The Best Online MBA Programs in California

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Are you ready to discover your MBA program?

The nation’s most populous state, California offers extensive higher education opportunities, including some of the best online MBA programs. More than 954,000 businesses call California home, highlighting many opportunities for graduates. MBA-holders possess the business acumen and management knowledge to qualify for a variety of lucrative business, management, and financial careers. One of the most versatile degrees, an MBA is valuable in nearly any industry.

Earning a business graduate degree opens the door to careers like human resources manager, training and development manager, and top executive. Students may also qualify for more specialized management positions in fields like information technology (IT) or finance, depending on their previous academic or professional experience.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects faster-than-average job growth for business and financial occupations from 2019-29.

In this guide, we discuss considerations for earning an online MBA in California, how to choose a school, and career opportunities for graduates. Keep reading to discover the best online MBA programs in California.

California’s 10 Best MBA Schools

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Online MBA Programs for You

Grow your career, leadership, and business acumen with an accredited online MBA program.

Why Get an Online MBA in California?

Earning an online MBA in California takes time and money but delivers many benefits. Online MBA schools offer opportunities to develop business and management skills applicable to any industry. Graduates qualify for a variety of diverse careers and earn much higher annual salaries than the average worker in the United States.

High Salaries
MBA graduates qualify for careers that garner substantial salaries. For example, sales managers earn a median annual salary of $126,640, and compensation and benefits managers make $122,270 a year.
Broad Skill Set
Earning an online MBA develops a versatile, broadly applicable skill set. Students learn management, leadership, communication, and interpersonal skills in addition to general business knowledge.
Career Opportunities
California MBA programs prepare students for exciting, well-paid careers in business and finance, including top executive, human resources manager, and training and development manager.

Pursuing an online MBA program in California offers benefits not available in every state, including access to a large number of schools with online programs, excellent networking opportunities, and diverse career opportunities after graduation.

California boasts nearly 450 postsecondary institutions, more than any other state in the U.S. This includes prestigious private and public universities and online and in-person programs at a variety of price points. The state’s experience offering high-quality distance education means that students can find a variety of online MBA programs in California. In 2018, about 30% of students in the state participated in online learning at least part of the time.

The Best Online MBA Programs in California

  • Ashford University

    San Diego, CA



    The master of business administration at Ashford University, one of the best online MBA programs in California, runs six-week courses, permitting students to work toward their degrees quickly. Students take one course at a time, allowing them to focus on one particular topic. Overall, students must complete 42 credits, including 33 credits of core coursework. Ashford's MBA program also holds accreditation from the International Accreditation Council for Business Education.

    In addition to the standard MBA, Ashford offers 13 specializations, including media management, public administration, business economics, entrepreneurship, and environmental management. All students must complete a capstone course in which they conduct research to help solve business problems.

    Applicants must submit an undergraduate transcript with a minimum GPA of 2.0. Once admitted, students can transfer up to nine prior credits to count toward their MBA. Ashford exempts students with undergraduate business degrees from taking select MBA core courses, like accounting and finance.


  • Azusa Pacific University

    Azusa, CA



    Azusa Pacific University offers a master of business administration program for students who need a flexible school schedule and prefer to complete their degrees online. Before beginning the program, all learners participate in a two-week orientation. Students typically take one or two classes each semester, and they can finish the degree in 15 to 30 months. Azusa Pacific recommends students plan to spend six to 10 hours studying online every week. Students must maintain at least a 3.0 GPA over the course of their MBA studies.

    In total, the school expects MBA students to complete 42 credits of coursework before they can graduate. Learners may choose between seven different emphasis areas: accounting, entrepreneurship, finance, international business, marketing, organizational science, and sport management.

    Applicants must possess at least a 2.5 undergraduate GPA. They must also submit GMAT scores. Applicants with an undergraduate GPA of 3.25 or higher may be exempt the GMAT requirement.


  • Brandman University

    Irvine, CA



    At Brandman University, master of business administration students learn to develop and evaluate global business strategies. The path to earning an MBA depends on many factors, including previous experience and specializations. Brandman dismisses some core course requirements for learners who earned their bachelor's degrees in business. In addition, learners may decide between several concentration options, including e-business strategic management and business intelligence and data analytics. Students must earn 38-46 credits in order to graduate, depending on their concentration.

