Best Psychology Degree Programs in California for 2021

The best psychology programs in California can lead to rewarding careers in mental health, research, human resources, and other fields. Learn about available campus and online psychology degree programs and find your school match.

Last Updated: 08/02/2021

A 2018 study at the Healthforce Center at UCSF concluded that California’s need for psychologists will increase through 2028. The APA notes that California also has more psychologists than any other state with 16,900 of the nation’s 102,000 psychologists as of 2019. In other words, now is a great time to pursue a psychology education in California.

Aspiring psychologists and anyone wanting to work in mental health, social work, human resources, and similar careers can choose from dozens of traditional or online psychology programs in California. Keep reading to learn about this year’s best accredited programs, explore career options and salary potential after graduation, and more.

Best Psychology Programs in California

Choosing the psychology program in California that is right for you begins with knowing what top-tier schools offer, even if you end up going with a different option. To help you learn what a quality program looks like, we’ve highlighted three of the very best schools for psychology in the state. Learn more about what each college offers below and what makes them special — and see if one of their psychology programs sounds like a good fit for your education and career goals. Stay tuned for our full list of top psychology programs in California later this year.

1

University of California, Los Angeles

The University of California, Los Angeles, one of the most well-known institutions of higher education in the world, also has some of the best psychology programs in California. The approximately 4,000 students enrolled at UCLA’s Department of Psychology choose from a healthy offering of graduate and undergraduate degree programs.

UCLA also has numerous centers devoted to the field of psychology. Those focused on research include the UCLA Baby Lab, UCLA Behavioral Testing Core, Anxiety Disorders Research Center, and FPR-UCLA Center for Culture, Brain, Development, and Mental Health. The school also offers additional learning opportunities through the UCLA Psychology Clinic, including supervised mental health services for graduate students. Postdoctoral positions are also available for graduate students to hone their skills and contribute to the psychology department through mentorship, teaching, and research.

Delivery:

  • On-Campus
  • Part-Time
  • Full-Time

Undergraduate Programs:

  • B.A. in Psychology
  • B.S. in Cognitive Science
  • B.S. in Psychobiology

Graduate Programs:

  • Ph.D. in Psychology

Specialization Options:

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Health Psychology
  • Learning and Behavior
  • Quantitative Psychology
  • Social Psychology

2

University of Southern California

The University of Southern California has one of the most diverse psychology programs in California in terms of faculty, students, and research programs. Its Diversity Committee helps promote the recruitment and education of a diverse student body and works with students and faculty to find ways to further improve the ethnic, gender, social, and cultural characteristics of the psychology programs.


Current research in the Department of Psychology at USC includes projects and studies in roughly 20 areas. These include substance use and abuse, neuroimaging, adult development and aging, learning and memory, cognition and emotion, and risk perfection and communication. Much of this research takes place at USC facilities or one of several USC-affiliated research centers, including the Mind and Society Center, the Center for Research on Crime, and the Center for Economic and Social Research.

Delivery:

  • Online
  • On-Campus
  • Part-Time
  • Full-Time

Undergraduate Programs:

  • B.A. in Psychology

Graduate Programs:

  • M.S. in Applied Psychology
  • M.S. in Applied Behavior Analysis
  • Ph.D. in Psychology

Specialization Options:

  • Brain and Cognitive Science
  • Clinical Science
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Applied Psychology
  • Applied Behavior Analysis

3

California State University, Long Beach

One of the largest schools in the California State University system, California State University, Long Beach’s Department of Psychology offers both bachelor’s and master’s psychology degrees. However, it’s the student services that make this among the best psychology programs in California. Its resources include academic advising, department-specific scholarships, study abroad opportunities, and psychology student organizations.

One resource of special note is the Psychology Resource Office. PRO assists students with finding volunteer opportunities and internships, applying to graduate school, and exploring career options after graduation. Psychology students interested in research also have plentiful options with the Center of Usability in Design and Accessibility, the Robert Newman Computer Lab, and the Center for Human Factors in Advanced Aeronautics Technologies.

Delivery:

  • On-Campus
  • Part-Time
  • Full-Time

Undergraduate Programs:

  • B.A. in Psychology

Graduate Programs:

  • M.A. in Psychology
  • M.S. in Psychology

Specialization Options:

  • Psychological Research
  • Human Factors
  • Industrial/Organizational Psychology

Top Online Psychology Degree Programs in California

Working professionals can turn to hybrid or fully-online psychology programs in California to continue working while furthering their education. Some of the best psychology programs in California are now offered at least partially online, though those with a practicum requirement still require it be completed in person. Additionally, some fully online programs don’t require a practicum, especially at the undergraduate level, but they might still have on-campus intensives or seminars from time to time.

