When seeking a career in business, it is paramount for aspiring candidates to find the best-suited MBA program for them. In California, most students narrow down business schools using many factors, such as tuition, class size, test scores, and acceptance rates.
A business degree not only upgrades workers’ skill. It also gives them the confidence to take on the ever-changing, tumultuous demands of corporate America.
Here, we list the top-10 business schools in California to help you through your educational journey.
Overview of the California School System
California’s higher education system consists of 3 public segments: The University of California (UC) , the California State University (CSU) and the California Community Colleges. There are more than 150 private nonprofit colleges and about 160 for-profit schools.
The state’s colleges and universities enroll almost 3 million students annually. An added 170 private for-profit trade schools (institutes that offer vocational certificates instead of degrees) enroll approximately 30,000 students annually.
Other interesting facts about California’s school system include:
- Eight of every 10 California college students attend a public institution and more than half are in community college
- Private nonprofit colleges enroll slightly more students than the University of California. The enrollment numbers have been declining steadily, though.
- California has no coordinating body for higher education, which has made goal setting and coordination more of a challenge. California still goes by the 60-year-old Master Plan for Higher Education
Finding the right school for you is hard. This list will help answer all the general questions about which top business school may be best for you.
Top 10 Business Schools of California
Our list of the top business schools in the state of California is in no particular order and lists their tuition, graduation rate, acceptance rate, and class sizes listed to help paint a full picture of the institution.
1. University of South California Marshall Business School
Type: Private nonprofit, 3- and 4-year programs
Tuition cost (after aid): $30,000
Graduation rate: 92%
Acceptance rate: 16%
Class size: Up to 441
The USC is among the top universities in the U.S. and is located in one of the most dynamic cities. The Marshall Business School has alumni playing leading roles in industries that help push them forward, be it real estate, accounting, marketing, finance, or technology.
Marshall offers five MBA programs and 10 specialized programs. Marshall prides itself on helping students delve into cultural diversity, entrepreneurial opportunities, and creative yet critical thinking.
Marshall offers support for their alumni through the Trojan Family Network. This network is diverse and global, creating connections and relationships among thousands of alumni, students, faculty, staff, partners, etc. They offer a lifelong promise of support and commitment to success. Marshall alumni automatically become members of the USC Marshall Alumni Association, one of the world’s leading business-networking organizations.
2. University of California, Berkeley
Type: Public, 4-year program
Tuition cost (after aid): $15,000
Location: Berkeley, CA
Graduation rate: 91%
Acceptance rate: 17%
Class size: 291
The Berkeley Haas business school offers three MBA programs specially tailored to change students into business leaders. Core and elective coursework equips students with leadership skills, entrepreneurship talent, strategic thinking, and financial responsibility. MBA students can complete their degrees from 19 months to 3 years.
Students collectively pay $127,500 to $149,060, depending on residency and program of choice. Courses range from business, macroeconomics, the global economy, and design thinking.
Alumni are offered to join regional chapters to help networking and business opportunities, as well as keeping them up to date on webinars and events that help with finding work after graduation.
3. Stanford Graduate School of Business
Type: Private, nonprofit
Graduation rate: 94.2%
Acceptance rate: 6.1%
Placement rate: 96%
Class size: 400
Stanford’s Graduate School of Business offers a full-time, on-campus two-year MBA program. Students are taught to create their vision and the means to reach such vision as they pursue their degree.
Stanford teaches through lectures, case studies, mock interviews, seminars, and many other experiences centering on the importance of collaboration and innovation.
Stanford focuses on social sciences and managerial functions, allowing themes of critical and analytical thinking skills and personal leadership development. Stanford students also participate in global challenges that directly expose them to the world of international business.