    At Brandman, the curriculum centers around concepts such as ethical decision making, which crops up in courses including democracy, ethics, and leadership; self, systems, and leadership; and accounting ethics.

    To gain admission to Brandman's online MBA in California, applicants must submit entrance exam scores and transcripts demonstrating an undergraduate GPA of at least 2.5. Prospective students whose undergraduate GPAs exceeds 3.0 may not need to take entrance exams.


  • California Baptist University

    Riverside, CA



    Riverside-based California Baptist University began in 1950 with only 42 students. Now, the private liberal arts school enrolls nearly 10,000 students every year. In addition to on-campus programs, California Baptist administers a master of business administration program for online students. Learners earn 36 credits of coursework. On average, they complete the entire program in one year.

    CBU expects incoming students to possess a foundational knowledge of business concepts. Students who did not take business courses or who have no prior experience must enroll in extra foundational classes. Learners study topics like marketing management and the legal environment of business. They also dig deep into certain subjects, like quantitative business modeling.

    This degree holds accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs. Applicants should submit a bachelor's degree transcript, two recommendations, and a short essay explaining their reasons for applying. CBU does not require applicants to submit GRE or GMAT scores.


  • California College-San Diego

    San Diego, CA



    Offering one of the best master of business administration programs in southern California, California College San Diego teaches students the skills for senior-level executive work. The school runs its online MBA option through its affiliated institution, Independence University, and its primary goal is to prepare graduates for employment. The entire program can last 15-20 months, depending on students' schedules.

    Each class counts for four credits, the entire online degree consists of 60 credits of coursework. The curriculum covers topics such as the dynamics of companies and other organizations, communication skills for managers, finance at the corporate level, and how information technology fits into businesses and society. Students must also complete a capstone project before graduating.

    With accreditation from the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and College, this MBA program allows students to transfer in credits from undergraduate education or previous military experience.


  • California InterContinental University

    Irvine, CA



    California InterContintential University operates solely as an online, for-profit school. The school itself possesses a base in Irvine, but all students enroll in distance learning courses they can complete at their own convenience. The university, which holds accreditation from the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, offers 21 programs, including an online master of business administration.

    This online MBA in California consists of 36 credits, which students complete over four semesters, or two years. Learners take classes like entrepreneurial finance, economics for decision making, and strategic management and global competition. These courses equip students with skills they need to succeed as managers in technology-driven businesses.

    The application process at California InterContinental does not require prospective students to submit entrance exam scores. The program also does not mandate a minimum GPA for admission. However, applicants do need to turn in their undergraduate transcripts and a resume detailing past professional experience.


  • California Lutheran University

    Thousand Oaks, CA



    At California Lutheran University, students work on their online master of business administration degrees by enrolling in five eight-week semesters. Learners can opt to enroll part or full time, and the program lasts 1-2 years. The school offers six concentration options: enterprise innovation and fellowship, finance, human capital management, international business, information technology management, and marketing.

    In addition to their courses, students can take advantage of hands-on capstone experiences. California Lutheran offers credit for internships, and students can also embark on a project or create a business plan. The school offers an executive roundtable, an international travel course, and a consulting project capstone, as well. Undergraduate students in business can participate in the school's "4+1" program, which allows senior undergraduates to take MBA courses their senior year to finish their degrees sooner.

    Applicants should submit their undergraduate transcripts and GMAT scores. Candidates with a 3.0 GPA or higher can skip the GMAT requirement.


  • California State University-Dominguez Hills

    Carson, CA



    Students enrolled in the online master of business administration program at California State University, Dominguez Hills can finish their degrees in 18 months. The school's online terms run for 12 weeks, and learners take two courses each term. On-campus classes typically meet once a week, but the online option expects students to log in, learn, and participate in class discussions several times throughout the week.

    On top of the core course offerings, the university allows students to take advanced and elective classes. Students can pursue emphasis areas in international business, management, finance, marketing management, information technology management, human resource management, and global logistics and supply chain management. In addition, students may choose to add one of two certificates to their MBA: a certificate in logistics management, or a certificate in marketing.

    This online MBA in California does not ask interested candidates to submit GMAT scores. However, applicants must have earned at least a 2.5 GPA during their undergraduate studies. Entering students must also fulfill a graduate writing assessment requirement.


