Enrolling in a master’s degree program can be a pathway to career advancement, licensure and certifications in certain professions, further study at the doctoral level, and other beneficial outcomes. Residents of California can take advantage of the relative convenience and flexibility of earning a master’s degree online in many fields, such as business, education, computer science, counseling, nursing, and healthcare. Many of the public universities in California offer online master’s degree programs in these fields and others, as do a number of regionally accredited, non-profit private schools located in the state. There are also many colleges and universities located in other states that accept applicants from California to their online master’s programs. This page provides an overview of schools in California and nearby states that offer online master’s programs in some of the state’s more common fields of graduate study.
California has two large state systems of public colleges and universities that offer bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs. The University of California System (UC System) is comprised of ten prominent universities, including the University of California, Berkeley and the University of California, Davis in the northern part of the state; and the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of California, Irvine, and the University of California, San Diego in the southern part of the state. The California Sate University (CSU) system includes 23 additional universities located throughout the state, with campuses in cities such as San Jose, Chico, Northridge, Long Beach, Sacramento, Pomona, Fresno, Humboldt County, and Monterey.
Most of the schools in the UC System and the CSU system are active in offering online courses and degree programs. Many of these publicly funded institutions offer online master’s programs in a wide array of fields and disciplines. Indeed, the CSU system maintains a searchable online database of all types of degree programs offered by its member institutions, including online master’s programs. The UC System maintains a similar database of degree programs offered by its institutions on its website.
The table below lists the 15 public universities with the largest enrollments, based on an analysis of data collected by the US Department of Education for its Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). The table includes the location of each school’s main campus and whether or not the school offers online degree programs.
|School||Location||Online Degree Programs|
|University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)||Los Angeles||Yes|
|California State University, Fullerton (CSU Fullerton)||Fullerton||Yes|
|University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley)||Berkeley||Yes|
|California State University, Northridge (CSU Northridge)||Northridge||Yes|
|California State University, Long Beach (CSU Long Beach)||Long Beach||Yes|
|University of California, Davis (UC Davis)||Davis||Yes|
|University of California, San Diego (UC San Diego)||La Jolla||No|
|San Diego State University (SDSU)||San Diego||Yes|
|University of California, Irvine (UC Irvine)||Irvine||Yes|
|San Jose State University (SJSU)||San Jose||Yes|
|California State University, Sacramento ( Sacramento State)||Sacramento||Yes|
|San Francisco State University (SFSU)||San Francisco||Yes|
|California State University, Los Angeles (CSU Los Angeles)||Los Angeles||Yes|
|California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Cal Poly Pomona)||Pomona||Yes|
|California State University, Fresno (Cal State Fresno)||Fresno||Yes|
In addition to California’s public universities, there are numerous private degree-granting institutions in the state that offer graduate programs, including Stanford University in Northern California and the University of Southern California (USC) in the Los Angeles area. Many of the private colleges and universities in the state offer online master’s programs that prospective students may want to explore. The table below offers an overview of the ten largest private, non-profit schools in California, their location, and whether or not they offer online degree programs.
|School||Location||Online Degree Programs|
|University of Southern California (USC)||Los Angeles||Yes|
|National University (NU)||La Jolla||Yes|
|University of San Francisco (USF)||San Francisco||Yes|
|Azusa Pacific University (APU)||Azusa||Yes|
|Loyola Marymount University (LMU)||Marymount||Yes|
|California Baptist University (CBU)||Riverside||Yes|
|University of San Diego (USD)||San Diego||Yes|
|Santa Clara University||Santa Clara||Yes|
One advantage of earning a master’s degree online is that it typically does not involve relocating or commuting in order to be close to a college or university campus. It also gives California residents the opportunity to earn master’s degrees from schools located outside of the state without having to consider leaving California. There are many schools located throughout the country that offer online programs at the master’s level and that accept applicants from California, although potential applicants should be aware that some online programs may place restrictions on the admission of students from certain states.
