Date Updated: November 3, 2020
If California were a country, its $3.1 trillion economy would rank as the fifth-largest in the world. California business professionals can tap into major sectors of the agriculture, entertainment, technology, and manufacturing industries. Since more than one-third of those living in the nation's most populous state hold a college degree, pursuing a bachelor's in business is all but necessary to compete in California's job market.
A four-year undergraduate degree in business provides students with a broad foundation in areas like business operations, finance, and management. Students can also focus their studies on personal areas of interest such as marketing, accounting, information systems, and international business.
A bachelor's prepares California professionals for a variety of careers as human resource specialists, management analysts, and administrative services managers.
As of May 2019 in California, these opportunities provide average annual salaries of $76,200, $97,170, and $115,050, respectively, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The following guide offers an in-depth look at the benefits of obtaining a bachelor's degree in business. To help prospective students make an informed enrollment decision, we compiled the following list and detailed ranking of the 10 best business schools in California.
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10 Best Bachelor's in Business Degrees in California
|1||University of California, Berkeley||Berkeley, CA|
|2||University of California, Irvine||Irvine, CA|
|3||San Diego State University||San Diego, CA|
|4||University of California, Riverside||Riverside, CA|
|5||California State Polytechnic University, Pomona||Pomona, CA|
|6||California State University, Long Beach||Long Beach, CA|
|7||Sonoma State University||Rohnert Park, CA|
|8||California State University, East Bay||Hayward, CA|
|9||California State University, Stanislaus||Turlock, CA|
|10||University of Southern California||Los Angeles, CA|
Why Get a Business Bachelor's in California?
In the U.S., higher education involves a serious financial investment, and spending four years at a university does not always guarantee a dream job. This leaves many prospective students wondering whether getting a degree is truly worthwhile. However, learners obtain both personal and professional benefits when they pursue a bachelor's in business.
- – Career Flexibility: Business graduates possess a host of transferable skills — in management, finance, marketing, etc. — that enable them to pursue careers in virtually any industry. Motivated entrepreneurs can even start their own successful business ventures in California.
- – Earning Potential: A bachelor's degree in business does more than just satisfy entry-level employment requirements. With significant work experience and a bit of luck, graduates can eventually secure promotions to management positions that regularly bring in six-figure salaries.
- – Job Security: Employers seek out candidates with broad, well-rounded knowledge, meaning skilled business professionals are almost always in demand. Bachelor's program graduates enjoy a high rate of job security and the potential for upward mobility.
Home to some of the best business schools in the nation, California offers an economy that supports major technology, government, international trade, tourism, and manufacturing sectors. According to the BLS, business and financial operations professionals in California earn an average annual salary of $83,840. Earning a bachelor's degree in business in California simply makes sense.
In-state students reap the most benefits from attending top business schools in California. Close proximity allows learners to engage in local internships and networking, which can boost job prospects after graduation. However, even out-of-state and online learners gain a competitive edge by placing a top business school on their resume after graduation.
Will You Need To Pursue Additional Business Education?
A top bachelor's degree in business prepares you to take on a variety of career pursuits in fields like finance, management, and marketing. Many business professionals naturally secure promotions as they accrue years of experience. Others choose to return to school for additional education.
The most common graduate degree pursued by business professionals is the master of business administration or MBA. This degree helps students develop advanced knowledge and skills in business administration, management, and often a focus area such as accounting, international management, or healthcare management.
Aspiring professionals may also consider master's programs in human resources, organizational leadership, or management.
Some employers prefer candidates with master's degrees, but graduate school is not an explicit requirement for most business or management careers. The choice to pursue an advanced degree is a personal one. You can also boost your resume with non-degree professional certifications.
California School Rankings for Best Undergrad Business Programs
Deciding where you want to earn your college degree could easily be one of the biggest decisions you ever make. With more than 2,000 four-year public and nonprofit universities to choose from, prospective college students looking to enroll in California really have their work cut out for them.
If you want to study business, and you seek the very best education possible, the following ranking of the best business schools in California serves as a great place to start your search. Our rankings detail school size and enrollment, curriculum content, concentration options, and cost. All programs on this list hold accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) and the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).
1. University of California, Berkeley
Public university in Berkeley, CA, accredited by WSCUC and AACSB
Founded as the first University of California campus in 1868, Berkeley boasts a world-class reputation for academic research and education. More than 31,000 undergraduates attend each year, enjoying a 17.8-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.
Haas School of Business
Berkeley Haas offers several options for undergraduates to earn their bachelor of science in business administration. Students can pursue a standalone business degree or participate in dual degree options that combine business and engineering, or business and biology.
