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Psychology Schools in California

The following guide to psychology schools in California provides important information that will allow you to choose the best psychology program for your career goals. California’s colleges and universities offer psychology degrees focused on such areas as behavioral psychology, clinical psychology, and cognitive psychology. Online programs, because of their flexibility, are often a viable alternative to traditional on-campus programs. Southern California University, for example, allows students to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology entirely online.

Quick Facts:

  • There are 185 colleges and universities with psychology degree programs in California.
  • 80 schools provide a master’s or advanced degree in psychology.
  • Highest graduation rate*: Stanford University 96%1
  • Highest transfer-out rate*: University of the West 100%1
  • Highest net price*: Santa Clara University $33,8901
  • Lowest net price*: California State University, Dominquez Hills $2,5201
  • Annual undergraduate tuition range for schools in California with psychology and counseling programs*: $13,068 – $40,2342
  • 12 Schools in the Kiplinger’s Best Values in Public Colleges in 2013: University of California, Los Angeles (6), University of California, Berkeley (8), University of California, San Diego (15), University of California, Santa Barbara (16), University of California, Irvine (19), University of California, Davis (20), California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (34), University of California, Santa Cruz (58), San Diego State University (73), California State University, Long Beach (80), California Polytechnic University, Pomona (92), and University of California, Riverside (93).
  • 11 Schools ranked in US News National Universities Rankings in 2013 (top 100): Stanford University (6), California Institute of Technology (10), University of California, Berkeley (21), University of California, Los Angeles (24), University of Southern California (24), University of California, Davis (38), University of California, San Diego (38), University of California, Santa Barbara (41), University of California, Irvine (44), Pepperdine University (54), University of California, Santa Cruz (77), and University of San Diego (92).
  • We found 10 highly ranked psychology doctorate programs by the National Research Council (2005-06) S-Ranking: San Diego State University (1), University of California, San Diego (1), Stanford University (2), University of California, Los Angeles (8), University of California, Santa Barbara (19), University of California, Davis (23), University of California, Berkeley (27), University of California, Irvine (54), University of California, Riverside (59), University of California, Santa Cruz (118), and Loma Linda University (146).

*For 4-year colleges and universities with psychology degree programs. Transfer-out rate is the percentage of students who started as a freshman in 2005 and transferred to a different school without earning a degree at the initial institution.

Continue reading to learn more about the psychology programs offered in California, including profiles of several popular programs at California’s leading universities.

Psychology Undergraduate Programs in California

The University of California at Los Angeles
The University of California at Los Angeles offers three undergraduate psychology-related degrees: a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in psychology, a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Cognitive Science, and a B.S. in Psychobiology. The psychology department at UCLA encourages psychology majors to become involved in academic activities, such as the Psychology Undergraduate Research Conference, which brings together psychology majors from across the country to discuss the latest research in the field. Psychology majors are also invited to join the UCLA Psych Society and qualified students may opt to join Psi Chi, a national honor society in psychology. Students may also share research findings with the campus’s Undergraduate Psychology Journal.

California State University, Los Angeles
California State University, Los Angeles features a 180 credit undergraduate program leading to a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. Psychology majors must complete between 76 and 79 credits to fulfill major requirements, focusing on such topics as inferential statistics in psychology, psychology of violence and aggression, social psychology, history and systems of psychology, and media psychology. Undergraduate students can hone their research skills by working with the on-campus psychology research labs. Field experiences place students in volunteer assignments that allow for observation and participation in a variety of settings, such as a clinical facility. Psychology majors may join Psi Chi, if eligible, and the Black Psychology Society.

Psychology Graduate Programs in California

California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo
California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo affords students the opportunity to earn a Master of Science (M.S.) in Psychology. Graduates of the 90 quarter credit program will be eligible to sit for the Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) license exam in California. In addition to completing core graduate coursework, all graduate students will gain real world experience by participating in on-campus clinical labs and in fieldwork in the local community. Psychology students generally complete the graduate program in two and a half to three years. Individual classes are offered once each year in the afternoon or in the evening. Successful applicants to the program must have first completed the required prerequisite courses, including abnormal psychology and research methods in psychology.

