisco||San Francisco||$7,266||75.27|
|#18||Azusa Pacific University Azusa||Azusa||$40,220||71.40|
|#19||Loyola Marymount University Los Angeles||Los Angeles||$50,683||70.71|
|#20||Concordia University - Irvine Irvine||Irvine||$36,740||68.97|
|#21||California State University-Sacramento Sacramento||Sacramento||$7,368||68.08|
|#22||University of Redlands Redlands||Redlands||$50,980||67.62|
|#23||University of the Pacific Stockton||Stockton||$49,588||66.20|
|#24||California Lutheran University Thousand Oaks (and 2 others)||Thousand Oaks (and 2 others)||$44,382||64.84|
|#25||University of California-Santa Barbara Santa Barbara||Santa Barbara||$14,391||64.17|
2021 Best Colleges in California Highlights
Santa Clara University (SCU) offers 19 undergraduate programs that have Salary Scores of 75 or higher, including six fields with a score of 100: accounting, civil engineering, communication and media studies, history, psychology, and sociology. Graduates of these six programs are likely to earn higher wages than alumni of similar programs elsewhere. The top-earning majors are mathematics and computer science, with a median annual salary of $93,080, and computer engineering, with a median salary of $90,150.
SCU is a medium-sized private university affiliated with the Catholic Church. The campus is located in the middle of Silicon Valley, close to San Francisco and high-profile companies such as Apple and Google. SCU offers students immersion opportunities during spring and winter breaks to perform service at sites such as New Orleans and the U.S.-Mexico border. The REAL Program, offered through the College of Arts and Sciences, offers up to $5,000 to undergraduate students to support a research endeavor, internship, or creative project.
Six bachelor’s programs at Stanford University hold a Salary Score of 100, meaning that alumni from these programs earn higher median salaries than graduates from like programs at other schools. These top-scoring programs include biology, computer science, psychology, international relations and national security studies, ethnic and gender studies, and electrical and communications engineering. Stanford’s engineering programs are strong overall; mechanical engineering degrees have a Salary Score of 98, and all other engineering-related fields score a 99. Graduates with a computer science major have the highest reported earnings, with a median annual salary of $147,860.
Established in 1891, Stanford University is a medium-sized private institution with approximately 7,000 undergraduate students and a 5:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Stanford’s need-based financial aid program provides full-tuition coverage for families with an annual income of $150,000 or less, and tuition, room, and board coverage for families making under $65,000. As such, 85% of Stanford’s graduates finish their education without any student debt. Study-abroad opportunities are available through the Bing Overseas Studies Program, with affiliated program options in Cape Town, Berlin, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Madrid, Oxford, and Paris, among others.
The nursing degrees at Dominican University of California are the school's highest-earning undergraduate programs, with alumni making a median annual salary of $97,740. With a Salary Score of 100, nursing is also one of the highest scoring programs; psychology, and political science and government also score 100. Other strong undergraduate fields at Dominican include general biology (97) and business administration, management, and operations (95).
Dominican University of California is a private school located in San Rafael, just 12 miles north of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. The school has a small student body, with an undergraduate enrollment of 1,460. Through the Dominican Experience, all students receive one-on-one coaching, build a digital portfolio, engage in community service, and develop “signature work” in the form of structured research, writing, or a project. About 99% of Dominican students receive financial aid; first-time undergraduate students are automatically considered for institutional merit-based scholarships of up to $25,000 a year.