List of California Universities with PhD Programs

California is home to over 100 public and private non-profit universities that offer graduate degrees -- many of which include PhD programs. Compare four of the schools in California to determine which schools might be right for you.

School Ranking Overview

Students in California looking to enter doctoral programs have numerous university options in the state. These include public universities as well as smaller private institutions that may focus on providing education in a handful of fields. This article seeks to help students with their education decision by comparing four of California's largest schools and then ranking them in the following areas:

  • Program Variety
  • Tuition
  • Graduation Rate
  • Student-to-Faculty Ratio

Program Variety

Schools that offer a variety of programs often give students the opportunity to not only explore multiple fields but also specialize within their chosen areas of study. These three universities have the most programs of the four California institutions compared.

1. University of Southern California

Located in Los Angeles, the University of Southern California (USC) offers 340 program options at the undergraduate and graduate levels. The private non-profit school offers doctoral, master's and bachelor's degrees as well as graduate certificates. Some of the PhD program options at USC include biokinesiology, business administration, architecture, sociology, psychology, mathematics, political science, pharmaceutical sciences, social work and cinematic arts.

2. University of California - Los Angeles

Commonly called UCLA, the University of California - Los Angeles ranks second with its program count of 287. Students interested in pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy program at UCLA have multiple options, such as anthropology, engineering, music, social welfare, human genetics, foreign languages, philosophy, biomathematics, neurobiology and theater. Along with doctorates, this public institution also offers master's degrees, bachelor's degrees and graduate-level certificates.

3. University of California - Berkeley

The University of California in Berkeley (UC Berkeley) is a four-year public school that ranks third in this category. With 151 programs to select from, students here can earn graduate certificates and degrees from the bachelor's through doctoral levels. PhD programs include electrical engineering, public policy, statistics, history, music, information management, ethnic studies, integrative biology, education, and architecture, among others.


In general, graduate programs cost more than those offered at the undergraduate level. This is an important consideration for aspiring PhD students who have strict budgets. Of those compared, the following schools have the most reasonable in-state graduate tuition charges, according to 2013-2014 figures from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

1. California State University - Long Beach

A four-year public institution offering bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees, California State University in Long Beach claims the top spot when it comes to cost. In-state graduate students can expect to pay $6,738 in tuition a year, while those from other states pay $17,898. Regardless of residency, the average yearly fees for graduate students total $768.

2. University of California - Los Angeles

Both UCLA and UC Berkeley have the same average annual graduate tuition charges for in-state and out-of-state students; however, the former institution comes out ahead thanks to its lower yearly fees. The in-state tuition comes to about $11,220 and, for those from out-of-state, $26,322; the annual fee amount totals $1,351. Other educational expenses, such as housing, learning supplies and textbooks, are not included in these figures.

3. University of California - Berkeley

Ranking third, UC Berkeley charges an average of $12,864 a year in tuition and fees for in-state students and $27,966 for out-of-state students enrolled in graduate programs. In both cases, $1,644 of those figures is devoted to fees.

Graduation Rate

For students looking for some insight into a school's education quality, it's worth taking a look at graduation rates. The NCES figures in this category are based on full-time undergrads who began their studies in fall 2007 and earned their first degree or certificate within 150% of normal program completion time. Based on this data, these institutions have the highest graduation rates of the profiled schools.

1. University of Southern California

With a graduation rate of 91%, USC ranks first in this category. UC Berkeley has the same graduation rate, but USC comes out ahead due to its larger student population (NCES). The university's retention rate -- which refers to the number of full-time undergrads who began bachelor's-level programs in fall 2012 and returned to USC in fall 2013 -- is also quite high. At 96%, it suggests that most USC students have positive opinions of their academic experience (NCES).

2. University of California - Berkeley

As already mentioned, UC Berkeley has a high graduation rate of 91%; it also happens to have the same fall 2012-fall 2013 retention rate as USC: 96% (NCES). Clearly, the majority of students are happy receiving a UC Berkeley education.

3. University of California - Los Angeles

UCLA takes third place in this category with a graduation rate of 90%; it too has a 96% retention rate for full-time students who began bachelor's degree programs in fall 2012 and returned the following fall (NCES). This is yet another instance in which a substantial number of students seem to be satisfied with what the institution has to offer academically.

Student-to-Faculty Ratio

Doctoral studies are intensive and typically involve complex research projects, which makes one-on-one interaction with professors vital. Student-to-faculty ratios provide an idea of how feasible it is to obtain such personal attention on campus. The three schools below have the lowest ratios of those highlighted in this article, per the NCES.

1. University of Southern California

The student-to-faculty ratio at USC stands at 9:1, which is an indication that this institution provides an optimal learning environment for individualized attention. According to 2013 stats from the NCES, USC employs 3,622 full-time and 1,772 part-time professors.

2. University of California - Los Angeles

With a ratio of 16 students for every one faculty member, UCLA ranks second. It should still be fairly easy for students to engage one-on-one with their professors in the classroom. As of 2013, UCLA's faculty is made up of 4,221 full-time and 1,246 adjunct educators (NCES).

3. University of California - Berkeley

Taking the third spot is UC Berkeley with a student-to-faculty ratio of 17:1. The university has 4,112 professors on staff as of 2013, with more than 3,000 of them being full-time employees (NCES).

California Schools: At a Glance

School Name Location School Type Programs Offered Area Ranking
California State University - Long Beach Long Beach, CA Public Bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees #1 in Tuition
University of California - Berkeley Berkeley, CA Public Graduate certificates; bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees #3 in Program Variety, #3 in Tuition, #2 in Graduation Rate, #3 in Student-to-Faculty Ratio
University of California - Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA Public Graduate certificates; bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees #2 in Program Variety, #2 in Tuition, #3 in Graduation Rate, #2 in Student-to-Faculty Ratio
University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA Private not-for-profit Graduate certificates; bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees #1 in Program Variety, #1 in Graduation Rate, #1 in Student-to-Faculty Ratio

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