California Lutheran University
California Lutheran University awards the Master of Science (M.S.) in Clinical Psychology to students who successfully complete the 34 credit graduate program. Graduate students begin the program in the fall semester, which allows for full time or part time study, the latter of which generally takes two and a half years to complete. The program prepares students for work in a position that does not require licensing and to continue on to doctoral study. Graduate students will focus on research rather than gaining direct experience with clients and will be able to take such courses as psychopathology, applied behavior analysis, theories of Latino counseling, and survey of psychological testing.

Schools with Psychology Degree Programs in California

American River College
4700 College Oak Drive,
Sacramento, CA 95841
(916) 484-8011
http://www.arc.losrios.edu/

Student Review: “I really enjoyed the vast majority of professors I had in my psychology program. Each semester was new and I had a new experiences (mostly good) with each new professor. This made things a little more difficult, but it conditioned me to become a better student throughout the years and I really enjoyed all the different aspects of psychology that I learned from many different people. I also enjoyed the support I was given, and many of my professors continued to help me even after I had finished and passed their classes. All-in-all, I loved the entire feeling I got from the school. I had minimal problems, I loved most of my professors and classes, and overall I would do it all over again if I could.” – student at American River College
stars-4

Brandman University
16355 Laguna Canyon Road,
Irvine, CA 92618
(949) 753-4774
https://www.brandman.edu/

Student Review: “I attended and recently completed the BA Psychology program at Brandman University. Overall I had a pleasant experience. I was assigned a counselor who was very attentive and helped me lock in the courses I needed ahead of time to keep my student plan organized and up to date, allowing me to apply and receive the student aid that I was qualified for. The courses were 8 weeks long, so it was imperative to stay on top of all coursework and assignments and plan as far ahead as possible. It was essential to have your books on the first day of class to get familiar with the material and what was expected of you by the professors. The courses were challenging. They forced me to think outside the box, be creative, and learn to research both qualitative and quantitative data and be able to produce reports and properly present the information I had gathered. Overall I give Brandman an A+ for excellent counselors, professors, a well-structured curriculum, and for having night classes as well as online classes. I would recommend Brandman University to anyone who willing to work hard for their degree!” – student at Brandman University
stars-5

California State, Channel Islands
1 University Drive,
Camarillo, CA 93012
(805) 437-8400
http://www.csuci.edu/

Student Review: “The Psychology program at Cal State Channel Islands is phenomenal. From the very beginning of my freshman year the Psych program nurtures and teaches you how to utilize methods and theories that can be applied to real life. The classes offered try to integrate other majors into the program so that the psych students are able to have broader spectrum on how psychology is in our everyday life. The department chair of the program not only runs the program but actually teaches some of the upper division classes. Since our school is so small it’s so easy for your professor to know your name and its very likely you will have that professor for multiple classes. The one way I think they can improve is if they offered more online classes for certain classes.” – student at California State, Channel Islands
stars-5

California State, Fullerton
800 North State College Boulevard,
Fullerton, CA 92831
(657) 278-2011
http://www.fullerton.edu/

Student Review: “My experience with Cal State Fullerton’s psychology department was very positive. The professors seemed very knowledgeable about their specialties and the classes themselves were structured very well. Several of my professors had published books on the topic of psychology and were well-respected in their fields. My abnormal psychology professor was a particular favorite. She was very skilled at teaching and the subject was extremely interesting. The best part was the case studies from former patients. Without identifying anyone, she provided real-life examples of session notes and behaviors of the patients. It was far more useful than the textbook examples and greatly helped the students to understand the disorders.” – student at California State, Fullerton
stars-4

California State, San Marcos
333 South Twin Oaks Valley Road,
San Marcos, CA 92078
(760) 750-4000
http://www.csusm.edu/

Student Review: “Cal State San Marcos’s psychology program was very enriching for me. The curriculum was always very interesting and hands-on, and undergrad students got to participate in studies organized by the graduate students. Additionally, we are given the opportunity to do research alongside professors. One thing that could have been better was having more guest speakers from various specializations within the psychology world. We never really had any, other than our professors, so specific questions that we may have had often got broad answers, which was not very helpful. However, the professors were extremely helpful when it came to their specific subject and understanding the material. They worked very closely with us to keep us from falling behind.” – student at California State, San Marcos
stars-4

Columbia College
11600 Columbia College Drive,
Sonora, CA 95370
(209) 588-5100
http://www.gocolumbia.edu/

