Online MBA Programs in California


If it were its own country, California’s $3.1 trillion economy would be the fifth-largest in the world. With local housing costs having surpassed their pre-recession highs, the state budget holding a multi-billion dollar surplus, and over $58 billion of venture capital flowing in, California is booming.

Small businesses play a significant role in the state’s economic rise. California has more than four million small businesses, which employ more than seven million people across the state. Small businesses make up 99.8 percent of all businesses within the state and employ 48.8 percent of the state’s workforce, making them a vital part of the Golden State economy.

An MBA is a smart investment in any climate, with graduates of such programs usually doubling their salaries within a relatively short time frame. And MBA programs in California can provide the added perk of access to the geographical resources of a state. Practically all major companies have offices and dealings within California, and this creates a climate of collisions between businesses and their executives that one can’t find many places on Earth.

Being one of the most populous states, California is the biggest contributor to the U.S. GDP. In fact, it’s way ahead of its competition as far as per-capita contribution goes. With 12 percent of Americans living in California, the state contributed 14.8 percent to GDP in 2020 followed by New York state, where 6.3 percent of Americans live, sharing 7.6 percent of GDP in 2020.

When ranking the best states for the economy, their business environment holds a third of the weight. According to the U.S. News & World Report, California ranks second in the nation for business environment with Massachusetts taking first place. A good business environment can be added advantage for MBA-seeking students.

While the economic outlook for California remains as sunny as ever, a familiar boom-bust pattern and anxieties over federal interdiction have the public and private sectors alike playing cautiously, even with the strong hand they’re currently holding. Reliant upon high net worth individuals and corporations who are heavily intertwined with global markets, California’s economy is subject to seismic swings in both positive and negative directions.

Even in a recession, the benefits of an MBA generally outweigh their costs. And with more top business schools in California offering MBA programs online, it’s possible to get the business skills needed to get ahead, regardless of your geographical, employment, or economic situation.

It is also important to note that California has the highest number (118) of Fortune 1000 companies among all states.

Read on to get a look at some of the best professors and MBA programs on offer in the largest state economy in the US.

Featured Online MBA Programs in California

Consistently ranked as one of the top business schools in the nation, Graziadio’s online MBA is similarly highly ranked, offering the unique E2B program that pairs students and faculty with partner companies who identify contemporary issues that can be brought into the classroom.

Students may choose either a general track or specialize in one of seven concentrations: marketing, finance, business analytics, leadership and managing organizational change, digital innovation and information systems, entrepreneurship, or global business.

The core curriculum covers topics like organizational behavior, accounting information and control systems, quantitative analysis for business operations, financial management, strategic management, marketing management, and integration in business operations.

The program consists of 52 credits. In addition to their online learning, students must attend one weekend-long immersion in Los Angeles. Students in this immersion will examine business ethics and develop their leadership skills while working in a tight-knit setting.

GMAT or GRE scores are required as part of the admissions process, but the school does waive this requirement for a few qualified candidates. To be eligible for admission, students must have earned a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. Additional application requirements include a statement of purpose, a current resume, official transcripts from each postsecondary school attended, and one letter of recommendation.

Graduates can take up roles such as financial analysts, financial managers, marketing managers, human resources managers, business operations managers, and sales managers.

Location: Malibu, California
Accreditation: Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
Expected Time to Completion: Two years
Estimated Tuition: $1,920 per credit

USC’s Marshall Online MBA is an internationally-recognized program that offers students a top-level education and access to an influential network of over 390,000 alumni. The courses of this program are taught and developed by a team of dedicated faculty members who engage students in timely real-world discussions and practical exercises.

The program consists of six required courses that cover the role of the manager, the fundamentals of business, opportunity recognition and implementation, managing inside the firm, managing outside the firm, and business environment and leadership. Students may pursue additional electives to create their unofficial area of concentration.

Online dual-degree paths are available for an MBA/MS in systems architecting and engineering, an MBA/MS industrial and systems engineering, an MBA/MS in gerontology, and an MBA/MSW (master of social work). Students may also apply to pursue the online graduate certificate in optimization and supply chain management.

The baseline online MBA program consists of 51 required credits. During the first course of the program, students spend one week on the USC campus in Los Angeles and connect face-to-face with the faculty and peers they’ll be working with online. GMAT or GRE scores are required as part of the admissions process but may be waived in some cases.