Degree-seekers who complete the global management concentration spend one semester studying in London and may elect to participate in additional study abroad semesters.
Admission to Berkeley's business programs is highly competitive. State residents pay approximately $14,000/year in tuition and fees. Nonresidents pay approximately $43,000/year.
Berkely's Business Degree Concentrations
2. University of California, Irvine
Public university in Irvine, CA, accredited by WSCUC and AACSB
Founded in 1965, UCI enrolls more than 36,000 students each year. The Southern California institution boasts one of the most environmentally sustainable college campuses in the nation and a truly unique mascot: the anteater.
Paul Merage School of Business
The school offers a bachelor of arts in business administration and a bachelor of science in business information management. Through concentrations and electives, each major provides the opportunity for students to craft an interdisciplinary curriculum according to their unique interests.
The business administration core primarily focuses on economics, management, and accounting, while the business information management core focuses on building skills in programming, statistics, and management.
Each major offers a limited number of admission slots. Cost of attendance is $15,671/year for California residents and $45,425 for nonresidents.
UCI's Business Degree Concentrations
Accounting | Finance | Information Systems | Marketing | Operations and Decision Technologies | Organization and Management
3. San Diego State University
Public university in San Diego, CA, accredited by WSCUC and AACSB
Situated in California's second-largest city, SDSU prides itself on being one of the nation's most diverse and inclusive campuses. More than 33,000 students attend each year.
Fowler College of Business
Undergraduates enrolled in SDSU's business school can choose from a bachelor of science in business administration or a bachelor of arts in international business. SDSU also offers an online degree completion program, which allows part-time students to complete 18-20 remote courses, earning 49-55 credits toward their business administration degree.
The interdisciplinary International business program requires students to develop proficiency in at least one foreign language, complete a semester abroad, and participate in an internship.
Residents pay an estimated cost of attendance of $30,240/year while nonresidents pay an estimated $42,120/year.
SDSU's Business Degree Concentrations
Accountancy | Finance | Financial Services | General Business | Information Systems | Management | Marketing | Real Estate
4. University of California, Riverside
Public university in Riverside, CA, accredited by WSCUC and AACSB
The 1,200-acre UC Riverside campus houses more than 20 interdisciplinary research centers, three colleges, and four professional schools. Over 25,000 students attend UCR each year.
UC Riverside School of Business
The largest undergraduate business program in the UC system allows learners to demonstrate their career investment by participating in internships and other professional activities through an elective professional development program. Students often receive employment offers immediately after graduation.
Ten core courses cover key competencies including management writing and communication, ethics and law in business and society, and organizational behavior. If desired, students may also participate in a global immersion program.
Attendance at UC Riverside costs approximately $28,000-$36,000/year for residents and $57,000-$66,000/year for nonresidents. The school of business awards dozens of scholarships annually.
UCR Business Degree Concentrations
Accounting and Auditing | Business Analytics | Finance | Information Systems | Management | Marketing
5. California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
Public university in Pomona, CA, accredited by WSCUC and AACSB
Dedicated to its learn-by-doing approach to education, Cal Poly Pomona emphasizes experiential learning, discovery, and innovation. Nearly 28,000 learners attend class on the 1,438-acre campus each year.
Cal Poly Pomona College of Business Administration
One of the best business schools in California, Cal Poly Pomona provides students with a common body of knowledge enabling them to succeed in business, industry, government, and education. Eight concentration options offer additional career-focused instruction.
The bachelor of science in business administration degree requires a 54-credit major core, covering concepts including globalization of business, principles of management, and financial accounting.
Full-time resident students pay approximately $2,900 in tuition each semester. The college of business administration awards several annual scholarships based on merit and financial need.
Cal Poly Pomona's Business Degree Concentrations
Accounting | Computer Information Systems | E-Business | Finance, Real Estate, and Law | International Business | Management and Human Resources | Marketing Management | Technology and Operations Management
6. California State University, Long Beach
Public university in Long Beach, CA, accredited by WSCUC and AACSB
Founded in 1949, CSULB educates nearly 33,000 undergraduates and over 5,000 graduate students each year. More than half of CSULB's bachelor's degree recipients are the first in their family to earn a university degree.
CSULB College of Business
CSULB's bachelor of science in business administration offers eight specializations to prepare students for careers in high-demand areas. Options include human resource management, information systems, and finance.
The program core emphasizes legal studies in business, with courses covering topics in business ethics, international law, and the legal environment. CSULB also offers an honors track for eligible business majors. Honors students complete an independent research project and senior thesis.