Student Review: “Attending Columbia College was a great experience for me. The campus is natural and scenic and my instructors were knowledgeable and available. During my time taking courses for a sports psycology degree, I gained a wealth of information. Some of my course work was online and this portion went very smoothly. My instructors were available weekly between classes to help with questions and exam preparation. I am pleased with what I have learned in psychology and sports psychology, and I have been able to use my degree to further my career and to be better qualified for advancement. I think Columbia College is a good choice for anyone who is reasonably local and is interested in coursework involving psychology and/or sports psychology.” – student at Columbia College
stars-4

College of the Redwoods
7351 Tompkins Hill Road,
Eureka, CA 95501
(707) 476-4100
http://www.redwoods.edu/

Student Review: “I took a variety of classes at CR before narrowing my field of study to psychology. I found some related electives, such as crime and delinquency (administration of justice) and intro to race and ethnic relations (sociology) which really helped me broaden my understanding. My favorite class by far was lifespan development, which focused on mental abilities and specific psychological issues from infancy to end of life. Another interesting class was abnormal psychology, in which we learned about mood disorders, personality disorders and other issues. The one mistake I made was taking intro to psych after the other classes, which meant that it was mostly review. With regard to CR in general, I found it to be a welcoming and easy-to-navigate campus, tucked into the scenic redwoods of Humboldt County. It was also very affordable: at the time, I paid about 26 dollars per credit. CR also has a transfer agreement with Humboldt State University, for those looking to get into a higher-level program. Overall, aside from the commute, I found it very enjoyable.” – student at College of the Redwoods
stars-4

Mount Saint Mary’s University, Los Angeles
12001 Chalon Rd
Los Angeles, CA 90049
(310) 954-4000
https://www.msmu.edu/

San Diego State University
5500 Campanile Dr
San Diego, CA 92115
(619) 594-5200
https://www.sdsu.edu/

Student Review: “When I decided to go to San Diego State University, I entered as an undeclared freshman, unaware and naive as to what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I took a medley of classes hoping to find my true calling. It wasn’t until I took Psychology 101 when I realized that was what I truly wanted to study. It all seemed like common sense which gave me a new perspective on human interactions and how the brain truly works. It highly intrigued and captivated me from the first class to my graduation this past spring. While writing 30 page research papers and studies definitely occupied me in my final year or two, I never stopped loving the subject matter. It only drove me to work harder to reach my goal. Taking a dive into the human psyche was the most exhilarating feeling and experience. While many may not agree with my decision in diving into such a difficult job market, I am still happy with the choice I made to take that Psychology 101 class my freshman year to help me find my true calling.” – student at San Diego State University
stars-4

San Jose State
1 Washington Sq
San Jose, CA 95112
(408) 924-1000
http://www.sjsu.edu/

Student Review: “I really love the psychology program at San Jose State. As a freshman, I was undeclared but I took an intro psychology class and I fell in love with it. The professor teaching that class helped me a lot with making my decision and almost all the professors I’ve met in my major are awesome and really help the students. Psychology is actually pretty hard and not easy like everyone thinks, and I struggled a bit sometimes, but with the support of my fellow students and professors, I was able to pull through and succeed. Honestly, without the professors, I would’ve failed. I love everything about the psychology program, except for one or two professors that I’ve encountered. They weren’t terrible, but they weren’t great either. However, there are way more good professors than bad ones and overall, my experience has been wonderful.” – Student at San Jose State
stars-4

Stanford University
450 Serra Mall,
Stanford, CA 94305
(650) 723-2300
http://www.stanford.edu/

Student Review: “Considering Stanford has one of the best psychology programs in the world, my experience was probably the best it could have been. Learning from Zimbardo and other famous, groundbreaking researchers in the field was an experience that I couldn’t have had anywhere else. I was able to take classes on things that were extremely interesting and applicable to every day life, such as judgement and decision making, perception psychology, neuroscience and personality, cultural psychology, and more. The teachers were easy to talk to at any time, understanding, available, and always willing to help me go above and beyond in my research. I thoroughly enjoyed writing every paper I had to write in my college career, because the subject material was so fascinating. Everything I learned, I still use and think about on a daily basis.” – Student at Stanford University
stars-5

University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, CA
(510) 642-6000
http://www.berkeley.edu/