There’s a solid selection of online psychology degree programs in California, so finding the convenience and affordability that come with online learning is certainly possible. We’ve highlighted some of the top programs below to show you what’s available and to preview our longer list coming later in 2021.

1

California Southern University

CSU’s School of Behavioral Sciences offers an array of undergraduate and graduate psychology degree programs and certificates, many of which are available online. The online programs offer maximum convenience with all classwork delivered through distance learning methods such as the CalSouthern Learning Center online learning platform. Most curriculum components are online, though some degrees have hands-on learning requirements like the internship for the PsyD degree. Additionally, services like the Learner Support Specialists may require a campus visit.

Degrees and certificates at CSU are very affordable, with most programs costing $545 per credit. To make online learning as beneficial as possible, students also have access to faculty mentors who not only understand the academic material but also have experience in clinical practice.

Undergraduate Programs:

  • B.A. in Psychology

Graduate Programs:

  • M.A. in Psychology
  • M.S. in Psychology
  • Psy.D

Program Options:

  • Part-Time
  • Full-Time
  • Fully-Online
  • Partially-Online

Specializations Offered:

  • Child Advocacy
  • Marriage and Family Therapy
  • Addiction Studies
  • Advanced Addiction Studies
  • Healthcare Services
  • Industrial and Organizational Psychology
  • Pastoral Counseling
  • Sport Psychology

2

Alliant International University

Alliant International University’s California School of Professional Psychology is accredited by both the American Psychological Association and Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education. Unlike some psychology programs in California where students can choose from either a master’s or bachelor’s degree in psychology, AIU offers a complete spectrum of programs, from a bachelor’s to a Ph.D. or Psy.D. There are also several certificate programs to choose from and a diverse set of concentrations and specializations. To help students succeed in school and after graduation, AIU offers student advisors, career services, and financial and personal support services.

Undergraduate Programs:

  • B.S. in Psychology

Graduate Programs:

  • M.S. in Organizational Psychology
  • M.S. in Clinical Psychopharmacology
  • M.A. in Marital and Family Therapy
  • M.A. in Clinical Counseling
  • Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology
  • Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology
  • Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology
  • Psy.D. in Organization Development
  • Psy.D. in Marital and Family Therapy

Program Options:

  • Part-Time
  • Full-Time
  • Partially-Online

Specializations Offered:

  • Clinical Psychology, Doctoral Respecialization
  • LGBT Human Services and Mental Health

3

National University

Students choose one of many psychology programs offered by National University’s College of Letters and Sciences or a psychology degree from the recently created JFK School of Psychology. In fact, they have six online degree offerings and many on-campus degree offerings through NU’s various campuses as options. Some programs have in-person curriculum requirements like internships. NU’s online programs are designed for working adults with students taking just one class every four weeks.

For maximum flexibility, prospective psychology students can apply anytime, and classes begin every month. NU also recognizes up to 13.5 quarter credits through transfer.

Undergraduate Programs:

  • B.A. in Psychology
  • B.A. in Sport Psychology
  • B.A. in Integrative Psychology

Graduate Programs:

  • M.A. in Counseling Psychology
  • M.A. in Consciousness and Transformative Studies
  • M.A. in Human Behavior
  • M.A. in Performance Psychology
  • M.A. in Sport Psychology
  • Psy.D.

Program Options:

  • Part-Time
  • Full-Time
  • Fully-Online
  • Partially-Online

Specializations Offered:

  • Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counseling
  • Trauma Studies
  • Marriage and Family Therapist
  • Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor

Types of Psychology Degrees You Can Earn in California

Psychology degrees in California offer a wealth of focus options. From the two-year associate degree that gets you started in the basic tenets of psychology to the doctoral degree that paves the way to become a clinical psychologist, California psychology schools offer many paths to reaching your career goals. We’ve detailed the various levels you can pursue below and provided examples of California schools offering them.

Undergraduate Psychology Degrees in California

Associate Degrees in Psychology

An associate degree in psychology prepares you for work in a variety of support positions, including as a psychiatric technician or aide or a social or human services assistant. Students learn about personality types and theories, psychological disorders, development through the lifespan, and social constructs in addition to general education topics. This two-year degree can be a stepping-stone to a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field.

Examples of Accredited California Colleges with this Psychology Degree

Contra Costa College (On-Campus)

Los Angeles City College (On-Campus)

California Coast University (Online)

Bachelor’s Degrees in Psychology

This four-year degree provides a psychology foundation for advanced study at the graduate level while also presenting the opportunity to specialize. Those with a bachelor’s degree in psychology often find careers in counseling, customer service, human resources, and other jobs where they work with the public. Students learn the basics of addictions and the different types of psychology, such as organizational psychology or developmental psychology, as well as develop research skills.