  • California State University-Fresno

    Fresno, CA



    As part of the expansive California State University, Fresno State administers a blended online master of business administration in California. Students complete all their coursework online, but they must also fulfill a few on-campus requirements, including orientation, final exams, and final culminating experience presentations. As a result, students best suited for this online MBA live a short distance from Fresno.

    The school offers several seminars in topics like international business and market research and analysis. The culminating experience expects students to either write a thesis or participate in a team or individual project. The MBA consulting project allows learners to analyze and solve problems for actual business owners and general managers. Students can also participate in the summer study abroad program.

    To apply, prospective students must submit their undergraduate transcripts with a minimum 2.5 GPA, a statement of purpose, two recommendations, and a GMAT score of at least 550.

  • California State University-Monterey Bay

    Seaside, CA



    At California State University, Monterey Bay, students can apply for an online master of business administration in California, no GMAT required. The school conducts its courses online, but its MBA program caps class sizes at 30 students. This allows students to get in touch with their professors for personalized help if they need it. Incoming students may also take advantage of CSUMB's $3,000 tuition discount.

    Overall, the MBA program at CSUMB consists of 48 credits. The curriculum instructs students in both soft skills, like leadership and ethics, and hard skills, such as economics and finance. Students may take six-credit courses over the course of 10 weeks, or three-credit courses over five weeks. They typically enroll in one class at a time. CSUMB also allows students to transfer up to six credits from previous coursework, as long as they received at least a B grade.

    CSUMB does not require applicants to submit GMAT scores, but prospective students should have achieved at least a 2.5 undergraduate GPA. Candidates should also submit a resume and personal statement laying out their relevant work experience.


What To Expect From MBA Programs in California

Online MBA programs in California typically take two full-time years to complete and require 30-60 credits. Some schools offer accelerated one-year online MBAs, allowing degree-seekers to take more credits each semester and graduate sooner. Other universities maintain hybrid programs, enabling learners to complete some coursework online and some in person.

Costs for California MBA programs vary by type of school (public or private), format (online or on-campus), and tuition rate (in-state or out-of-state). Attending a public university and paying in-state tuition typically offers the most affordable route to an MBA.

Most business schools offer MBA concentrations like human resources management, strategic management, finance, and IT. MBA candidates typically take classes like marketing for managers, strategic management, the legal and ethical environment of business, and leading in organizations. Read on for more about what to expect from the best online MBA programs.

Admission Requirements for MBAs

Admission requirements for California MBA programs vary by school, but typically include a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college. Some universities require an undergraduate degree in business, but most accept any bachelor’s degree as long as the applicant completes prerequisite foundational courses. Additional admission criteria may include a minimum 2.5-3.0 GPA, 1-5 years of relevant professional experience, and satisfactory GRE or GMAT scores.

The admissions process usually includes an online application, paying a fee, and submitting college transcripts, test scores, letters of recommendation, and a resume. Most programs also ask for a statement of purpose and writing sample. Applicants may need to complete an in-person or telephone interview. Different types of degree specializations typically do not change required prerequisites.

Explore MBA Admissions

Specialized MBAs

California’s online MBA programs offer concentrations that let students spend more time on a particular area of interest. Adding a concentration develops knowledge and skills that can help learners qualify for more specialized careers after graduation and stand out from general MBA holders. Students who want to keep their options open and gain the broadest skill set possible may decide to pursue a general MBA.

Specializations particularly relevant for California may include IT, social entrepreneurship, healthcare management, and strategic leadership.

Popular MBA Program Courses

The type and variety of classes available from online MBA programs in California varies by school. Most programs require core, elective/concentration, and capstone or project courses. A typical MBA curriculum focuses on advanced topics in business like management, accounting, ethics, and organizational behavior. Below, we describe some courses that most MBA programs offer.

This course focuses on ethical and legal issues in business settings. Class topics include dispute resolution, contracts, and employment relationships and the law. Enrollees learn how business professionals can meet legal and ethical requirements.
Students in this course explore the fundamental theories and practices of marketing for business professionals. Learning objectives include designing marketing campaigns in target markets, applying marketing tools, and understanding how businesses benefit from marketing efforts. Other topics include segmentation, pricing, branding, and promotion.
This class provides a foundation in strategic management theory and practice, focusing on process and value. Students explore organizational analysis, corporate governance, strategy formulation, and business analysis.
Learners in this course gain proficiency in using systems to organize business information and make managerial decisions. The course emphasizes upper-level managerial decisions. Topics include electronic commerce, management support technologies, IT architecture, and managing technology-driven change.

