The 10 Best MBA Schools & Programs in California

Students who are determined, creative, and willing to put in effort are poised for success in business school. Many professionals and recent graduates choose to obtain their Master of Business Administration degree to propel their careers. Along with gaining business skills, the many opportunities provided by business schools prepare graduates for success. MBA students can utilize their business knowledge to succeed in any role from an entrepreneur to a business executive in a large corporation.

While in business school, MBA students will study a variety of courses such as accounting, finance, marketing, economics, management, and business ethics. They will learn technical knowledge and many transferable skills. Analyzing information, problem-solving, and commanding respect are important abilities in any industry, giving business students a competitive edge. From Silicon Valley technology to Wall Street finance, an MBA degree can help professionals break into highly competitive business sectors.

California is an international hub that excels in many industries including finance, technology, manufacturing, and technology. By demonstrating business leadership abilities, MBA graduates will gain a competitive edge in the job hunt. This is shown by the average increase of $30,000 in salary after obtaining an MBA degree. The state has over 70 MBA schools, providing many options to study business in an exciting location.

Here are the best MBA schools in California, based on each school’s placement in the US News Best Business Schools list. If two schools are tied, the College Gazette editorial team will determine the tiebreaker.

10. UCSF School of Management (San Francisco, CA)

Eccekevin, UCSF panorama, CC BY-SA 4.0

The UCSF School of Management is committed to developing compassionate and productive leaders. Located in the heart of San Francisco, students are surrounded by an intense business ecosystem. This provides students with access to many tech, finance, entrepreneurship, and biotech companies to apply their classroom knowledge. 

Through the MBA Partners Student Driven Solutions program, students partner with local companies to create solutions. MBA students concentrating in finance, customer insights, or people solutions provide fresh perspectives in teams. These experiential learning opportunities prepare students for problem solving in the marketplace.

Students also can apply their business skill set in national competitions, from the Russ Berrie Institute National Sales Competition to the Annual National Intercollegiate Business Ethics Competition. UCSF is dedicated to the education of the whole person. MBA students are required to be involved in service-learning through internships or volunteer outreach programs.

9. UCSD Rady School of Management (San Diego, CA)

UCSD Rady School of Management
Tktktk, Rady School, UCSD, CC BY 3.0

At the UCSD Rady School of Management, MBA students learn from expert faculty members. Professors are dedicated to ensuring their students succeed in the business world. Through research, they constantly seek new knowledge and practices for business that they can use in their teaching. In addition, faculty members invest time inside and out of class through extra review sessions, independent study projects, and MBA coffee hours.

StartR Rady is a non-profit accelerator program for both students and alumni. Through free workshops and mentoring, the center provides entrepreneurs with the resources to make their business a reality. At the conclusion of the program, teams present their pitches to a wide range of investors and industry experts.

For MBA students interested in business decision-making for social enterprises, the Center for Social Innovation and Impact is a popular option. Here, members work with other students, faculty, and community partners to apply entrepreneurial thinking.

8. Chapman University Argyros School of Business and Economics (Orange, CA)

Chapman University Argyros School of Business and Economics
Austin1856, Chapman business school, CC BY-SA 3.0

Chapman University is dedicated to student outcomes, and the business students exemplify this commitment. For the Class of 2019, 84% of graduates accepted employment offers within 90 days of graduation. They go on to work for prestigious companies such as Bank of America, Deloitte, Cushman & Wakefield, and Goldman Sachs.

In addition, many of the MBA programs are practical and designed to advance the career of any professional. Full-time, flexible, and MBA programs are tailored to the student and their goals. Flexible MBA students create a self-paced curriculum with evening classes while executive MBA students complete three residential experiences.

To provide a multifaceted education, Chapman is partnered with Anglo-American University. This partnership provides MBA students with a unique opportunity to earn their degree in Prague, a cultural and economic center. Students learn from talented faculty from both universities, focusing focus on strategy formation, execution, and evaluation.

7. Pepperdine University Graziadio Business School (Malibu, CA)

Pepperdine University
Kristina D.C. Hoeppner, Pepperdine University, CC BY-SA 2.0

Pepperdine’s MBA programs are ranked among the best by many major publications. In 2021, the Princeton Review placed the university as #11 for the online MBA program. The online learning program includes an on-campus weekend residency to provide the necessary skill set for future management roles.

At the Center for Applied Research, MBA students solve challenges in business to transform research findings into real-world solutions. This collaborative approach is highly successful, leading to many industry partnerships to drive change in the field.

The student body is actively involved in various clubs and activities out of the classroom. These organizations encourage collaborative spirit, ultimately enhancing the overall learning experience. 

Net Impact, a global leadership organization, provides a competitive advantage for students through practical resources to maximize a positive business impact. This includes speakers, workshops, and company tours for students interested in business innovation.

6. UCI Paul Merage School of Business (Irvine, CA)

UC Irvine Paul Merage School of Business
Mikejuinwind123, UC Irvine, Green Pathway – School of Business, CC BY-SA 3.0

At the UCI Merage School of Business, MBA students are surrounded by over 100 major corporations headquartered in Orange County. The school takes advantage of its location through experiential learning opportunities. Located in a bustling economic hub, the UCI campus has close ties to the business community.

