Best Colleges in California by Salary Potential

About to take the important step of choosing college? Before you do, check out these college rankings by graduate salary in California.

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Bachelor's Only
All Alumni
RankSchool NameSchool TypeEarly Career Pay
Mid-Career Pay
% High Meaning
% STEM Degrees
Rank:1School Name:Stanford UniversitySchool Type:Engineering, Private School, Research University, For Sports FansEarly Career Pay:$86,800Mid-Career Pay:$164,200% High Meaning:61%% STEM Degrees:51%
Rank:2School Name:Harvey Mudd CollegeSchool Type:Engineering, Liberal Arts School, Private SchoolEarly Career Pay:$93,100Mid-Career Pay:$160,600% High Meaning:54%% STEM Degrees:85%
Rank:3School Name:California Institute of TechnologySchool Type:Engineering, Private School, Research UniversityEarly Career Pay:$93,200Mid-Career Pay:$159,900% High Meaning:54%% STEM Degrees:97%
Rank:4School Name:Claremont McKenna CollegeSchool Type:Liberal Arts School, Private SchoolEarly Career Pay:$73,800Mid-Career Pay:$150,000% High Meaning:48%% STEM Degrees:16%
Rank:5School Name:Santa Clara UniversitySchool Type:Private School, Religious, For Sports FansEarly Career Pay:$72,900Mid-Career Pay:$148,600% High Meaning:47%% STEM Degrees:29%
Rank:6School Name:University of California-BerkeleySchool Type:Research University, For Sports Fans, State SchoolEarly Career Pay:$74,500Mid-Career Pay:$146,700% High Meaning:51%% STEM Degrees:36%
Rank:7School Name:Pomona CollegeSchool Type:Liberal Arts School, Private SchoolEarly Career Pay:$69,100Mid-Career Pay:$137,800% High Meaning:54%% STEM Degrees:37%
Rank:8School Name:University of California-San DiegoSchool Type:Engineering, Research University, State SchoolEarly Career Pay:$67,200Mid-Career Pay:$136,400% High Meaning:56%% STEM Degrees:58%
Rank:9School Name:Charles R Drew University of Medicine and ScienceSchool Type:Private SchoolEarly Career Pay:$91,000Mid-Career Pay:$134,300% High Meaning:-% STEM Degrees:3%
Rank:10School Name:California State University Maritime AcademySchool Type:State SchoolEarly Career Pay:$69,100Mid-Career Pay:$133,400% High Meaning:57%% STEM Degrees:15%
Rank:11School Name:University of California-IrvineSchool Type:Research University, For Sports Fans, State SchoolEarly Career Pay:$62,900Mid-Career Pay:$131,100% High Meaning:51%% STEM Degrees:34%
Rank:12School Name:University of Southern CaliforniaSchool Type:Private School, Research University, For Sports FansEarly Career Pay:$68,200Mid-Career Pay:$130,800% High Meaning:51%% STEM Degrees:23%
Rank:13School Name:Samuel Merritt UniversitySchool Type:Private SchoolEarly Career Pay:$94,300Mid-Career Pay:$130,100% High Meaning:90%% STEM Degrees:0%
Rank:14School Name:University of California-Santa BarbaraSchool Type:Party School, Research University, For Sports Fans, State SchoolEarly Career Pay:$62,100Mid-Career Pay:$129,500% High Meaning:49%% STEM Degrees:29%
Rank:15School Name:University of California-Los AngelesSchool Type:Research University, For Sports Fans, State SchoolEarly Career Pay:$65,600Mid-Career Pay:$129,400% High Meaning:52%% STEM Degrees:31%
Rank:16School Name:Loyola Marymount UniversitySchool Type:Private School, Religious, For Sports FansEarly Career Pay:$60,800Mid-Career Pay:$127,100% High Meaning:43%% STEM Degrees:9%
Rank:17School Name:California Polytechnic State University-San Luis ObispoSchool Type:For Sports Fans, State SchoolEarly Career Pay:$67,900Mid-Career Pay:$127,000% High Meaning:53%% STEM Degrees:38%
Rank:18School Name:University of California-DavisSchool Type:Research University, For Sports Fans, State SchoolEarly Career Pay:$64,300Mid-Career Pay:$126,800% High Meaning:54%% STEM Degrees:35%
Rank:19School Name:Occidental CollegeSchool Type:Liberal Arts School, Private SchoolEarly Career Pay:$58,700Mid-Career Pay:$124,000% High Meaning:57%% STEM Degrees:25%
Rank:20School Name:Middlebury Institute of International Studies at MontereySchool Type:Private SchoolEarly Career Pay:$66,200Mid-Career Pay:$123,800% High Meaning:-% STEM Degrees:0%
Rank:21School Name:Saint Mary's College of CaliforniaSchool Type:Private School, Religious, For Sports FansEarly Career Pay:$60,900Mid-Career Pay:$123,700% High Meaning:54%% STEM Degrees:5%
Rank:22School Name:Westmont CollegeSchool Type:Liberal Arts School, Private School, ReligiousEarly Career Pay:$57,100Mid-Career Pay:$121,300% High Meaning:59%% STEM Degrees:18%
Rank:23School Name:University of San DiegoSchool Type:Private School, Religious, Research University, For Sports FansEarly Career Pay:$61,800Mid-Career Pay:$120,600% High Meaning:49%% STEM Degrees:12%
Rank:24School Name:San Jose State UniversitySchool Type:For Sports Fans, State SchoolEarly Career Pay:$65,800Mid-Career Pay:$118,900% High Meaning:55%% STEM Degrees:28%
Rank:25School Name:California State Polytechnic University-PomonaSchool Type:State SchoolEarly Career Pay:$59,700Mid-Career Pay:$117,600% High Meaning:52%% STEM Degrees:30%

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College Student

Selecting the best colleges in California means plenty of options, as there are nearly 200 colleges to choose from.

Two Golden State powerhouses for early and mid-career salaries are Harvey Mudd College and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). But when ranking by early career salary, you might be surprised to find out that little-known Loma Linda ranks fairly high. Loma Linda grants mostly medical degrees and produces lots of nurses, so those who graduate with a bachelor’s degree from Loma Linda are popular hires and see high salaries right away. However, they rank much lower for median mid-career salaries, because nurses salaries plateau rather quickly. Stanford alum, for example, go on to earn higher a median mid-career salaries, in general.

California is home to some of the most famous and well-regarded public universities in the nation. The University of California, Berkeley; UC San Diego; and California State University San Louis Obispo. California State University, Northridge is the biggest school in California, with more than 33,000 students.

California has one of the most famous coastlines in the United States, and is home to plenty of colleges with easy beach access. But that doesn’t mean that students surf more than they study — alumni of UCSD, UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz, Pepperdine University and San Diego State University all earn a comfortable median mid-career salary and have beautiful, beachside campuses.