Finance Programs and Careers in California

This guide provides information on finance degrees and careers in California to help you make an informed decision and reach your career goals. California’s finance schools, which offer bachelor’s and master’s programs in finance as well as certificate and doctorate options, provide opportunities to gain an in-depth understanding of financial practices within the business world. At the master’s level, many of these programs are accelerated and can be completed in under two years. Select programs are offered fully online or through a hybrid format. Finance schools in California are frequently located in close proximity to major financial institutions, making them ideal for students to enter the business world after graduation. Continue reading to learn more about earning a finance degree in California as well as finance career opportunities and salary information in the state.

Quick Facts

For not-for-profit colleges and universities with finance degree programs.

Table of Contents

California Finance Program Comparison

We have developed the following table to help you compare all of the finance programs in California from not-for-profit schools that offer programs with a concentration in finance. In addition to allowing you to compare the business school’s accreditation, finance degrees that appear in bold are Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Institute University Affiliation Programs, those that have been recognized for curricula aligned to preparing for the CFA Exam.

SchoolAccreditationFinance Degree(s)Acceptance Rate6Grad Rate1Online Options?Median Debt7Net Price1
California Baptist UniversityACBSPBS-Actuarial Science;
BS-Applied Statistical Analysis: Actuarial Science;
BS-Finance, Minor-Actuarial Science;
California Lutheran UniversityACBSP (candidate)BS-Business Administration: Finance;
MBA-Financial Planning;
MS-Financial Planning;
MS-Quantitative Economics
California Polytechnic University-San Luis ObispoAACSBBS-Business Administration: Finance73%82%$16,500$21,232
California Polytechnic University-PomonaAACSBBS-Business Administration: FinanceN.Av.69%$15,275$12,843
California State University-FresnoBS-Business Administration: FinanceN.Av.56%$11,342$6,002
California State University-FullertonBS-Business Administration: FinanceN.Av.69%Yes$12,500$8,294
Chapman UniversityAACSBBS-Business Administration: Finance;
MS-Behavioral and Computational Economics
Claremont Graduate UniversityAACSBMBA-Finance;
MS in Finance;
MS in Financial Engineering;
MS in Global Commerce & Finance
Claremont McKenna CollegeMinor-Financial Economics;
Fresno Pacific UniversityBA-Business Administration: FinanceN.Av.67%$18,000$19,298
Golden Gate University-San FranciscoMBA-FinanceN.Av.N.Av.YesN.Av.N.Av.
La Sierra UniversityBS-Finance;
Lincoln UniversityBA-Finance;
Loyola Marymount UniversityAACSBBBA-FinanceN.Av.80%$19,491$47,292
Menlo CollegeAACSBBS-Business: FinanceN.Av.N.Av.$16,125$27,233
National UniversityIACBEBS-Financial Management;
MBA-Financial Management;
MBA-Bank Management
Pepperdine UniversityAACSBCertificate-Financial Planning;
Point Loma Nazarene UniversityAACSBBS-Business Administration: Finance;
Saint Mary’s College of CaliforniaBBA-Finance;
San Francisco State UniversityAACSBBS-Business Administration: FinanceN.Av.57%$13,000$15,166
Santa Clara UniversityAACSBBS-Finance;
MS-Finance & Analytics
Stanford UniversityAACSBMaster’s in Mathematical and Computational Finance;
University of California-BerkeleyAACSBMaster-Financial Engineering15.4%91%$12,643$18,522
University of California-IrvineAACSBBA-Business Administration: Finance;
BA-Quantitative Economics;
Master of Business Administration;
Master of Finance
University of California-Los AngelesAACSBMBA-Corporate Finance;
MBA-Investment Management;
Master-Financial Engineering
University of California-RiversideAACSBBBA-Finance;
Master of Finance
University of California-San DiegoAACSBBBA-Finance;
BA-Accounting: Finance/Real Estate;
Master of Finance
University of California-Santa CruzBachelor of Business Management: EconomicsN.Av.75%$17,200$17,889
University of La VerneBA-Business Administration: Business Finance;
University of San DiegoAACSBBachelor of Business Administration-Finance;
University of San FranciscoAACSBBS-Business Administration: Finance;
MS-Financial Analysis
University of Southern CaliforniaACBSPBS-Business Administration: Real Estate Finance;
MS-MBA: Finance and Business Economics;

  • — indicates none.
  • N.Av. indicates no data available.

Top-Ranked Schools with Finance Programs in California

Forbes’ Best Business Schools 2019

  • University of California-Berkeley (#11)
  • University of California-Los Angeles (#16)
  • University of Southern California (#21)
  • University of California-Irvine (#43)
  • Pepperdine University (#61)

Georgetown CEW’s ROI Ranking by Long-Term Net Present Value 2019

The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW) has compared 4,500 colleges and universities on graduates’ return on investment (ROI). We use their net present value (NPV) ranking, which is the current dollar value of earning a four-year degree from the school over a 40-year horizon.