Full-time resident students pay $6,843 in tuition and fees. Nonresidents pay $18,714 in tuition and fees. Each fall, the college of business awards several scholarships.
CSULB's Business Degree Concentrations
Accountancy | Finance | Human Resource Management | Management | Information Systems | International Business | Marketing | Supply Chain Management
7. Sonoma State University
Public university in Rohnert Park, CA, accredited by WSCUC and AACSB
SSU boasts a beautiful small campus setting located one hour north of San Francisco. Just under 9,000 students attend each year, enjoying suite-style housing, greek life, and athletics.
SSU School of Business and Economics
The 120-credit bachelor of science in business administration is SSU's most popular major, followed by psychology and early childhood development.
The business degree stands out for its unique concentration offering in wine business strategies. The concentration allows students to focus on either general management or wine production, enabling them to pursue varied careers in California's wine country region.
The estimated cost of attendance for full-time California residents living on campus totals $26,724. Nonresidents pay approximately $38,604.
SSU's Business Degree Concentrations
Accounting | Finance | Financial Management | Management | Marketing | Wine Business Strategies | General/Self-Designed
8. California State University – East Bay
Public university in Hayward, CA, accredited by WSCUC and AACSB
Founded in 1957, Cal State East Bay operates campuses in Hayward and Concord, plus a professional center in downtown Oakland and a growing online campus. Nearly 12,000 students attend each year.
Cal State East Bay College of Business and Economics
Cal State East Bay offers a traditional on-campus bachelor of science in business administration and an online degree completion program for working professionals. Both programs provide a variety of concentration options.
The online degree completion program takes an average of two years to complete, though students can attend year-round for an accelerated completion time. Applicants must enter the program with a minimum of 60 transferable credits.
The estimated cost of attendance for an on-campus California resident studying full time totals $26,802. Tuition for the online program costs $393/credit.
Cal State East Bay's Business Degree Concentrations
Accounting | Business Economics | Entrepreneurship | Finance | General Management | Human Resources Management and Organizational Behavior | Information Technology Management | Operations and Supply Chain Management
9. California State University, Stanislaus
Public university in Turlock, CA, accredited by WSCUC and AACSB
Founded in 1960, Stanislaus State currently operates two campuses in California's Central Valley. It serves a diverse student body of more than 10,000 learners each year.
Stanislaus State College of Business Administration
Graduates of Stanislaus State's business administration bachelor's have gone on to secure opportunities at Moss Adams LLP and Bank of the West.
The 120-credit program offers instruction in business and operations concepts, international business, and professional ethics. Students select from nine concentration options to customize their experience according to individual career goals.
California residents living on campus and studying full time pay an estimated $23,620 to attend Stanislaus State. Nonresidents pay an additional $396/credit in tuition.
Stanislaus State's Business Degree Concentrations
Accounting | Computer Information Systems | Finance | General Business | Management – Entrepreneurship | Management – Human Resources | Management – International Business | Marketing | Operations Management
10. University of Southern California
Private university in Los Angeles, CA, accredited by WSCUC and AACSB
USC is a leading private research university with a competitive 16% acceptance rate. The university welcomes more than 44,000 students to the heart of Los Angeles each year.
Marshall School of Business
The school's bachelor of science in business administration provides every student with 32 credits of open electives, enough for nearly any USC minor. The program also offers 12 courses of open, upper-level business electives.
USC also offers a one-of-a-kind world bachelor in business, in which enrollees earn individual degrees from USC, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and Universita Bocconi. The four-year program develops students into global citizens fluent in international business.
The estimated cost of attendance for a year of full-time, on-campus study at USC totals $79,063. Nearly two-thirds of students receive financial assistance.
What Top Business Schools in California Have in Common
Today's colleges and universities offer academics, activities, and events as diverse as their student populations. No two learners share the exact same college experience, but the best business schools in California do share several key characteristics. Each of the following characteristics factored into our ranking methodology.
- – Affordability. The cost of tuition and fees directly impacts your expected return on investment at any given school. College often requires a significant financial investment, making affordability a key concern of many prospective students.
- – Average salary. A second factor impacting your return on investment is how much you can expect to earn after graduation. To inform our California school rankings, we used average early-career salary data provided by recent graduates.
- – Prestige. Prestige is more than just public opinion. You can also evaluate a school's prestige using U.S. News & World Report scores. We also checked that our ranked institutions made the Princeton Review's Best Western Colleges list.