Arizona State University (ASU), a public research university with its main campus in Phoenix, is one of the larger out-of-state schools in the region that is active in offering online programs. California residents who are interested in earning a master’s degree online in fields such as business analytics, clinical research management, communication, computer science, educational leadership and technology, engineering, public administration, nutrition, psychology, social work, and many other areas may want to explore the programs offered by ASU Online.
The University of Arizona (U of A) in Tucson is another large public research university in Arizona that offers a wide array of online programs, including master’s degree programs. U of A offers online programs in accounting, business administration, cybersecurity, educational technology, engineering management, industrial engineering, legal studies, healthcare management, nursing, public health, and other fields.
Located north of California in Pullman, WA, Washington State University (WSU) is a publically funded research university that offers a full range of online undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Through its Global Campus initiative, WSU offer online master’s programs in agriculture, engineering, business administration, software engineering, special education, and strategic communication. Oregon’s Portland State University (PSU) also provides California residents with the opportunity to earn a master’s degree online through PSU Online, which has online programs in education, business, healthcare, social work, and other fields. And the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) offers online master’s programs in business administration, social work, public health, education, and psychology.
In order to provide an overview of the most common areas of study for which students earn master’s degrees in California, OnlineEducation.com conducted an analysis of the most recent IPEDS enrollment data and identified the most common fields of study at the master’s level among students in California. While IPEDS classifications do not align precisely with actual online master’s degree programs, the data provides a general picture of the fields in which California students are most active in earning master’s degrees. Those fields are as follows:
Students can earn a master’s degree online in many of these fields. The sections below offer information about schools in California that offer online master’s programs in these fields, as well as details on some of the out-of-state schools that offer master’s programs in these areas of study.
California residents can earn a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree online from numerous in-state programs that provide a range of enrollment options and specializations. The Graziadio Business School at Pepperdine University in Malibu offers an online MBA program from which students can graduate in two years by taking 15 courses over six 14-week trimesters. The program includes a weekend-long campus residency and allows students to choose from four concentrations: Marketing; Finance; Leadership & Managing Organizational Change; and General Management. The USC Marshall School of Business offers an MBA program that begins with a one-week, campus-based orientation session and then provides all of its coursework online.
National University has a flexible online MBA program that allows students to choose the number of courses they enroll in per semester and provides nine specializations: Financial Management; Human Resource Management; Integrated Marketing Communication; International Business; Management Accounting; Marketing; Mobile Marketing and Social Media; Organizational Leadership; and Supply Chain Management.
Santa Clara University has an online MBA program that begins with a three-day on-campus orientation, after which students complete the remainder of the program through online coursework, which typically takes two years. California Baptist University offers an MBA program with two tracks available to online students: Accounting and General Management. And Azusa Pacific University has an MBA program that allows students to take classes online or at several regional campuses. The program features specialization tracks in Accounting; Entrepreneurship; Finance; International Business; Marketing; Organizational Science; and Sport Management. CSU Long Beach has begun accepting applications to an online MBA program that is set to launch in the fall of 2019.
The W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University (ASU) and the Carson College of Business at Washington State University (WSU) are two out-of-state schools with online MBA programs that California residents may want to explore. The Carey School’s online program begins with an on-campus orientation and is designed for students to take one course per five-week term in order to graduate in 21 months. The online MBA offered by WSU’s Carson College of Business is 100% online and formatted to allow students to complete the degree in 22 to 29 months. It features a general business track as well as concentrations in Finance, Marketing, International Business, and Hospitality Business Management.
There are many types of Master of Arts (MA) in education, Master of Science (MS) in education, and Master of Education (MEd) programs offered online by schools in California. Many of these programs are designed for certified teachers who are interested in developing advanced proficiencies in areas like classroom technologies, educational leadership, English for speakers of other languages (ESOL), and other teaching specializations. Some programs may provide students with the necessary training for state certifications. Students who intend to apply for California state certification should research the state’s requirement prior to choosing an online master’s program.