Their Alumni Network has chapters that display a set of online tools, such as directories, groups, discussions, and event information, that provides alumni with access to communities and helps keep connections within alumni from all programs and graduation programs
4. UC Davis Graduate School of Management
Graduation rate: N/A
Acceptance rate: 27%
Placement rate: 98%
Class size: 586
UC Davis is one of the top two in the world for global faculty quality and has four MBA degree programs: a full-time degree for on-campus students, two part-time options in the Sacramento and Bay Area, and a fully online degree option. UC Davis maintains corporate partner networks, allowing its students to engage in the food and agriculture sustainable energy and biotechnology industries of the world.
On average, UC Davis MBA graduates secure a $103,000 annual salary within six months of graduation. The school prides itself on an impressive 98% job placement rate.
UC Davis alumni are offered post-graduate support for employment. They include networking groups, committees, and other resources.
UC Davis’s curriculum consists of the Integrated Management Project and Articulation and Critical Thinking (IMPACT) program. It has students team up to create strategic and efficient solutions for clients, including Fortune 500 firms and Silicon Valley startups. It helps students build a strong skill base and enhance their knowledge in writing, speaking, and critical thinking.
5. UCI Paul Merage School of Business
Graduation rate: N/A
Acceptance rate: ~20%
Placement rate: 85%
Class size: 51
UCI offers a full-time MBA program and hybrid program for employed students who seek part-time education. All staff hold at least eight years of professional experiences and aspire to become world leaders.
UCI prepares students to handle a digitally driven world, giving them critical thinking and problem solving skills.
UCI prides itself for having students seeking a rich culture of collaboration and a high-quality faculty. Its alumni connections allow students to join the Dean’s Leadership Circle and regional chapters for networking, and offers “lifelong learning” for graduates who feel they want to learn more about their business options and career path.
Students are welcome to choose from program specializations in entrepreneurship, digital transformation, and real estate.
6. Cal Poly Pomona College of Business Administration
Graduation Rate: 65.9%
Acceptance Rate: 64.8%3
Placement Rate: 95%
Class size: ~20
Cal Poly Pomona’s MBA program teaches working professionals aiming to expand their knowledge and careers while still maintaining their current employment. Coursework is hybrid, combining online learning with on-campus requirements. There are also evening and weekend lectures available. Their business administration alumni has a network of 40,000 graduates alone.
This program is offered full-time, with three classes per term, including electives, for two years. For part-time students, the program requires only three to six credits each term, with heavy focus on core courses.
This MBA program’s core courses include data analytics and modeling, managerial decisions, and organizational behavior. Information about alumni resources can be found here.
Students can choose between a comprehensive exam or business research project in order to graduate.
7. Fowler College of Business
Graduation Rate: 41%
Acceptance Rate: 53%
Placement Rate: 84%
Class size: 412
San Diego State University’s Fowler College of Business offers part-time and full-time MBA programs, which rank 34th and 44th among the nation’s top public schools. Students are allowed to choose from a variety of specializations, each one requiring a minimum of four classes in the chosen area of major.
Fowler College has an impressive list of partnerships and network connections, with its graduates being employed with large companies, including HP, Bank of America, San Diego Gas & Electric, and Sempra Energy, just to name a few. It is also possible to concurrently earn other degrees while in the MBA program.
8. California State University – East Bay College of Business and Economics
Graduation Rate: 91%
Acceptance Rate: 76%
Placement Rate: 85%
Class Size: 62
Cal State East Bay offers three MBA programs for students to pursue: a one-year MBA, an MBA for global innovators, and an MBA with various concentrations. Each MBA program takes place on a different campus and follows a unique schedule.
Requirements for this program include a four-year undergraduate degree and a minimum 2.5 GPA. International students must earn minimum TOEFL/IELTS scores.
GMAT is optional, depending on the applicant’s chosen program.
Cal State East Bay offers a wide range of career exploration. It allows its alumni to work within cultural-, technological-, and educational-enriched regions of California. Graduating from Cal State promises competitive compensation, excellent benefits, and promotional advancements.
9. Pepperdine University – Graziadio Business School
Graduation Rate: 97%
Acceptance Rate: 70%
Placement Rate: 68.4%
Class size: 26
Pepperdine University’s Graziadio Business School offers a range of part-time and full-time MBA programs tailored to all levels of profession. Students can choose between on-campus, hybrid, and online-only learning options, depending on their program. Faculty consists of world-class entrepreneurs and experienced business leaders.