Due to the learning opportunities and other resources, UCI was ranked as the #8 Full-time MBA program among public institutions by the Financial Times in 2021. This top placement was as a result of an alumni survey combined with other factors such as research rank, faculty, and corporate social responsibility.

The Beall Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UCI hosts an annual New Venture competition for students. Groups form a team launch a startup and potentially fund a new business idea. With over $100,000 in prizes and entrepreneurial support, MBA students have the opportunity to turn their ideas into reality.

5. UC Davis Graduate School of Management (Davis, CA)

UC Davis is recognized both nationally and globally for its top-tier MBA program. The Economist ranked the university as #2 globally for faculty quality, continuing its steady rise over the past five years. Factors such as student-to-faculty ratio, education level, and student rating influence UC Davis’ top rating. The School of Management faculty inspires students every day and show the value of an MBA degree from UC Davis.

In addition to the school’s influential professors, prominent executives are invited to teach a course each year through the Executives in Residence program. Students and faculty have the opportunity to work with a top business leader and learn from their management expertise. 

Srini Koushik, the 2021 executive, is known for his work producing business results through data-driven insights. He has worked with leading organizations of all sizes, such as IBM, Magellan Health, and Nationwide.

4. UCLA Anderson School of Management (Los Angeles, CA)

UCLA Anderson School of Management
Ucla90024, UCLA Anderson School Collins Center, CC BY-SA 3.0

The UCLA Anderson School of Management looks to the future to discover what will be next for business. Along with a top-tier education, students learn to value collaboration, boldness, and achieving change.

This commitment to business innovation and collaboration is shown through the MBA Media and Entertainment Case Competition. Hosted by Paramount Pictures, this event challenges top schools from across the country to develop a pitch for a panel of challenges. In 2018, the Anderson team took first place for their innovative augmented reality solution. 

As a result of their passion for entertainment, the team won a monetary prize and internships to develop their idea at Paramount further.

Over 40,000 alumni, 700 students, and 150 faculty provide an invaluable network for School of Management graduates. This includes many leaders in the business field, from tech to finance. In addition, UCLA alumni are provided with lifelong learning opportunities, including career resources specifically for MBA alumni.

3. USC Marshall School of Business (Los Angeles, CA)

USC Marshall School of Business
Charlesclinton, Bridge Hall, CC BY-SA 3.0

Founded in 1920, the USC Marshall School of Business aims to equip students with a broad outlook on life with demands for real-world service. 

Today, the school is one of the leading business schools with cutting-edge research and a worldwide impact. This can be shown through the full-time MBA program, which became STEM certified in 2020. Designed to combine data-driven decision-making and analytics with an MBA degree, this unique program provides a valuable technical perspective to succeeding in business.

MBA students can also participate in research on critical topics affecting the business world. Research at USC is varied and groundbreaking, from the seawater supply chain to the science behind financial decision-making. The Business Research Fair showcases the school’s leadership across business disciplines. By presenting their research, professors engage MBA students and showcase essential findings.

2. UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business (Berkeley, CA)

UC Berkeley Haas School of Business
BrokenSphere, Haas School of Business West Entrance, CC BY-SA 3.0

Founded in 1898, UC Berkeley is home to the second oldest business school nationwide. Their successful history has led the school to be on the cutting edge of business research. The exceptional faculty, including two Nobel Prize Laureates in Economics, are recognized as international leaders. They have awards for leading research knowledge in game theory, behavior finance, and knowledge management, providing students with inspiring role models.

In addition to leading faculty, the Haas School of Business provides a global business perspective. From a semester abroad to study trips to serving as an overseas consultant, MBA students have access to a wide range of international opportunities. 

Haas students come from over 40 countries and can explore international clubs, business competitions, fellowship programs, and research centers. The Global MBA exchange program allows students to study at leading business schools in Hong Kong, Spain, France, or England to build their cross-cultural business acumen.

1. Stanford Graduate School of Business (Stanford, CA)

Stanford Graduate School of Business
Steve Castillo, Knight Management Center, CC BY 3.0

MBA students at the Stanford Graduate School of Business are exposed to a rigorous and extensive curriculum. In the school’s Leadership Labs, students practice core leadership skills in a team setting. The business-related challenges simulate the urgency and ambiguity of real-life leadership. In order to support their learning, teams are coached by an Arbuckle Leadership Fellow.

The Center for Entrepreneurial Studies supports innovation and early-stage investing through research and teaching. Through the Stanford Venture Studio, students are guided in the process of developing new business ideas while exploring a possible career in entrepreneurship. The program is self-directed, providing resources, expertise, and an interdisciplinary community.

Stanford students passionate about social innovation have the opportunity to work with the Stanford GSB Impact Fund. Along with gaining robust investment experience, MBA students practice intentional investing for a measurable social and environmental impact. The group works to identify promising organizations and deals with the challenges of measuring bottom lines.