  • Stanford University (#5; $2,068,000)
  • University of Southern California (#45; $1,520,000)
  • Claremont McKenna College (#48; $1,516,000)
  • Santa Clara University (#53; $1,493,000)
  • California Polytechnic University-San Luis Obispo (#73; $1,413,000)
  • University of California-Berkeley (#80; $1,383,000)
  • Pepperdine University (#109; $1,312,000)
  • University of California-Los Angeles (#111; $1,300,000)
  • University of San Francisco (#140; $1,259,000)
  • University of California-Irvine (#156; $1,244,000)7

Princeton Review’s Great Schools for Business and Finance Majors 2020

  • California State University, Stanislaus
  • Chapman University
  • San Diego State University
  • Saint Mary’s College
  • Santa Clara College
  • University of California-Berkeley
  • University of California-Los Angeles
  • University of San Diego
  • University of San Francisco
  • University of Southern California

US News & World Report’s Best Undergraduate Finance Programs 2021

  • University of California-Berkeley (#6)
    • US News & World Report’s Best Graduate Finance Programs 2021

      • Stanford University (#6)
      • University of California-Berkeley (#8)
      • Santa Clara University (#10)
      • University of California-Los Angeles (#11)

      Select Schools in California with Finance Degrees

      Traditional Undergraduate Programs

      Point Loma Nazarene University

      At Point Loma Nazarene University, students can pursue a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA) with a major in Finance. Upper-division courses include Internship in Business, Intermediate Finance, and Financial Statement Analysis and Valuation. Student clubs such as the Finance and Investment Society and the Microfinance Club offer peer networking and extracurricular learning opportunities. Students who have an associate’s degree in business administration, or who have taken equivalent classes, may be interested in the accelerated Adult Completion option for the BSBA, which, while not offered with a formal finance major (instead, majors are offered in Management and Marketing), is offered partially online. The Fermanian School of Business, through which the BSBA is offered, also houses a Finance minor as well as a competitive Master of Business Administration (MBA) program.

      Santa Clara University

      Through the Leavey School of Business Department of Finance, Santa Clara University (SCU) offers a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Finance. The finance major’s core consists of five units in Investments and five units in Corporate Financial Policy, with an additional four upper-division finance electives required. Finance electives offered include New Venture Finance, Risk Management and Insurance, Business Valuation, and Corporate Treasury Management. A real estate minor is offered for students who are interested in working in the real estate industry or housing policy. All students are assigned a peer advisor and a faculty advisor to help them navigate university requirements and resources. SCU also offers a Master of Science (MS) degree in Finance and Analytics as well as a Master of Business Administration (MBA) program with an optional concentration in Finance.

      Traditional Master’s Programs

      Santa Clara University

      The Master of Science in Finance and Analytics (MSFA) at Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business is a flexible program that can be completed either part time or full time through evening and weekend classes. The foundation classes are accelerated and full-time students can complete the degree in one year. Required classes include Financial Accounting, Statistical Methods, and Investments. Finance-related electives are also available for students in their final two quarters. Application deadlines for the fall semester are in April and June. A bachelor’s degree from an accredited university, as well as GMAT or GRE scores, is required for admittance. The average undergraduate GPA for incoming students is 3.21 and admitted students have an average GMAT/GRE score of 603/309, but a waiver is available to high-performing applicants. Accepted students are eligible for merit-based scholarships and other financial aid.

      University of California San Diego

      The Rady School of Management at the University of California San Diego (UC San Diego) offers a competitive Master of Finance (MFin) program. The 10-month, full-time curriculum is designed to prepare students for the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exam and a variety of careers in finance. Featured classes range from Financial Econometrics and Empirical Methods, Business Forecasting, and Real Estate Finance. This master’s in finance curriculum also includes a course entitled Capstone: Applied Finance Project, a project-based course that gives students hands-on financial project management experience. Students can participate in organizations such as the Student Finance Association and the Graduate Business Student Association, along with business-based fraternities like Alpha Kappa Psi and Delta Sigma Pi. Post-university work, internship, and research experience is recommended before applying, as well as previous coursework in linear algebra, differential equations, and advanced statistics and probability. Early decision is available for applicants before November 1 and there is a final application deadline of June 1 (April 1 for international applicants) for the fall semester.

      University of Southern California

      The University of Southern California’s (USC) Marshall School of Business offers a Master of Science in Finance (MSF). This full-time, accelerated program is designed to be completed in three terms, beginning during the summer semester with graduation the following May. The program starts with a week-long orientation designed to promote team building and alumni networking. This orientation also features an intensive math course to prepare students for classes in risk analysis and portfolio management. The master’s degree in finance at USC provides specialized career advising, including peer-to-peer mentoring, on-campus career fairs, and connections to the global community. Priority for merit-based scholarships is given to those who apply by January, with a final deadline in March. An undergraduate degree from an accredited university and GRE/GMAT scores are required to apply. The acceptance rate is around 8% and each class is approximately 60-75 students.

