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2021 Best Colleges in California by Salary Score

By the GradReports team | Updated 3/1/2021

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.

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Salary Scores based on data reported by the U.S. Department of Education
Rank School Location Annual Tuition Salary Score
#1 #1 Santa Clara University Santa Clara Santa Clara $51,711 98.23
#2 #2 Stanford University Stanford Stanford $51,354 97.52
#3 #3 Dominican University of California San Rafael San Rafael $45,850 97.21
#4 #4 University of California - Berkeley Berkeley Berkeley $14,184 93.80
#5 #5 University of Southern California Los Angeles Los Angeles $56,225 92.85
#6 #6 University of San Francisco San Francisco San Francisco $48,066 92.74
#7 #7 California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo San Luis Obispo San Luis Obispo $9,816 90.16
#8 #8 California State University-East Bay Hayward Hayward $6,983 88.36
#9 #9 Pepperdine University Malibu Malibu $53,932 88.00
#10 #10 National University La Jolla La Jolla $13,320 87.96
#11 #11 San Jose State University San Jose San Jose $7,796 87.70
#12 #12 Saint Mary's College of California Moraga Moraga $47,280 85.77
#13 #13 University of San Diego San Diego San Diego $49,358 83.62
#14 #14 Mount Saint Mary's University - CA Los Angeles Los Angeles $41,170 81.70
#15 #15 Chapman University Orange Orange $52,724 78.93
#16 #16 Sonoma State University Rohnert Park Rohnert Park $7,798 75.93
#17 #17 San Francisco State University San Francisco San Francisco $7,260 75.27
#18 #18 Azusa Pacific University Azusa Azusa $38,880 71.40
#19 #19 Loyola Marymount University Los Angeles Los Angeles $48,522 70.71
#20 #20 Concordia University-Irvine Irvine Irvine $35,400 68.97
#21 #21 California State University-Sacramento Sacramento Sacramento $7,310 68.08
#22 #22 University of Redlands Redlands Redlands $49,504 67.62
#23 #23 University of the Pacific Stockton Stockton $48,164 66.20
#24 #24 California Lutheran University Thousand Oaks (and 2 others) Thousand Oaks (and 2 others) $42,692 64.84
#25 #25 University of California-Santa Barbara Santa Barbara Santa Barbara $14,391 64.17

2021 Best Colleges in California Highlights

Santa Clara
Salary Score 98.23
Annual Tuition $51,711
Graduation Rate 91%

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.

School Overview

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.

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Salary Score 97.52
Annual Tuition $51,354
Graduation Rate 94%

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.

School Overview

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.

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Salary Score 97.21
Annual Tuition $45,850
Graduation Rate 72%

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).

School Overview

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.

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