Student Review: “My undergraduate experience as a psychology major at UC Berkeley has been amazing. I was initially intimidated by the cap for the major, believing it competitive to get in, but I strongly feel that the GPA requirements (3.2 when I applied) and timeline are completely reasonable. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to work with professors who were not only world-renowned researchers but also approachable individuals. Furthermore, as a research university, UC Berkeley provides countless opportunities for participation in research. Students had to participate in studies to pass most upper-division psychology classes, and those interested in pursuing lab work could do so through a research apprenticeship program or by working as a research assistant. There are also many extracurricular opportunities for psychology students. My one complaint is that the material, which is very reasonable, can be a little too easy. Some of the tests were too easy. I have achieved a GPA of 3.75 overall, which I am told is very good, but I don’t think it was particularly impressive given the ease of some of my midterms and finals. Psychology is not considered a difficult major, but truth be told, it can be — but only if professors stop dumbing down exams. Overall, though, great program!” – Student at University of California, Berkeley
stars-4

University of California, Davis
1 Shields Ave
Davis, CA 95616, United States
(530) 752-1011
https://www.ucdavis.edu/

Student Review: “The psychology program at the University of California, Davis, was a great experience for me. With an outstanding faculty at the forefronts of research in their respective fields in psychology, I was able to obtain research experience that further solidified in my understanding in contemporary psychology. Getting an internship at UC Davis was not difficult as it often integrated as coursework notation. My lab experiences as an undergraduate research assistant gave me the opportunity to work with leaders in neuroscience and cognitive psychology. This connection has provided me with numerous connections with potential employers associated with fields in marketing and research. In addition to the research opportunities, I liked that the UC Davis faculty and teaching assistants were very open to helping their students during both open office hours and appointments. Students in the psychology club form a very large support network in helping their colleagues in academic work. Seminars are also offered during the school year, with topics such as Psychology in Hollywood, which offer interesting applications in psychology on to various fields of work. One thing that UC Davis could have improved on their psychology program is with the use of more online or hybrid coursework.” – Student at University of California, Davis
stars-5

Student Review: “The University of California, Davis psychology program was an exceptional experience. All of the classes were challenging but I feel that I was pushed to my full potential and succeeded. I learned a great deal in many different topics such as development, psychology of religion, social psychology, criminal psychology, and much more. The faculty is extremely competent and well-educated. All of the psychology professors hold PhDs and Master’s degrees in various subjects. The professors were always kind, understanding, and readily available for questions and test review. Getting my degree in psychology at this school made me extremely proud and confident. That I could handle some of the hardest work I have ever done in my life, taught to me by some of the greatest minds, was a huge accomplishment.” – Student at University of California, Davis
stars-5

University of California, Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA 90095
(310) 825-4321
http://www.ucla.edu/

Student Review: “The psychology program at UCLA was extremely enjoyable for me. I started out as a pre-med student, but quickly changed my mind after taking organic chemistry and found my home in the psychology department. The curriculum taught me a great deal about the subject and prepared me to continue my studies in graduate school. My professors were all passionate about the subject and allowed me to thrive because of their expertise. The only issue I had with the psychology program were the large class sizes in the lower division classes, which prevented me from feeling connected to my classmates. However, the professors were always very available during office hours.” – Student at University of California, Los Angeles
stars-4

University of San Francisco
2130 Fulton Street,
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 422-5555
https://www.usfca.edu/

Student Review: “I really enjoyed my study of psychology at the University of San Francisco. The professors made my courses diverse and challenging. The faculty came from all walks of life and incorporated their diverse backgrounds into the curriculum. I always felt I was in the hands of a professional. The program helped me to explore all facets of psychology from forming experiments/analyzing the results, to understanding brain biology, to studying different forms of mental illness. My one complaint is that I do not feel the program gave me a good understanding of how to streamline my interests into actual jobs while I was studying there.” – Student at University of San Francisco
stars-4

University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA
(213) 740-2311
http://www.usc.edu/

Student Review: “The USC psychology program and department was an unforgettable experience for me. The program itself and the people I worked with taught me a great deal of lessons over the span of time I spent there. The professors were very professional, kind, and easy to approach when I needed help. Every week they would have different guest speakers that allowed the students to be absorbed in the studies and weekly discussions about different issues. I found that incredibly helpful to my studies. At the end of the program, if there was one thing I could improve, it would be the office hours and being able to keep in contact with the professors at any time whenever the students have concerns or problems about the program.” – Student at University of Southern California
stars-5

References:
1. College Navigator: https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
2. Niche College Search: https://www.niche.com/colleges/?degree=4-year&state=CA&major=psychology&sort=best