What To Expect From California Undergrad Business Programs
Undergraduates attending business schools in California can expect to earn their bachelor's in approximately four years when studying full time. Timeline expectations for part-time students vary by the number of credits they take each semester.
A bachelor's degree in business typically requires 120 credits of general education, including a major core and elective courses. The curriculum combines larger lecture hall courses alongside small class sessions that focus on discussion, independent study, and group collaboration. Beyond core requirements, business degrees often allow students to specialize in a career-focused area like finance, management, or marketing.
The cost to attend the best business schools in California varies by institution type, enrollment schedule, state residency, and whether you attend online or on campus. Studying at a public institution costs around $15,000-$30,000 per year, while private institutions may cost upwards of $75,000 to attend.
Admission Requirements for Business Bachelor's Degrees
Undergraduate business school applicants should possess a high school diploma or equivalent, with a minimum 2.5-3.0 GPA depending on the school. High school transcripts must show completion of an adequate college preparatory curriculum of English, history, mathematics, laboratory science, performing arts, and foreign language.
At this time, students applying to a school in the University of California system or the California State University system do not need to supply ACT or SAT scores. Testing requirements may apply for private institutions.
Required components of a college application include personal information, academic history, activities and awards, and the essay portion, which generally involves short-answer responses to questions of the applicant's choice. Students must also pay a nonrefundable application fee averaging $70-$85.
Students who plan to apply to more than one school can streamline their application process by using the Common App, the UC system application, or the Cal State University system application.
Business Degree Types and Concentrations
Undergraduate business students typically choose from three major degree options: a BA, BS), or bachelor of business administration (BBA). Each program type offers a different educational experience and academic focus.
Of the three degree types, BA degrees provide the broadest education, covering concepts in business, communication, English, history, and writing. BA degrees often require a minor and a foreign language component.
BS degrees focus on helping students acquire financial and technical skills. Courses zero in on business applications within advanced mathematics, science, and statistics.
BBA degrees provide students with a broad understanding of how businesses function and operate. Courses develop skills in communication, management, and decision-making.
Business degrees commonly offer concentration options for students who want to increase their knowledge and skills in a certain career area. Popular concentrations include:
- – Accounting
- – Finance
- – Human Resource Management
- – Information Systems
- – Management
- – Marketing
The best degree choice for you largely depends on your strengths, interests, and career goals. Someone who struggles with advanced mathematics may not want to pursue a BS, for example. Flexible BA degrees suit individuals interested in multiple fields. BBAs meet the needs of aspiring business leaders who want to learn everything they can about business operations.
Popular Business Program Courses
The best business schools in California offer a variety of courses to meet diverse student interests. A bachelor's in business comprises three types of courses: general education, major core, and electives. Students may also complete a specialized concentration, project-based capstone course, and/or internship. Take a look at a few sample courses below.
- – Principles of Business: This essential core course introduces learners to the study of modern business. Modules commonly include finance and accounting, marketing, operations, management, and leadership. Through a combination of lectures and discussion, coursework prepares students for more advanced study of business principles and concepts.
- – Introduction to Finance: An introductory finance course allows students to gain an essential understanding of key financial concepts in business. Topics commonly include cash management, sourcing and application of funds, capital budgeting, and financial structure. Students learn how organizations analyze and manage funds as they move through an enterprise.
- – Project Management: Students in a project management course develop vital knowledge and skills for pitching, leading, and delivering projects on time and within budget — competencies that transfer to virtually any industry. Common topics include planning and scheduling techniques, project selection, resource estimation, and project monitoring.
- – Introduction to International Business: Introductory international business courses typically use a survey format and fulfill an elective requirement. Students develop a broad understanding of the environmental, economic, political, and social factors that impact global business. Coursework discusses issues and strategies relating to global management, foreign market analysis, and international operations.
- – Business Internship: Students who opt to complete an undergraduate internship typically spend a semester working within a business firm, nonprofit organization, or government agency. Internships offer the opportunity to gain valuable real-world experience and put classroom knowledge to the test. Interns work under supervision of academic advisors and site managers.
What Jobs Can Business Degrees Get You?
Those who graduate from the top business schools in California enter the workforce prepared to pursue careers across multiple sectors. Business professionals regularly find employment in California's expansive agriculture, manufacturing, technology, entertainment, and tourism industries.
According to BLS salary data, as of May 2019, the average salary for all management occupations in California exceeded $137,000. All Californian business and financial professionals earn an average of about $84,000.
Some of the highest-paying positions available to bachelor's degree-holders include top executive and general or operations manager. Learn more about these two jobs and other popular career options below.