      Online and Hybrid Programs

      California Lutheran University

      California Lutheran University (Cal Lutheran) offers a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Financial Planning that is available fully online, on campus, or in a hybrid format. Online courses are structured in five eight-week terms. This 45-unit program MBA can be completed in 12 to 36 months. Admitted students may begin the MBA in Financial Planning program during any term. Cal Lutheran also offers an MBA with a specialization in Finance, which can also be completed entirely online, on campus, or in a hybrid format. This finance degree requires eight core courses, two emphasis courses, and four courses aligned with their chosen professional track. Applicants are accepted year-round and require a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university and GMAT scores. Both master’s degrees can be completed as part of a 4+1 option for undergraduate students at Cal Lutheran, adding only one year of study beyond the bachelor’s degree. The university holds regular special networking events, including the Entrepreneur Speakers Series and the New Venture Competition. Graduates have gone on to work at financial institutions such as Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Merrill Lynch.

      Golden Gate University

      Golden Gate University (GGU) in San Francisco offers an online or hybrid Master of Science in Finance (MSF) degree that has been certified by the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Institute as a University Affiliation Program. Hybrid courses are offered at the campus in San Francisco. This master’s in finance degree requires 30 total units of advanced courses (10 courses), in addition to six units in the foundational program (two courses). Unlike an MBA, this curriculum does not give a broad overview of business practices but instead focuses on financial matters particular to finance careers such as corporate banking and financial analysis. GGU’s online class portal allows students to confer with one another and with faculty 24 hours a day. Courses include Accounting for Managers, Corporate Finance, Financial Modeling, and Investments. GMAT or GRE scores are required to apply. GGU offers an Alumni Career Network, LinkedIn Group, and online tools and eLearning opportunities.

      Saint Mary’s College of California

      Saint Mary’s College of California (SMCC) is home to a Master of Science in Finance (MSF). The program is offered in a hybrid format, with students taking a mix of online and on-campus courses to complete the degree in 15 months. Students focus on quantitative techniques of financial analysis, preparing them for all three levels of the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exam. Coursework from the MS can be counted towards SMCC’s accelerated Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in Finance. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree to be considered, but there is no minimum work experience requirement. The curriculum follows a sequenced, cohort format, with each new cohort beginning in July.

      California Finance Careers and Salary Outlook

      Many major financial institutions are headquartered in California, including Wells Fargo, Bank of California, and Omni Bank. San Francisco and Los Angeles are also the regional headquarters of major commercial and investment banks such as Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley, making it a leading financial center on the west coast. Other corporations that may hire finance grads in California include Concentrix, Apple, Intel, and Alphabet (parent of Google and its sister companies). These prominent institutions are creating healthy job growth throughout the state, making California ideal for graduates to start a financial career.

      The financial sector offers promising job growth and salaries in California. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the mean salary for all business and financial operations jobs in California in 2019 was $83,840.8 Financial and investment analysts, financial risk specialists, and financial specialists, all other in California earned an average of $98,850 per year in 2019, higher than the national average of $94,160; and personal financial advisors in California earned an average of $117,690, close to the national average of $119,290.8-10

      California also has one of the highest concentrations of personal financial advisors and financial examiners in the country, as well as the highest concentration of financial managers, loan officers, and the highest concentration of financial and investment analysts, financial risk specialists, and financial specialists, all other.9-13 It is the fifth top-paying state for financial examiners.11 The California financial sector is expected to continue to prosper, with projected 18.6% job growth for financial managers, 7.5% job growth for financial examiners, 9.4% job growth for financial analysts, and 10.3% job growth for all other financial specialists over the 10-year period between 2018 and 2028.14

      California Finance Salary Information

      OccupationNumber Employed8Average Salary8
      Business and Financial Operations Occupations1,052,970$83,840
      Financial and Investment Analysts, Financial Risk Specialists, and Financial Specialists, All Other58,810$98,850
      Financial Examiners5,130$109,870
      Financial Managers92,060$156,500
      Loan Officers34,740$77,270
      Personal Financial Advisors25,910$117,690

      Finance Associations in California

      1. National Center for Education Statistics College Navigator: https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
      2. Forbes Best Business Schools 2019: https://www.forbes.com/business-schools/list/
      3. The Princeton Review. The Best 382 Colleges, 2020 Edition. The Princeton Review, 2019.
      4. US News & World Report Best Undergraduate Finance Schools 2021: https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/business-finance
      5. US News & World Report Best Graduate Finance Schools 2021: https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-business-schools/finance-rankings
      6. US News & World Report Best Business Schools 2021: https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-business-schools
      7. Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, Ranking ROI of 4,500 US Colleges and Universities: https://cew.georgetown.edu/cew-reports/CollegeROI/
      8. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, California: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ca.htm
      9. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Financial and Investment Analysts, Financial Risk Specialists, and Financial Specialists, All Other: https://www.bls.gov/oes/2019/may/oes132098.htm
      10. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Personal Financial Advisors: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes132052.htm
      11. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Financial Examiners: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes132061.htm
      12. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Financial Managers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes113031.htm
      13. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Loan Officers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes132072.htm
      14. Projections Central Long Term Occupational Projections: https://projectionscentral.org/projections/longterm