Best Accounting Schools in California 2022

| Mary Blowers Modified on June 15, 2022

Best Accounting Schools in California 2022

Are you ready to find a school that's aligned with your interests?

Attending an accounting school in California may help you succeed as an accountant in the Golden State.

California hosts 126 Fortune 500 company headquarters, including Apple, Wells Fargo, and Tesla. The state's booming financial sector offers many exciting career opportunities for accounting professionals. Projections Central forecasts a 7.7% job growth for accountants and auditors in California from 2018-2028.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that California employed 150,050 accountants and auditors as of May 2020. These professionals earned an average annual salary of $88,130. Some of the state's top careers for accountants include financial management, personal financial advising, and property appraisal.

By attending a California university, prospective accountants can break into the state's business industry through networking opportunities. Continue reading to learn about the best accounting schools in California.

California at a Glance

Population 39,613,493
Climate Average Annual Temperature: 59.4 ℉

Annual Precipitation: 22.2 inches

Major Sports Teams San Francisco 49ers,
Golden State Warriors,
Los Angeles Lakers,
San Francisco Giants,
Los Angeles Dodgers,
San Jose Sharks
Number of Higher Learning Institutions 416
Per Capita Income $36,955
Fortune 500 Companies 126
Accountants in California 150,050

Sources: World Population Review, Current Results, NCES, U.S. Census ACS, Fortune, BLS

Why Go to Accounting and Finance Schools in California?

Though perhaps best known for its sun and sand, California also offers many higher education options. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the Golden State enrolled 3,711,872 students in the 2019-2020 school year.

Accounting and finance schools in California offer a variety of concentrations and specializations. Students can focus their studies in growing fields like taxation, forensic accounting, and environmental accounting.

An accounting degree in California can help graduates secure field experiences, internships, and future jobs with some of the country's biggest firms. The Big Four accounting firms — Deloitte, KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Ernst & Young — have offices in California. These companies often offer undergraduate internships as well.

Many students struggle to afford living expenses in California's urban areas while paying tuition. Distance education allows learners to study from anywhere with an internet connection. Remote learners can study at the best accounting schools in California from other states with lower living costs.

Education Statistics for California

California boasts an impressive 416 colleges statewide. Nearly three-quarters of California students enrolled in distance education. These students may be California residents who do not want to commute to campus or live out of state.

More California residents earn bachelor's and graduate degrees than Americans overall.

Higher Education Statistics California Data National Data
Four-Year Colleges 262 2,679
Two-Year Colleges >154 1,303
Students Enrolled in Distance Education 73.1% 72.8%
Postsecondary Education Appropriations per Full-Time Student $9,531 $8,636
Tax Revenue Allocated to Higher Education $12,330 $15,276
Adults Over 25 With an Associate Degree 7.8% 8.5%/td>
Adults Over 25 With a Bachelor's Degree 21.2% 19.8%
Adults Over 25 With a Graduate Degree or Higher 12.8% 12.4%
Sources: NCES, SHEEO, U.S. Census ACS

Accreditation for Accounting and Finance Colleges in California

Prospective accounting students should choose an accredited school. Ideally, the program should hold accreditation as well.

The Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commissions accredits California's most reputable universities. As for accounting programs, students should look for accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business or the International Accreditation Council for Business Education.

Considerations for an Accounting Degree in California

Selecting a college or university is a personal process involving many factors. Prospective students should consider their learning styles, budget, and career goals before beginning their school search.

California offers many distance education options. Over half of California students were enrolled exclusively in online education as of 2020, compared to the national average of 44.7%.

The tables below offer more insight into accounting education in California. Continue reading to learn about program formats, costs, and career opportunities for California accountants.

On-Campus Versus Online Program Options

Many of the best accounting schools in California offer both on-campus and online accounting programs. Degree-seekers should choose their instruction style based on location, study habits, and schedule.

On-Campus Programs

On-campus programs offer a more traditional college experience. Enrollees must live on or near campus to regularly attend in-person classes. On-campus courses create opportunities for peer bonding and collaboration. Students in on-campus programs may need flexible working hours.

Online Accounting Degrees in California

Online accounting programs allow for more flexibility. Distance learners in asynchronous programs can study from anywhere at any time. If a program is 100% online, students may avoid transportation expenses. Online students should be self-starters.