The College of Education at CSU Fullerton offers two types of online MS degree programs in education: a 16-month, cohort-based, online MS in Educational Technology, and an online MS in Curriculum and Instruction that can be completed online or in a hybrid format. CSU Los Angeles offers an MA in Education with a specialization in E-Learning and New Media Design online. Graduates from the program are eligible to receive a certificate in online teaching and learning but must obtain a California teaching credential separately for jobs that require state certification. The School of Teacher Education at San Diego State University (SDSU) offers an online MA in Teaching with a focus on Elementary Education and Secondary Education. The 24-unit program can be completed entirely online in one year by students who already hold a California state teaching credential.
USC is one of the private universities in California that offers an online master’s in teaching. The Rossier School of Education at USC offers an MA in Teaching that has five concentrations: Multiple Subject Teaching (Elementary); Secondary English; Secondary Mathematics; Secondary Science; and Secondary Social Science. Graduates from the USC program may be eligible to apply for a teaching credential in California. The University of San Diego has an online MEd program that is designed to provide experienced educators with advanced skills in one of five areas of focus: STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics); Inclusive Learning (Special Education and Universal Design); Curriculum and Instruction; Literacy and Digital Learning; and School Leadership.
California Baptist University offers three types of online master’s programs for educators: an online MS in Education with a specialization in Early Childhood Studies; an online MS in Education with a specialization in Teaching; and an online MS in Education with a specialization in Educational Leadership. And Loyola Marymount University offers an MA in Literacy Instruction for Urban Environments that is 100% online and designed to accommodate teachers who are working full-time.
Arizona State University (ASU) is one of the regional schools outside of California that offers several types of online master’s programs in teaching and education that California teachers may want to explore. The school has five MEd in Curriculum and Instruction specializations that can be completed online: Autism Spectrum Disorders; Early Childhood Education; Gifted Education; Educational Leadership (Principalship); and Educational Technology. ASU Online also offers MA programs in Curriculum and Instruction with specializations in ESOL, Special Education (Applied Behavioral Analysis), and Indigenous Education. For California teachers who are interested in STEM education, Colorado State University offers an online Master of Natural Sciences Education (MNSE) that can be completed in two years.
Note: Online master’s in teaching and education programs offered by out-of-state schools may require internships which must be completed in person at a site approved by the program, and they may also require applicants to hold a teaching credential. For these reasons, California residents should make sure that a program offered by an out-of-state school admits applicants from California prior to submitting an application.
The Viterbi School of Engineering at USC offers an MS in Computer Science (MSCS) program that can be completed 100% online, although online students are invited to attend on-campus lectures. The program has a general computer science concentration as well as specializations in Computer Security, Data Science, and Software Engineering. National University offers an online MSCS program with three specializations: Advanced Computing; Software Engineering; and Database Engineering. And the School of Engineering at Stanford University offers an MSCS program for online students that can be completed in three to five years of part-time enrollment.
There are also other types of online master’s programs in computer and digital technologies offered by schools in California, including CSU Fullerton and UC Berkeley. The Mihaylo College of Business and Economics at CSU Fullerton offers an online MS in Information Technology (MSIT) degree program that has two tracks: Data Science and IT Management. Online students in Fullerton’s MSIT program are required to attend two on-campus sessions, one at the start of the program and one near the end of the program. UC Berkeley’s Information School (iSchool) offers an online Master of Information and Data Science (MIDS) program that features a one-week campus residency that gives students the opportunity to meet with instructors.
For California residents interested in exploring online master’s programs offered by out-of-state schools, Washington State University’s Global Campus offers an online MS in Software Engineering that can be completed entirely online in two years by full-time students and three years by part-time students. Colorado State University offers an online Master of Computer Science (MCS) program that can be completed in two years of full-time enrollment.
The Department of Administration, Rehabilitation and Postsecondary Education (ARPE) at San Diego State University (SDSU) has a Rehabilitation Counseling Program that offers an online MS degree program with four concentrations: Cognitive Disabilities; Rehabilitation Technology; Supported Employment and Transitional Services; and Psychiatric Rehabilitations. The program includes a track that provides students with the necessary training to qualify for state licensure as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC).