Admission requirements for the program include a four-year undergraduate degree or equivalent from an accredited institution, a minimum of two years of work experience, a completed online application, two required essays, an up-to-date professional resume, three letters of recommendation, and official transcripts.

Location: Los Angeles, California
Accreditation: Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
Expected Time to Completion: Under two years
Estimated Tuition: $106,596 (total)

The online MBA at CSULB is an affordable entry point into a program that puts tried and true business school methodology into an accessible online format. The program will help students in developing balanced qualitative and quantitative skills needed for tackling today’s fast-paced evolving business environment.

Students at CSULB take classes in topics like financial accounting, financial management, business policies, marketing concepts, managerial accounting, and the management of information systems. Seminars in human resources management, business finance, strategic management, marketing policies, leadership skills, investments, and marketing analytics round out their education.

The program consists of 16 required classes, one of which is an international trip to investigate global business practices. Students also are required to attend a three-day orientation in Long Beach, where they meet faculty and peers, prepare to work in teams, and master the Harvard-style case discussion format used in many of the program’s classes.

GMAT or GRE scores are required as part of the admissions process but can be waived off. Applicants to the program must possess a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university, while three or more years of work experience is preferred.

Location: Long Beach, California
Accreditation: Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
Expected Time to Completion: Full-Time (two years); Part-time (three and a half years)
Estimated Tuition: Full-time California residents ($30,400); part-time California residents ($37,700)
4California State University, San Bernardino – College of Extended and Global Education

Targeted towards business professionals who are ready to advance their careers, the online MBA at CSUSB offers accelerated five-week courses at an asynchronous pace across a breadth of business topics.

After taking foundation courses in data-driven decision making and advanced managerial communications, students take essential core classes in accounting for managerial decision making, financial theory and corporate finance, information systems and technology management, organizational theory and behavior, corporate strategy in a global economy, marketing management, and managing the supply chain. Electives are available in subjects like administration, financial reporting and disclosure, entrepreneurship and new ventures, global marketing strategies, and project management.

The program consists of twelve courses and may be completed entirely online, with no mandatory campus visits. No GMAT or GRE scores are required as part of the admissions process, but the program is geared towards applicants with at least five years of work experience in management or leadership positions.

Location: San Bernardino, California
Accreditation: Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
Expected Time to Completion: 18 months
Estimated Tuition: $1,200 per unit

The online MBA at CSUMB offers students global perspectives, individualized study plans, and sophisticated tech to take their business skills to the next level—all at an affordable tuition rate.

The curriculum focuses on a mix of trending topics and business fundamentals, with classes that feature practice simulations for students to approach real-world scenarios. The program’s 14 courses include business communication, decision-making methods for managers, organization & leadership, accounting for managers, economics for business, operations and supply chain management, financial management, information systems & business analytics, marketing management, global business, and business strategy.

The program consists of 38 credits and may be completed entirely online. No GMAT or GRE scores are required as part of the admissions process. The major admission requirements include a Completed online application, an undergraduate grade point average of 2.9 or higher, a minimum of 12 months of professional work experience, a current resume, personal statement, two letters of recommendation, and TOEFL or IELTS scores for international students.

Location: Seaside, California
Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
Expected Time to Completion: 18 months
Estimated Tuition: $41,600 (total)

Built-in the heart of Silicon Valley, SCU’s online MBA program is designed to turn “ordinary” professionals into what the school calls SVPs (Silicon Valley Professionals) who make use of the school’s connections to the global tech hub.

The core curriculum covers topics such as financial accounting, managerial economics, financial management, analytical decision making, and doing business in Silicon Valley. Electives cover areas like alternative investments, data science with python, global business perspectives, strategic talent management, and analyzing customers and markets. The program offers four available online concentrations in marketing, leading innovative organizations, finance, and data science & business analytics.

The program consists of 70 units but runs on the quarter system rather than the semester system. Students are required to attend two three-day intensives in Santa Clara: one just before the first course begins, and one during the final quarter of study. GMAT or GRE scores also are required as part of the admissions process, but a waiver may be given to an applicant in certain circumstances. Additionally, the program prefers applicants with three years or more of work experience.

Location: Santa Clara, California
Accreditation: Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB); WSCUC
Expected Time to Completion: Two years
Estimated Tuition: $1,198 per credit

Brandman University’s online MBA is affordable, accessible, and entirely self-paced, while still offering the nuance of ample sub-specializations. The program prepares students to manage and lead successful organizations.