General or Operations Manager
General and operations managers oversee a variety of activities in their organization. Duties vary but may include directing daily operations, creating company policies, assigning work, and ensuring the completion of projects.
- – Required Education: Managers typically need at least a bachelor's degree in business administration or a related field.
- – Job Outlook (2019-29): +6%
- – Average Annual Salary in California: $137,050
Administrative Services Manager
Administrative service managers help organizations run more efficiently by maintaining facilities and supervising clerical staff and activities including recordkeeping, mail distribution, and office upkeep. Specific duties vary by industry, organization, and department.
- – Required Education: This career typically requires a bachelor's degree in business or a related field.
- – Job Outlook (2019-29): +6%
- – Average Annual Salary in California: $115,050
Human Resources Specialist
Human resource specialists handle tasks relating to employees, including recruiting, interviewing, and placing workers; administering benefits; and answering questions about company policies. They also maintain employment records and process paperwork.
- – Required Education: This career requires a bachelor's in human resources, business, or a related field.
- – Job Outlook (2019-29): +7%
- – Average Annual Salary in California: $76,200
Public Relations Specialist
Public relations specialists help create and maintain an organization's public image. Common duties include writing press releases, responding to media requests, and evaluating public opinion through social media.
- – Required Education: A bachelor's degree in business, public relations, or communications satisfies minimum education requirements for this career.
- – Job Outlook (2019-29): +7%
- – Average Annual Salary in California: $74,990
Sales managers oversee and direct an organization's sales teams. Typical tasks include setting sales goals, coordinating training programs for staff, developing plans to acquire new customers or clients, and determining profitability of products and services.
- – Required Education: Sales managers often need a bachelor's degree and relevant work experience in sales.
- – Job Outlook (2019-29): +4%
- – Average Annual Salary in California: $137,000
Using California School Ratings To Select Your Program
While our ranked list of the best business schools in California serves as a great resource, prospective students should use their own personal methodology to help select the perfect program. A few factors to consider include:
- – Accreditation: Attending an accredited school means your education will retain its value after graduation. Make sure any school you consider holds either regional or national accreditation from a recognized agency. You may also want to look for business programs with specialized accreditation from the prestigious AACSB.
- – School Size: School size can impact the student experience by affecting campus culture, student-to-faculty ratio, class sizes, extracurricular or athletic program budgets, and the variety and quality of student resources.
- – Extracurriculars: Before you decide on a college or university, consider the type of activities you want to partake in outside of class. Different schools offer different benefits, such as athletics, intramural sports, Greek life, student interest clubs, and service organizations.
- – University Resources: Ideally you should attend a school that offers everything you need to succeed, whether that means access to free online tutoring, a writing center, group counseling, extensive job fairs, or mock interviews. Failing to evaluate the availability and quality of student services before enrolling can cause problems down the line.
Should You Consider Online Schools in California?
Even before the coronavirus pandemic caused many K-12 and postsecondary courses to migrate online, thousands of college students relied on distance learning to get an education. According to fall 2018 data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 16.6% of the 2 million total college students in the U.S. studied exclusively with distance education methods.
Before committing to an online degree, make sure to review your prospective school's technology requirements and carefully evaluate both your learning style and learning environment.
Attending college online requires independent learning, time management, and a quiet, distraction-free location with reliable internet access.
Business degrees suit online learning well, offering broad coursework that students can apply to future careers regardless of where they live. Other benefits of studying online include flexible scheduling and, often, reduced out-of-pocket costs as remote learners avoid paying room and board.
Thanks to online learning, out-of-state students can earn a bachelor's degree from one of the top business schools in California without needing to relocate to the west coast. Online learning enables anyone to access California's world-class instructors, prestigious university name recognition, and membership in major alumni networks.
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Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best business degree to get?
The BA and BS in business and the BBA all provide a valuable undergraduate education. Each student's ideal degree varies depending on their unique strengths, interests, and career goals.
How much does a bachelor's in business cost in California?
According to the NCES, total annual tuition and fees for a bachelor's degree at a public institution in California averages $22,081. Total annual tuition and fees for a bachelor's at a private California institution averages $47,410.
Does California have online degrees?
Many colleges and universities in California offer online degrees designed to meet the needs of busy working students. Degree-seekers who take advantage of online learning receive flexible scheduling and delivery format options.
Is California a good place for business schools?
Home to the Silicon Valley and the highest patent creation rate of any state, California offers a great environment for business and for business education. Graduates enter a competitive but thriving business environment, rich with opportunities.