The MBA Capstone or Thesis

Many of California’s online MBA programs require a master’s capstone or thesis. These experiences serve as a culmination of the program, allowing students to apply their skills and knowledge to one cohesive project. A capstone usually lasts one semester, and may involve working with a group to solve a problem for a real-world business.

An MBA thesis is an independent intensive research project, formal paper, and presentation that typically takes one year to complete. Because of their focus on practical skills, most MBA programs require a capstone instead of a more research-intensive thesis.

MBA candidates who complete a capstone benefit from gaining extensive real-world professional experience from the businesses that operate in the state. Many business schools partner with local business leaders and organizations. Students who complete a capstone with a California business may find internship and job opportunities after graduation.

How Much Do MBAs Cost in California?

The cost of California MBA programs varies by school. Factors that affect prices include program format (online or on campus), school type (public or private), and tuition rate (in-state or out-of-state). MBA candidates typically find affordable programs by choosing public universities where they can pay in-state tuition.

Online MBA programs can offer savings by giving students the flexibility to work while in school and take out fewer loans. Many distance education programs also provide tuition discounts for out-of-state students, offer routes that let learners graduate more quickly, and include free online textbooks.

When estimating the cost of earning an MBA in California, prospective students should consider cost of living, which includes the price of essentials like housing, transportation, groceries, and utilities in comparison to the national average. One of the most expensive states, California reports a cost of living index score of 152, the third-highest in the United States.

Most business schools offer a variety of financing options, including scholarships, grants, loans, and fellowships. See the link below for more information about financial aid for MBA students.

Learn More About Financial Aid Options

What Jobs Can MBAs Get You?

Earning an MBA can open doors to new career opportunities and higher salaries in diverse sectors. The BLS reports that business and financial occupations earn a median annual salary of $69,820, significantly more than the national median for all jobs of $39,810. Many career paths open to MBA holders offer much more, with sales managers earning $126,640 a year and compensation and benefits managers earning $122,270 annually.

Other careers available to those with a master’s in business administration include human resources manager, training and development manager, and top executive. Students who earn specialized MBAs in some areas, such as IT, qualify for additional careers. Below, we describe some potential careers for MBA graduates, including typical job duties, required education, job outlook, and median annual salary.

  • Human Resources Managers

    Human resources managers find employment in nearly every industry, make high salaries, and can expect faster-than-average job growth. They oversee the administrative functions and staffing of their organizations. Frequent job duties include planning employee benefit programs, managing staffing processes, and advising management on human resources issues.

    • Required Education: Bachelor’s degree required; some jobs require an MBA
    • Job Outlook (2019-29): +6%
    • Median Annual Salary: $116,720

  • Compensation and Benefits Managers

    One of the best paid occupations of MBA graduates, compensation and benefits managers manage plans for paying employees of the organizations they work at. They create their company’s pay structure and benefit plan, manage outside partners like investment managers and benefits vendors, and prepare program budgets.

    • Required Education: Bachelor’s degree required
    • Job Outlook (2019-29): +3%
    • Median Annual Salary: $122,270

  • Training and Development Managers

    Training and development managers work in almost every industry. They plan and oversee internal training programs for employees. Typical duties include assessing the need for training, creating budgets, reviewing training materials from vendors, and evaluating training programs. They may also supervise training staff. Some employers prefer training and development managers with industry certifications.

    • Required Education: Bachelor’s degree required; some employers prefer a master’s degree
    • Job Outlook (2019-29): +7%
    • Median Annual Salary: $113,350

  • Top Executives

    In addition to education, top executives usually need extensive professional experience. They create policies and strategies to help organizations meet their goals. Typical duties include finding ways to improve organizational performance, overseeing budgets, and analyzing financial data. Types of top executives include chief executive officer, school superintendent, and general manager.

    • Required Education: Bachelor’s degree required; some large companies require an MBA
    • Job Outlook (2019-29): +4%
    • Median Annual Salary: $104,690

  • Sales Managers

    Sales managers oversee sales teams for their organizations. They analyze data, set sales goals, analyze statistics, and prepare budgets. Major employers include whole trade, retail trade, manufacturing, and professional services organizations. Most sales managers need 1-5 years of sales experience to qualify for management positions.