Core classes include financial reporting and analysis, data analysis for decision making, economic analysis for managers, corporate responsibility, leading organizational change, human resources foundations, and leadership and innovation. Students may select one of eleven 12-credit emphases: accounting, entrepreneurship, finance, health administration, human resources, international business marketing, e-business strategic management, business intelligence, data analytics, organizational leadership, or public administration.

The baseline program consists of 36 credits, or a total of 48 with an added emphasis, and may be completed entirely online. No GMAT or GRE scores are required as part of the admissions process. Application requirements include a completed application, a satisfactory GPA, and official transcripts from all regionally accredited institutions where baccalaureate and/or post-baccalaureate coursework was completed or attempted.

Location: Irvine, CA (available at 16 campuses)
Accreditation: WSCUC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
Expected Time to Completion: Two years
Estimated Tuition: $680 per credit

Hybrid MBA Programs in California

Hybrid programs blend online and on-campus learning. While some online programs may require students to make a campus visit at the beginning and/or end of the program, hybrid programs alternate between the two delivery formats more frequently.

Some hybrid programs have on-campus weekends, and then online delivery during the week, while others have a more relaxed interchange between the two formats. This method maintains some of the accessibility of an online program, but still prioritizes the benefits of face-to-face learning and networking.

Those who hold geographical or employment commitments that keep them away from a full-time on-campus program, but still have the desire to network and learn face to face, may benefit from a hybrid MBA program, including those at the three standout business schools below:

Professors to Know in California MBA Programs

  • Peter Kim, PhD - The University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business

    Peter Kim is a professor of management and organization at USC’s Marshall School of Business, where he teaches the online MBA’s opportunity recognition and implementation course. He received both his MS and PhD from Northwestern University and completed a BA from Wesleyan University.

    His research efforts are focused on the dynamics of interpersonal perceptions and their implications for negotiations, group decisions, & dispute resolution. His research has been published in prominent journals such as Personnel Psychology, Journal of Applied Psychology, and Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. He presently serves as an associate editor for the Journal of Trust Research and the Academy of Management Review. He also serves on the editorial boards of Negotiation & Conflict Management Research and Organization Science.

  • Kevin Groves, PhD - Pepperdine University - Graziadio School of Business

    Kevin S. Groves is a professor of organization theory and management at Pepperdine Graziadio Business School. He teaches or has taught a range of courses including strategies for designing and leading effective organizations, talent management, managing organizations, advanced principles of organization and leadership, theories & models of organization, and leadership and organizational success. He received his PhD and MA from Claremont Graduate University and a BA from Eastern Washington University.

    His research focuses on talent management, leadership development practices, and executive succession. His work has been published in journals such as the Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, Journal of Creative Behavior, and Journal of Management Education. Kevin Groves has received several awards such as the George Award by Pepperdine Graziadio Business School and the Arthur H. Brayfield Dissertation Award by the Claremont Graduate University.

  • Juan Montermoso, PhD - Santa Clara University - Leavey School of Business

    Dr. Montermoso is a professor of practice in marketing at SCU’s Leavey School of Business, where he teaches classes on the principles of marketing, marketing strategies and decisions, and B2B marketing. He’s also held teaching positions at Stanford University, the University of San Francisco, and St. Mary’s College of California.

    Before joining academia, he spent 27 years at Silicon Valley’s own Hewlett-Packard, where he led the marketing of commercial systems, planned global channel programs, and fostered e-business initiatives. He earned his undergraduate engineering degree from Yale University, his MS in applied math and computer science from Harvard University, and his PhD in business administration from Harvard School of Business.

    A prolific speaker and publisher on management and marketing, Dr. Montermoso is also the recipient of an award in excellence in online education from Universitas 21 Global, a consortium of 21 universities.

Matt Zbrog
Matt Zbrog

Matt Zbrog is a writer and freelancer who has been living abroad since 2016. His nonfiction has been published by Euromaidan Press, Cirrus Gallery, and Our Thursday. Both his writing and his experience abroad are shaped by seeking out alternative lifestyles and counterculture movements, especially in developing nations. You can follow his travels through Eastern Europe and Central Asia on Instagram at @weirdviewmirror. He’s recently finished his second novel, and is in no hurry to publish it.