Students’ options when pursuing Pepperdine’s MBA include, but are not limited to: part-time program, a joint bachelors/MBA program, a full-time program, and several joint MBA options. Some of Graziadio’s MBA programs equip each student with top-notch skills and knowledge in high-level career management.
Graziadio Business School is a proud institution with more than 47,000 graduates annually. Its Career and Professional Development Department works toward the growth and achievement of its graduates. Providing hands-on guidance, career-building tools, and exclusive access to an extensive network of current students, alumni, and employers globally.
10. Chapman University Argyros Business School
Type: Public nonprofit
Graduation Rate: 79%
Acceptance Rate: 58.3%
Placement Rate: 75%
Class Size: N/A
Chapman’s Argyros Business school has MBA/MFA programs with various specializations, including film and television production, entrepreneurship, financial services, and others. It also has a popular Flex MBA, where students are given the option to attend full- or part-time classes during the evening.
Chapman’s core curriculum has a solid foundation in business and finance. Course electives include entrepreneurship, international business, and marketing.
Students can personalize their programs by pursuing an area of specialization with three electives. While the school will not record specialization on the student’s transcript or diploma, they can reference it on a resume.
You likely have additional questions about which school best suits you, how to apply for financial aid, your chances of getting in, etc. These questions and answers should help clear up any lingering issues.
Are there online-only MBA programs in California?
Yes, some business schools have online class options for students who seek them. Graziadio School and UC Davis have online only classes, however, some schools are willing to accommodate students for a schedule that best fits their studying needs. Contact your schools of interest for further information.
What are some financial aid programs in California?
Many MBA programs offer scholarships, grants, and financial aid from their school.
If you are worried about your academic record however, you have the option to secure financial aid by completing a FAFSA or fee waiver for MBA programs. Federal funders and state funding agencies rely on FAFSA to help determine a student’s eligibility to financial aid, be it public or private.
Who would make good references for my recommendation letters?
MBA programs need a minimum of two recommendation letters for your application. Your references should come from your current/most recent supervisor or manager to evaluate your professional performance as well as your managerial potential. Your second one could be a professor or instructor to evaluate your academic performance. You are welcome to provide them with a list of your positive attributes to highlight in your application and also your weaknesses and areas of development.
What are the general requirements for MBA programs in California?
When applying for business school, the general requirements are a strong GPA standing, work experience that showcases achievements and manager ability, excellent GMAT or GRE scores, recommendations, essay answers and in-person interviews.
However, some schools are more descriptive about their requirements as well as their own tailored requirements for their program. For example, here are the requirements for the Argyros Business School:
- Submit an online application through their website
- Statement of Intent
- Official transcript from undergraduate institution (can be emailed or mailed to Argyros)
- Official GMAT or GRE Score
- Two letters of recommendation
- International applicants must submit their official TOEFL, IELTS, PTE, or Cambridge English Advanced Exam test scores
How can I decide which Californian school is best for me?
When deciding which school is in your best interest, one must evaluate the aspects of their options. Experts say that MBA programs that seem comparable are different in significant ways. IE, the learning environment of one business school may differ greatly from another in terms of class options, courses, and the availability of full-time or part-time programs. You must differentiate each school by their unique factors, which include but are not limited to: alumni network, career opportunities, post-grad support, location, school culture, student body, and tuition cost.
Is This MBA Program Right for Me?
You have made the decision to earn an MBA. This can be a time-consuming path, as it includes a lot of studying, tests, and communication amongst business leaders. You must consider how well each MBA program lines up with your career goals. Is the tuition and packages worth it? Can I find a job in my field quickly after graduation? Are there good alumni benefits?
There is nothing wrong with being picky and asking questions about your preferred school. Resources are available for people seeking more information about MBA programs and which schools are best suited for them and their futures.
With this list, students can research their preferred schools and make an informed decision.