Hybrid Programs

Hybrid programs offer many benefits of both on-campus and online learning. Hybrid learners enroll in both remote and in-person courses. These students may need to live near campus and budget for on-campus fees.


Explore our nationwide rankings for the best accounting programs on campus and online.


Paying for Your Accounting Degree

In-state college tuition in California costs less than the national average. However, out-of-state students in California incur relatively high tuition costs. Financial aid and scholarships can help lower these expenses.

Accounting students in California can also help offset college costs by pursuing accounting scholarships. Scholarships do not need to be paid back and can make a big difference in the overall cost of education. Other financial aid resources like grants, loans, fellowships, and employer assistance can also help pay for school-related expenses.

In-State Versus Out-of-State Tuition

Students may need to pay out-of-state tuition if they are not California residents. Obtaining in-state residency can be a complicated process.

According to California residency requirements, students must be physically present in the state for over a year before enrolling in college to qualify for in-state tuition. These students must intend to live in California permanently as well.

Tuition reciprocity programs like the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education allow learners in neighboring states to study in California for reduced tuition rates.

Top Online Bachelor's

Explore programs of your interests with the high-quality standards and flexibility you need to take your career to the next level.


California's Cost of Living

A state's cost of living depends on how much it costs to sustain basic needs such as housing, food, and healthcare. The national average cost of living index is 100. California's cost of living index is 151.7, the second-highest score in the country.

Degree-seekers planning to move to California for school should budget for steep living and tuition costs.

Careers for Accounting Graduates in California

U.S. News & World Report ranks California’s economy among the 10 strongest in the country. California ranks second for its business environment thanks to established companies in the finance, consulting, and entertainment industries. Graduates from finance colleges in California benefit from the state's favorable business environment.

Accounting professionals in California can choose from many industries, including real estate, local government, state government, and management of companies and enterprises. California also offers employment opportunities in the tech center, thanks to strongholds in Los Angeles and Silicon Valley.

The tables below detail popular accounting positions and their salaries in California compared to the national average. The accounting careers highlighted below offer especially lucrative salaries in California.

Select Accounting Careers in California

Property Appraisers and Assessors

Property appraisers and assessors provide value estimates on real estate and business properties for mortgage loans, property taxation, and estate disputes. These professionals inspect properties, analyze comparables, and prepare written reports on property values. Assessors must stay current on their knowledge of tax assessment procedures.

Job Outlook in California (2020-30):+4%


Financial Managers

Financial managers lead their organizations' finance departments. They work independently or with teams to set financial goals, create financial reports, and direct investment activities. These professionals need extensive knowledge of the tax laws and regulations affecting their industry.

Job Outlook in California (2020-30):+17%


Personal Financial Advisors

Personal financial advisors offer professional advice on investments, insurance, mortgages, and retirement. They often recommend investments to clients and select investments on clients' behalf. These professionals monitor client accounts and research other investment opportunities. Many financial advisors specialize in areas like retirement or risk management.

Job Outlook in California (2020-30):+5%

California Employment Trends

Projected Job Growth for Accountants

Job Availability California National
2018 Employment 168,800 1,424,000
2028 Projected Employment 181,800 1,514,700
Projected Job Growth, 2018-28 7.7% 6.4%
Source: Projections Central

Accounting Salaries by Career

Career California Employment California Average Annual Salary National Average Annual Salary
Associate Degree Recommended
Bookkeeping and Auditing Clerks 168,720 $50,160 $44,100
Credit Counselors 2,970> $53,790 $49,940
Payroll Clerks 19,190 $55,000 $48,290
Bachelor's Degree Recommended
Cost Estimators 25,330 $83,150 $72,960
Property Appraisers and Assessors 4,670 $88,370 $65,630
Securities, Commodities, and Financial Services Sales Agents 58,550 $84,620 $96,540
Tax Examiners and Collectors 8,530 $70,150 $62,040
Master's Degree Recommended
Accountants and Auditors 150,050 $88,130 $81,660
Budget Analysts 5,730 $93,610 $82,690
Financial Analysts 55,830 $101,180 $96,630
Financial Managers 92,670 $162,650 $151,510
Personal Financial Advisors 28,290 $126,280 $122,490
Source: BLS OEWS
]

California's cost of living is considerably higher than other states. For this reason, it makes sense for accounting professionals to seek the Golden State's top-paying jobs. Many accounting and finance careers pay considerably more in California than in other areas.