Loyola Marymount University has an online MA in Counseling program that provides students with a track for LPCC licensure in two areas of concentration: Community Mental Health Counseling and School Counseling. Loyola Marymount University also offers an online MA in Marital & Family Therapy with a focus on art psychotherapy, and an MA in School Psychology for those interested in qualifying for the California Pupil Personnel Services Credential in School Psychology.
Another option for earning a master’s in counseling degree online from a school in California is California Baptist University, which offers an online MS in Counseling Psychology program. The program offers training in marriage and family therapy and in mental health counseling, and it meets California’s academic training requirements for licensure in both fields.
California residents may also want to explore options for earning a master’s in counseling from regional out-of-state schools. Oregon State University (OSU) in Salem offers two types of master’s in counseling programs that are mostly online but that do require two campus visits per semester: a Master of Counseling in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and a Master of Counseling in School Counseling. Adams State University in Colorado offers an online MA in Counseling program that provides training in clinical counseling and school counseling. The Adams State program requires students to attend a summer session on campus for one week in the first and second years of the program.
Note: Online master’s in counseling programs typically require students to complete a significant number of in-person internship hours at a site approved by the program. Applicants to out-of-state programs should check with a program administrator to determine options for internship placements. In addition, applicants should be aware that a master’s degree is required for LPCC licensure in California and that licensure requirement vary by state. As a result, some out-of-state programs may not admit applicants from California.
USC and Azusa Pacific University (APU) are two private universities in California that offer online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree programs. Through the Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, Nursing@USC offers an online MSN program with a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) specialization. The programs is designed for Registered Nurses (RNs) who hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree and have at least one year of clinical experience. The program has a full-time enrollment plan that takes five semesters to complete, and a part-time enrollment option that takes eight semesters to complete.
APU offers an online MSN in Healthcare Administration and Leadership program with a curriculum that features courses from the University’s Schools of Nursing and Business and Administration. Students in the program typically have at least on year of professional experience and are given the option of full-time enrollment (two courses per semester) or part-time enrollment (one course per semester). APU also offers a similarly structured online MSN in Nursing Education program that does not require applicants to have a year of professional experience, although applicants are required to hold a valid and unencumbered RN license and a BSN degree.
RNs in California who are interested in exploring further options for earning an MSN degree online may want to consider Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), which has online programs in Nursing Education and Health Systems & Organizational Leadership (HSOL). The Nursing Education master’s program has three clinical specializations: Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing; Community Health Nursing; and Adult Gerontological Nursing. Both of OHSU’s online MSN programs are designed for RNs who hold a BSN degree. The University of Arizona (UA) offers an online MSN in Nursing Clinical Systems Leadership program that has tracks for RNs who hold a BSN degree and for RNs who received training in associate degree in nursing (ADN) programs.
Note: Most online MSN programs require clinical internships, which must be completed in person at an approved site. RNs should consider this prior to applying to an out-of-state program. They should also be aware that the licensure and certification requirements for nurses vary by state and that some out-of-state online programs may not meet requirements for licensure in California. Students considering an online program should consult the California Board of Registered Nursing for specific requirements before applying to an out-of-state online program.
The College of Business Administration at Sacramento State offers an online MS in Accounting (MSA) program that can be completed in 18 months of full-time enrollment. Each of the program’s ten courses convenes online once a week for six weeks, allowing students to take just one course per semester while still graduating in less than two years. The program is designed to provide academic preparation for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam. National University offers an online Master of Accountancy (MAcc) program with a curriculum that aligns with the subject matter on the Uniform CPA exam. And California Baptist University (CBU) offers an online MS in Accounting that can be completed in a few as 12 months by students who enroll full-time.