    • Required Education: Bachelor’s degree
    • Job Outlook (2019-29): +4%
    • Median Annual Salary: $126,640

California’s Top MBA Employers

Frequently ranked as one of the best places in the U.S. to do business and boasting the fifth-largest economy in the world, California is a great spot for recent MBA graduates to find work. Nearly every sector in the Golden State hires MBAs, but major employers include the tech, entertainment, tourism, and manufacturing industries.

MBA graduates find plentiful work in many of the state’s major cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, and San Diego. In particular, Silicon Valley offers huge opportunities for a variety of business occupations.

Business professionals in California work as human resources managers, top executives, sales managers, and training and development managers. Sales managers in California make significantly more than the national mean wage for this occupation, taking home an average annual wage of $137,000 as of May 2019. MBA students in California seeking high salaries may want to consider a specialization in sales management for this reason.

Below, we describe some of the best places for MBA-holders to work in California, including Apple, Google, and McKinsey and Company. This is just a small sampling of the hundreds of organizations in California that hire MBA graduates.

Top MBA Employers in California

McKinsey & Company

One of the most admired companies that hires MBAs, McKinsey & Company is a management consulting firm headquartered in New York with multiple offices throughout California. The company hires MBAs to offer strategic management services to government, corporations, and other groups.


A multinational tech industry giant founded in 1976, Apple creates consumer electronics, online services, and computer software. Some of the company’s most popular products include the iPhone, Mac personal computer, and iPad. Apple hires MBA graduates to help with supply chain and procurement, human resources management, sales, and finance.


Headquartered in Mountain View, California, Google is a multinational tech company that specializes in internet products and services and is best known for its search engine. MBA graduates use their finance and management skills to help Google in corporate marketing, product management, and product marketing.

Selecting Your California MBA Program

Our rankings list of the best online MBA programs in California is a great starting point, but most prospective students benefit from considering a variety of other factors before choosing a school. Think about the following criteria to help you make your decision.

Choosing an accredited online MBA is the best way to access financial aid, transfer credit to another institution, and qualify for professional certifications. Most MBA programs also hold separate programmatic accreditation from one of the following agencies: the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, and the International Accreditation Council for Business Education.
Think about your budget and what you can afford for your MBA. Costs vary significantly depending on type of school, learning format, and residency status.
Research the available concentrations from your prospective MBA program to see if they reflect your personal interests or career goals.
Program Length
How long do you want to spend in business school? If you aim to finish your degree as quickly as possible, look for accelerated online MBA programs.
University Resources
Look for student support like a career development office, access to library services, IT assistance, and tutoring.

Why You Should Consider Online MBA Schools in California

Online MBA programs in California offer convenience, flexibility, and affordability. Unlike traditional on-campus business schools, which require students to be in a physical classroom at a specific time, most distance education programs offer asynchronous courses. This means learners can fit school around jobs, family responsibilities, and other personal obligations. Enrollees can log on at their convenience to attend virtual lectures, participate in discussion boards, and submit assignments.

Online MBA programs also can cost less, featuring tuition discounts for out-of-state students, savings on some campus fees, and free online textbooks. Distance learners avoid the cost of on-campus housing or commuting and may be able to graduate with less debt, since they can usually continue working more easily than students attending class in person.

When deciding if you should choose an online MBA program, consider factors like your personal style of learning, budget, schedule, and academic goals. Distance education works very well for a diverse group of learners, but some people prefer a more traditional college experience. You can also consider online MBA programs in other neighboring states.

Online MBA Programs In Nearby States

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are online MBAs respected?

    The vast majority of employers recognize the value of an online MBA. Many schools offer online and in-person MBA programs with an identical curriculum, faculty, and student resources and support.

  • How much does an MBA cost in California?

    The cost of an online MBA in California varies by program and school type. Attending a public university and paying in-state tuition usually offers the most affordable option.

  • Is getting an MBA online worth it?

    Earning an online MBA in California takes hard work, time, and money, but it can definitely pay off. Graduates qualify for a variety of lucrative, in-demand business and finance careers. Calculate your return on investment to figure out if getting an MBA is worth it to you.

  • Does California have online degrees?

    There are many opportunities for distance education in the state, including a variety of online MBA schools in California.

Advertisement is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Advertisement is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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