Ambitious students can select courses and specializations to pursue the best-paying positions. For example, property appraisers and assessors in California earn over $20,000 more than the national average.

California Requirements for Certified Public Accountants

Each state determines its own requirements for certified public accountant (CPA) licensure. Accounting professionals hoping to practice in California should refer to the state's requirements to prepare for the CPA exam.

The California Board of Accountancy offers a CPA licensing handbook. The handbook outlines education, experience, and testing requirements for the state. The handbook is free to download.

California does not have age, citizenship, or residency requirements for CPA licensure. To sit for the CPA exam, test-takers must demonstrate each of the following requirements.

Applicants must have a Social Security number. Education requirement of 150 hours including undergraduate degree. Participation in international examination program. Bachelor's degree or higher with 24 credits each of accounting and business-related subjects. 12 months of general accounting experience. Must pass PETH examination administered by the California CPA Education Foundation for initial licensure.

Top Accounting Programs in California

Every industry in California needs highly skilled accountants and auditors. Those interested in accounting careers need the education and technical skills employers value. This ranking lists five of the best accounting schools in California, based on our methodology listed below.

#1 Online College in California

Claremont McKenna College

School Information
Location Claremont, California
Admission Rate 10%
Graduation Rate 91%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

Claremont-based CMC is a liberal arts school with about 1,400 undergraduates. Students can choose from 33 majors. CMC is part of a seven-college consortium that enrolls about 7,000 learners.

Economics-Accounting Major

Well-known for its economics expertise, CMC offers an economics-accounting major. Learners complete 11 courses in both subjects. The program prepares enrollees for the Uniform CPA exam. The curriculum requires three economic courses covering economic analysis, microeconomics, and macroeconomics.

The accounting core includes an exploration of accounting for decision-making. All students complete a course in econometrics. Enrollees can customize the degree with four elective courses. Options include auditing and tax planning. 

The major emphasizes the use of analytical, communication, and interpersonal skills in accounting and financial advisory services.

Applying to CMC

Students must declare the major no later than the second semester of their sophomore year. Applicants submit a high school or GED diploma. CMC makes SAT and ACT scores optional. 

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Private
  • Accreditation: WASC Senior College and University Commission
  • Tuition: $9,650 per class
  • Required Credits: N/A
  • Program Length: N/A
  • Delivery Format: On campus
#2 Online College in California

Point Loma Nazarene University

School Information
Location San Diego, California
Admission Rate 74%
Graduation Rate 75%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 26% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

PLNU is a Christian liberal arts college in San Diego. The private school serves about 4,500 students on several campuses. Undergraduates can choose from 60 study areas. Classes feature a 14-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.

Bachelor's in Business Administration – Accounting

The bachelor's program fulfills the educational requirements for the CPA exam in California. Learners study accounting principles and how to apply them in real-world settings. Students complete 70 units in the major, starting with basic training in financial and managerial accounting. 

The lower-division curriculum also covers management principles. Students explore legal issues business people may encounter. Degree-seekers receive advanced training in auditing and intermediate and cost accounting. Enrollees learn how to prepare income tax returns. A business or accounting internship provides on-the-job training. 

Students complete a strategic management course and lab that showcases their mastery of various business areas.

Applying to PLNU

Applicants need a high school or GED diploma. PLNU makes SAT and ACT scores optional.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Private
  • Accreditation: WASC Senior College and University Commission; Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs  
  • Tuition: $19,400 per semester
  • Required Credits: 128
  • Program Length: 4 years
  • Delivery Format: On campus
#3 Online College in California

California State Polytechnic University-Pomona

School Information
Location Pomona, California
Admission Rate 55%
Graduation Rate 69%
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 38% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Cal Poly Pomona is one of two polytechnics in the California State University system. The school blends programs with experiential learning. The business college enrolls about 5,100 undergraduates.

