Best Colleges in California for Computer Science and IT

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Big-name tech companies such as Google, Facebook, Intel, and Apple are all headquartered in California. In 2017, California's tech industry contributed more than $385 billion to the state's economy. And yet, California employers posted that year more than 420,000 job openings to try to fill technology positions, including those like software and web developers, computer systems and information security analysts, network architects, and support specialists.

Fortunately, there are numerous IT programs in California that can prepare students with the knowledge and skills necessary to work at Fortune 500 companies as well as startups and smaller businesses in the state.

California's Technology Education Initiatives

California's government and education leaders have focused in recent years on raising awareness about STEM fields — which includes computer science — in order to help more students be prepared to meet industry demand for degree-holding IT professionals. These efforts are paying off: The number of students who are graduating with four-year STEM degrees has dramatically increased in the state. By 2016-17, almost three times as many bachelor's degrees in computer and information sciences were awarded as in 2010-11. Here are a few ways the state is fostering this growth.

  • Nurturing interest in STEM at a early age: The California STEM Network, part of the Children Now program, is working to increase access to STEM education for youth throughout the state, especially for girls and children of color. The network connects stakeholders and leaders who represent business and industry, community-based organizations, government agencies, and K-12 and higher education, among others.
  • Supporting new STEM majors: As a way to encourage students to graduate with a STEM degree, California State University designed the STEM Collaboratives project. This project, funded by a $4.6 million grant and tested by eight CSU campuses from 2014 to 2017, provided incoming freshmen who were beginning a STEM major with a supportive environment and hands-on STEM experiences.
  • New computer science standards for K-12 students: In September 2018, California's Board of Education established new guidelines that are expected to increase the number of computer science classes available to K-12 students. Although these standards are optional, schools districts are more likely to adopt them as a way to recognize the importance of the digital world and to prepare students for computer science degree programs in California as well as future employment in tech-related fields.
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Best Computer Science and IT Colleges in California

No matter which type of degree a student chooses to pursue, students seeking computer science careers in California can expect to learn the skills required to excel in this field. Different degree requirements, however, may apply to certain IT occupations. For example, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that most programmers have a bachelor's degree in computer science or a computer-related field, but that certain workers may find entry-level employment with an associate degree.

Ranking School Name In-State Avg. Undergrad Tuition % Receiving Financial Aid Retention Rate Number of Tech-Related Programs
1 Cosumnes River College N/A 72% 71% 8
2 De Anza College $1,395 42% 79% 8
3 Sacramento City College N/A 74% 69% 12
4 Ohlone College $1,104 42% 80% 8
5 Southwestern College $1,288 81% 72% 7
6 Palomar College $1,288 66% 70% 6
7 University of California-Irvine $11,442 68% 93% 5
8 Cypress College $1,104 70% N/A 6
9 American River College N/A 73% 71% 7
Source: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2018-19, National Center for Education Statistics,

Spotlight on Computer Science Schools in California

While many schools in California offer campus-based or online IT degree programs, here are a few examples of those that have noteworthy computer science schools:

  • California Institute of Technology: Computer science majors at Cal Tech have multiple opportunities to pursue research projects both on campus and at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Students may also apply for a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship in order to work closely with a mentor. SURF participants are expected to present a technical paper and give an oral presentation.
  • California Baptist University: At California Baptist University, students may pursue a bachelor of computer science. This program offers a number of interesting courses such as Graphics and Visual Computing, which focuses on the principles of the modern communication system and Social and Professional Issues in Computing, which discusses the complicated social and ethical issues of computing.
  • University of California, Irvine: Due to the widespread popularity of video games, UC Irvine is one of the IT schools in California that offers a bachelor's degree in computer game science. Through this program, students can learn how to design and build computer games as well as other types of interactive media.
  • University of the Pacific: UoP offers a computer science major that is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission and prepares students for careers as computer scientists or software developers. Students can choose from three unique concentrations including software development, graphics and stimulation and networking and computer security.

IT Salaries and Career Outlook in California

Technology giants in The Golden State, such as Google, Alphabet, Apple, and Qualcomm, and Oracle are likely to need a regular pipeline of IT professionals who can help them continue to innovate and meet ever-evolving customer demands. Well-known social media outlets such as Facebook and Pinterest, based in or near California's Silicon Valley, also employ these types of IT professionals.

CareerAnnual Mean Wage
Computer Network Architects$128,100
Computer Network Support Specialists$75,150
Computer Programmers$103,790
Computer Systems Analysts$110,820
Database Administrators and Architects$106,720
Information Security Analysts$114,620
Network and Computer Systems Administrators$99,480
Software Developers and Software Quality Assurance Analysts and Testers$134,370
Web Developers and Digital Interface Designers$90,230
2019 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics,

Computer Science Scholarships for California Students

Given the state's tech focus, it's not surprising that specific scholarships exist to support students who wish to pursue IT or computer science programs in California. While more broadly based scholarships may be available, here are a few examples of awards designed to support students who meet various location, gender, or ethnicity qualifications.

Be sure also to check your school of choice to see what might be available — you may be surprised at what you find! UCLA's Samueli College of Engineering notes a dozen different computer science-related scholarships, while San Diego State University's scholarship search tool turns up more than a dozen awards.

Professional Organizations/Resources

There are a few professional organizations that students who are pursuing campus-based or online IT degree programs in California may find valuable, including:

  • CompTIA AITP: The Los Angeles and San Diego chapters of this national association of IT professionals allow members to build their professional network and stay up-to-date on technology and business trends.
  • California Technology Council: The CTC aims to serve a diverse group of members through its advocacy efforts, research, participation in the policymaking process, networking opportunities, educational programs, and workforce development throughout the state.
Article Sources

To be included in the rankings, all colleges had to meet the following criteria:

  • Be an accredited U.S. institution
  • Offer either 2 or 4-year degree programs
  • Be active in the 2016-17 school year
  • Offer a degree in a technology-related subject
  • Have awarded at least one degree in that subject in 2015-16
  • Have reported data for all ranking variables listed below

Ranking variables:

  • Related subjects, based on the number of relevant programs that are offered at any level
  • Flexibility, based on number of relevant programs that are offered at any level via distance education
  • Average in-state undergraduate tuition
  • Percent of undergraduate students awarded federal, state, local, institutional or other sources of grant aid
  • Average amount of federal, state, local, institutional, or other sources of grant aid awarded to undergraduate students
  • Graduation rate
  • Retention rate

Methodology Sources:

  1. Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics,
Article Sources


  • California Institute of Technology, All Rankings, U.S. News and World Report,
  • Computer Programmers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics,
  • Long Term Occupational Projections, Projections Central,
  • May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, California,
  • Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2014, Computer Programmers, Bureau of Labor Statistics,
  • OES Data, Bureau of Labor Statistics,
  • U.S. News & Wordl Report, School Rankings: "Stanford University,", "University of California - Berkeley,", "University of California - Los Angeles,", "University of California - San Diego,", "University of Southern California,"