Colorado State University’s Global Campus offers an online Master of Professional Accounting (MPAcc) degree program that prepares students for the CPA exam. It is designed for students who have professional experience in the field of accounting and/or undergraduate coursework in accounting. And Western Governors University (WGU) in Utah has an MS in Accounting degree program that is offered online and that may allow some students to graduate in under a year of full-time enrollment.
Note: While a master’s degree is not a requirement for CPA licensure, it can be a pathway to completing the academic training requirements for eligibility to sit for the CPA licensure exam. Eligibility to sit for the exam is determined by states and varies by state. California residents who are aiming to qualify for CPA licensure through a master’s in accounting program should compare state requirements to the curriculum offered by an online program to ensure the program meets California’s academic criteria.
CSU Northridge, San Diego State University (SDSU), USC, and the University of San Francisco (USF) are four of the schools in California that offer online Master of Public Health (MPH) programs. The Tseng College of Graduate, International, and Midcareer Education at CSU Northridge offers a two-year, seven-term online MPH program with a Community Health Education focus. Online students enter the program as a cohort and complete program coursework as a group, although the program does include an individualized 300-hour field training practicum at a public health agency or organization. SDSU’s online MPH program is designed for students who already have at least three years of experience in public health and who intend to remain employed while completing their degree.
The Keck School of Medicine at USC has an online MPH program designed for public health professionals. The program has six concentrations: Biostatistics & Epidemiology; Community Health Promotion; Global Health; GeoHealth; Health Services & Policy; and Generalist. And USF offers an online MPH program that can be completed in five or six semesters of part-time enrollment.
California residents may also want to consider the MPH program offered by the University of Nevada, Reno, which can be completed 100% online with no campus residency requirements. Students in the program choose between completing a capstone project or fieldwork as a final project and can graduate in as few as 24 months. The University of Arizona offers an online MPH program through its Zuckerman College of Public Health that can be completed in two years by students who are working full-time. The program features concentrations in Applied Epidemiology, Heath Services Administration, and Health Promotion.
There are several different types of online master’s in health administration programs offered by schools in California. The Sol Price School of Public Policy at USC offers an Executive Master of Health Administration (EMHA) program that requires applicants to have five or more years of experience in the public health field, and USC’s Leonard Davis School of Gerontology offers an online Master of Long Term Care Administration (MLTCA) degree program that focuses on the administration and management of organizations and facilities that provide long-term care services to aging populations.
The Tseng College at CSU Northridge offers an online Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree program with a specialization in Health Administration that provides students with training for work in the public sector in organizations and agencies that provide healthcare services. National University offers an online Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) degree program that includes a 120-hour internship in a healthcare setting. And SDSU offers an online MS in Health Care Informatics that prepares students for managerial and administrative positions in healthcare information technologies.
Arizona State University has two types of master’s programs that may be of interest to California residents who are exploring online MHA programs. ASU’s online programs include a Master of Healthcare Innovation (MHI) program as well as an MS of Health Care Delivery program. Both programs focus on different administrative and managerial theories and practices in the healthcare sector.
California residents who are interested in earning a master’s degree in English or literature have many programs to choose from, including National University’s a MA in English program, which is offered on campus and online. The program is designed to prepare students for doctoral studies in English literature and to teach English and literature at the college level. It includes designated concentrations in Rhetoric and Gothic Studies, as well as electives in poetry, fiction, composition pedagogy, and film studies. Arizona State University (ASU) is one of the regional schools that offers an online MA in English. The ASU program includes coursework in literature, writing, linguistics, rhetoric, English education, and film, media, and cultural studies.
The USC Gould School of Law offers an online Master of Legal Studies (MLS) degree program that is designed for students who want to foster an understanding of US law and regulatory and compliance issues but who do not intend to become attorneys. Students in the program take courses in constitutional law, copyright law, trademark law, securities regulation, and other topics that have application in various types of business ventures. The program can be completed in one year of full-time enrollment. The University of Arizona also offers an online MLS program that is intended for students who want to cultivate knowledge of the American legal system for applications outside of practicing law. The Arizona program can be completed in 12 months of full-time enrollment or in two or more years of part-time enrollment.