Bachelor's in Business Administration – Accounting 

The accounting department teaches the accounting major within a business administration framework. Students learn how to perform business administrative duties such as operations and marketing management. All students take a course introducing management principles. Enrollees also learn how to apply financial accounting in decision making.

The major builds on this knowledge with classes in intermediate and cost accounting. Students explore auditing techniques and tools. They also learn how to deploy accounting information systems. Enrollees use elective credits to pursue specialized training in career tracks such as auditing or taxation. 

Degree-seekers can choose specialized training in fields like manufacturing or medical services. They can also prepare for CPA certification.

Applying to Cal Poly Pomona 

Applicants need a minimum 2.0 GPA in prerequisite college-level coursework. Subjects include economics, statistics, and introductory accounting.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public 
  • Accreditation: WASC Senior College and University Commission; Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business 
  • Tuition: $1,665 for 0-6 units; add $400 per unit for out-of-state tuition 
  • Required Credits: 120 
  • Program Length: 4 years
  • Delivery Format: On campus
#4 Online College in California

Menlo College

School Information
Location Atherton, California
Admission Rate 63%
Graduation Rate 58%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

Located in Silicon Valley, Menlo is a small residential college specializing in undergraduate education. The private school's programs focus on business and psychology.

Bachelor's in Business – Accounting 

Students pursuing Menlo's accounting degree receive comprehensive training in various aspects of the business enterprise. The 124-credit program includes general education coursework in several disciplines. Learners study marketing, operations management, and other key business functions. 

Students build accounting expertise in areas such as auditing, financial, and cost accounting. They learn how to prepare tax returns for individuals and businesses. An internship component provides workplace experience.

Enrollees build written and oral communication skills. The program prepares learners for the CPA exam in California.

Applying to Menlo

Applicants need a high school or GED diploma. They must submit a personal essay. Menlo makes SAT and ACT scores optional.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Private
  • Accreditation: WASC Senior College and University Commission; Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business 
  • Tuition: $23,310 per semester
  • Required Credits: 124
  • Program Length: 4 years
  • Delivery Format: On campus
#5 Online College in California

California State University-Long Beach

School Information
Location Long Beach, California
Admission Rate 39%
Graduation Rate 74%
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 30% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

CSULB runs a 322-acre campus in Los Angeles. The university offers a comprehensive catalog through eight colleges. The school enrolls about 2,000 graduate students and offers competitive tuition rates.

Master's in Accountancy

The master's in accountancy provides enrollees with advanced training and extensive support services. Students complete 30 units in about 11 months as part of a cohort. The curriculum prepares students for CPA licensure and includes a free CPA test-prep package. 

Students develop proficiency in areas such as auditing, financial statement analysis, and forensic accounting. They complete a comprehensive auditing project as the culminating experience.

Support services include one-on-one career coaching, mentorship with an alumni in the business community, and company visits to potential employers. Learners can use graduate assistantships to help pay for tuition.

Applying to CSULB

Applicants need a bachelor's degree in accounting from an accredited college. They may also possess a bachelor's degree in any major and prerequisite accounting coursework with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants need a minimum 2.75 cumulative GPA.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public 
  • Accreditation: WASC Senior College and University Commission; Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business 
  • Tuition: $18,800 program total, California residents; $30,700, non-California residents
  • Required Credits: 30 units
  • Program Length: 11 months
  • Delivery Format: On campus

Questions About Accounting in California

Is accounting a good career in California?

Yes. Accounting careers in California have positive job outlooks and competitive salaries. Accountants can seek work in many industries across the state.

How much do accountants earn in California?

According to the BLS, accountants and auditors in California earn an average annual salary of $88,130 — more than $6,000 above the national average.

What accounting jobs are there in California?

Accounting professionals in California can apply to Fortune 500 companies and the Big Four accounting firms. Top-paying accounting jobs include financial management, personal financial advising, and financial analysis.

Are there good accounting schools in Southern California?

Yes. There are many good accounting schools in Southern California that offer competitive accounting degrees and concentrations. For example, the University of Southern California and the University of California, Irvine offer AACSB-accredited accounting programs.

Can I get an online accounting degree in California?

Distance education has become popular in California. More than 70% of the state's students are enrolled in online education. Many programs are 100% online and follow an asynchronous format.

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