Examples of Accredited California Colleges with this Psychology Degree

National University (Online)

University of California, San Diego (On-Campus)

California Southern University (Online)

Graduate Psychology Degrees in California

Master’s Degrees in Psychology

A master’s degree in psychology builds upon the foundations and theories of psychology learned during a bachelor’s degree and takes two to four years to complete. You can also choose an area of psychology to specialize in, including forensic psychology, consumer psychology, psychopharmacology, school psychology, and more. Though some states allow graduates to work as family therapists or other types of counselors, work is also often available in market research, project management, human resources, and social services.

Examples of Accredited Florida Colleges with this Psychology Degree

Alliant International University (Online)

California State University, Long Beach (On-Campus)

University of Southern California (Online)

PsyD Programs

PsyD programs are for those wanting to focus on professional practice. They take four or five years to complete, look at evidence-based services and established standards of practice, and are often designed for busy working clinicians. With a strong emphasis on the clinical and applied aspects of psychology, PsyD programs also require a dissertation or doctoral project of publishable quality.

Examples of Accredited California Colleges with this Psychology Degree

Pepperdine University (On-Campus)

California Lutheran University (On-Campus)

California Southern University (Online)

Psychology PhD Programs

Those interested in research careers can opt for a PhD program in psychology. Such programs focus on conducting research, ethical treatment of research subjects, collecting and analyzing data, and professionally presenting findings. They take an average of five to seven years and require a doctoral project. These programs are also often highly competitive.

Examples of Accredited California Colleges with this Psychology Degree

University of California, Riverside (On-Campus)

University of California, Davis (On-Campus)

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology (Online)

Graduate Certificates

Graduate certificates in psychology are open to those who have completed at least a bachelor’s degree and want to gain more knowledge in a specific area of psychology. They are ideal for specializing without devoting the time and effort needed for a master’s degree or doctoral program. Graduate certificates usually take about one year to complete.

Examples of Accredited Florida Colleges with this Psychology Degree

Alliant International University (Online)

National University (On-Campus and Online)

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology (Online)

Financial Aid and Scholarships for Psychology Students in California

Financial aid and scholarships for psychology students in California typically come through professional organizations, schools, businesses, or the federal government. You can also take out private or federal loans to cover tuition costs.

Students in California might find additional financial aid through the state. Those include the Licensed Mental Health Services Provider Education Program, which provides funding for graduates who choose to work in certain geographical areas. Visit the California Board of Behavioral Sciences for additional state-specific aid information. In addition, check out our financial aid guide and scholarship guide.

Job Outlook and Earnings Potential for Psychology Grads in California

Graduating from among the best psychology programs in California puts you in a great position for a well-paying career with ample opportunity for growth and professional development. Most careers requiring or benefiting from a psychology degree, with the marketing industry being one of the biggest, have at least double-digit growth projections in California. Many of these positions are in major metropolitan areas.

Given how in demand these professions are, the California average annual wage is also pretty high. Each career has its unique set of compensation and growth statistics, but we’ve identified five careers that do a good job providing a broad representation of what psychology graduates in California can expect to make when they enter the workforce. You’ll notice that the growth rates and annual mean wages are well above the national average for the United States.

Job Growth
(2018-2028)
Avg. Annual Openings
(2018-2028)
Annual Mean Wage (2020)
Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists 13.2% 1,530 $115,830
Marketing Specialists 24.3% 14,960 $83,150
Human Resources Specialists 10.4% 8,920 $79,590
Psychology Postsecondary Teacher 14.3% 650 $121,110
Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors 11.6% 4,750 $81,350

Sources: Projections Central; Bureau of Labor Statistics

Resources for Psychology Professionals and Students in California

California Board of Behavioral Sciences

Those who work in mental health but are not psychologists can look to this area of the California state website to learn which professions require licensing and how to get that licensure.

California Board of Psychology

This is where graduates can learn what it takes to apply for a license to practice as a psychologist in the state of California. It also provides continuing education and other pertinent information.

California Psychological Association

This professional organization, dedicated to those who work in psychology in the state of California, offers numerous resources, advocacy, professional development, an annual convention, and more.

California Psychological Association of Graduate Students

This Facebook page is for the graduate students who are members of the California Psychological Association to help them keep up with opportunities open to graduate students.

Western Psychological Association

A regional member of the American Psychological Association, this organization offers all the benefits of the APA as well as a regional conference, a job board, and a newsletter detailing information important to those in California and surrounding states.