Our list of the top 10 accounting schools in California includes some of the premium University of California programs and a mix of more accessible accounting programs. There’s something for everyone in this list, but the one common factor is a great accounting education. California is full of opportunities, whether it be working in Silicon Valley or moving to LA and San Diego for the weather, and there’s no better time to start looking for opportunities in accounting than right now!
University of California at Berkeley
Located in Berkeley, on the eastern side of the San Francisco Bay Area, UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business has an exceptional reputation and great access to top employers, from Big 4 employers (e.g., Deloitte) to Facebook and other hot private companies. The school does not have a specific accounting degree but includes accounting courses in its undergraduate program to get anyone up to speed. Applications are rigorous though, with only 31% of applications gaining admission.
University of Southern California
The USC Leventhal School of Business is one of the best accounting programs around. This program will set you up for top-tier employers, from Big 4 through to almost any other industry role. It also has a great location in Southern California which will obviously helps you enjoy life on campus. If you can get past the tough application process you’ll be well positioned for a very successful career.
California Polytechnic State University
The Orfalea College of Business at Cal Poly’s San Luis Obispo campus is so popular with top employers that they even have testimonials on their website from E&Y, KPMG, and others. The program is elite and applications are competitive, with only about 35% of undergraduate applications accepted across Cal Poly. However, with tuition starting at around $20,000 per year for out-of-state students in 2015 (or $9,000 for in-state) it’s more affordable than most private schools.
The Claremeont McKenna College touts its ability to offer a leading degree in accountancy in a liberal arts setting – which is a big plus for anyone who has spent too much time around accountants. In fact, the school is ranked by US News as the 8th best liberal arts school across the country, all while delivering traditionally strong results for the CPA exam pass rates. However, be prepared to work hard to get in, as Clarement McKenna has some of the lowest acceptance rates in the state!
Based in the heart of Silicon Valley, Santa Clara University has exceptional access to the tech industry, be it with a big company like Google or a life sciences firm like Genentech. The university’s Leavey School of Business is one of only 5 AACSB-accredited programs in California, which helps differentiate it from the pack. SCU sees acceptance rates in the mid 40% range.
Ranked by US News at #26 for accounting programs nationally, Loyola is an AACSB-accredited private school based in Los Angeles, so you get a great education and fantastic weather! The school provides a recruiting ground for a combination of Big 4 firms, smaller firms, and industry roles. Acceptance rates are competitive but achievable, with the LMU accepting just over 50% of applicants.
Golden Gate University San Francisco
Ranked by TaxTalent as having some of the best programs in the country, Golden Gate University is a small private school with a great location and top quality education. More affordable than the elite schools, Golden Gate University tuition is just over $14,000 per year. It’s location is really the differentiator for anyone looking to plug into San Francisco’s technology industry, be it with a large company like Google or a smaller tech start-up in the area.
Moving back down to Southern California, we find Chapman University and its Argyros School of Business and Economics. Highly ranked by US News, this private school offers strong accounting education that can get you noticed both within California and nationally. Getting accepted here is still challenging, with acceptance rates hovering just below 50%.
One of the great public school options near to Silicon Valley. SJSU offers accounting programs through its Lucas School. Tuition is very reasonable compared with private programs, with tuition starting around $8,000 per year for in-state students. Rumor has it that admission is possibly simpler for those that are already residents in the area so think about moving first before applying, or at least speak with the school to better understand the options.
Based in sunny southern California, USD offers an AACSB credentialed undergraduate accounting program (only 1 of 5 across accounting schools in California to do so). The quality translates into results too, with historically strong CPA pass rates. It is a competitive program though, with only around 50% (49% in 2013) of students who apply to USD gaining admittance. Well worth it if you can get in!
To find all of the programs in your area, jump over to our college search page which will show you all the programs available to you by zip code.