Best Psychology Schools in California – 2023 Accredited Colleges & Programs

Best Psychology Schools in California – 2023 Accredited Colleges & Programs

With the demand for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists expected to surge by 8.6% between 2020 and 2030 (Employment Development Department, n.d.), psychology schools in California are at the forefront of meeting the rising need for various psychology careers. These schools have programs that offer a gateway to fulfilling career options matching your educational journey.

Career options in the field of psychology are diverse. California presents many choices, whether you aspire to become a psychologist or seek opportunities in mental health, social work, human resources, or related domains. The Golden State’s top accredited programs provide specialized training in areas such as behavioral psychology, clinical psychology, and cognitive psychology.

In this guide, our team of researchers gathered data on the best psychology colleges in California, affordability, program duration, and the essential steps required to initiate a psychology practice within the state.

Best Psychology Schools in California Table of Contents

  1. Is psychology a good major in California?
  2. What are the steps to becoming a psychologist in California?
  3. Psychology Program Length in California
  4. Tuition and Costs of Psychology Schools in California
  5. Best Psychology Schools in California
  6. What To Look For in Psychology Schools in California

Is psychology a good major in California?

When evaluating the merits of pursuing degrees in psychology in California, students should consider the educational opportunities awaiting them in the state. Luckily, there are many prestigious universities in California for psychology that offer a comprehensive range of programs in the discipline.

Moreover, there is a steady demand for psychologists in the state. California leads the nation in employment opportunities for psychologists, including those with a child psychology degree, as the state hosts a staggering 1,350 positions. This translates to an employment rate of 0.8 psychologists per 1000 jobs, indicating a thriving job market (US BLS, 2022). This is a significant factor to consider for graduates seeking to embark on a fulfilling career in the field.

Aside from the abovementioned, California is the second-highest-paying state for psychologists, offering an attractive average hourly wage of $55.97, which translates to an annual income of $116,420 (US BLS, 2022). Beyond financial incentives, the Golden State's diverse landscape and vibrant communities entices psychology professionals to thrive and make a meaningful impact in the healthcare industry.

Ultimately, while the cost of living in California may be relatively high, the state's favorable employment landscape and lucrative pay rates position it as an ideal destination for aspiring psychologists. Eventually, the decision rests on individual preferences, but California's data-backed advantages make it an attractive and promising location for those pursuing a psychology major.

States with the Highest Employment Level for Psychologists

State EmploymentEmployment per 1000 Jobs
New York6200.7
Source: US BLS, 2022

What are the steps to becoming a psychologist in California?

Becoming a psychologist in California requires you to take a series of steps starting from attaining a psychology bachelor's degree or a credential in a related field. Upon graduating, aspiring psychologists must pursue PhD or PsyD programs in California from accredited institutions providing the requisite education. From here, you can become eligible to apply for a California psychologist license. To help you out, here is an overview of the process of how to get your license:

  1. Complete the required supervised professional experience. Prospective psychologists must complete 3,000 hours of supervised professional experience, including 1,500 post-doctoral hours, gained across diverse settings, including hospitals, clinics, schools, or private practice ( Board of Psychology, 2022).
  2. Take and pass the EPPP and CPLEE. Individuals must apply for the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) and the California Psychology Laws and Ethics Examination (CPLEE). These critical examinations serve as gateways to the profession. As of 2022, the CPLEE had a pass rate of 65%, which is a testament to the rigorous nature of the psychology field in the state (California Department of Consumer Affairs, 2023).
  3. Submit your application for psychologist licensure. Submit the CPLEE application to the California Board of Psychology with documentation of your educational background, professional experience, and successful performance on the CPLEE and EPPP examinations.

cplee pass rate

Psychology Program Length in California

The time it takes to complete your program at any school, whether at best business schools in California or psychology schools, can vary depending on your career aspirations. A Bachelor's Degree in Psychology usually takes four years. It often covers the fundamental concepts of the discipline as well as an introduction to research methods within the field.

While a bachelor's degree is enough to help you qualify for jobs in the state, it might not be enough to become a licensed psychologist. So, it is best to pursue further education. In fact, from 2019 to 2020, 29,763 master's degrees and 6,346 doctorate degrees in psychology were completed in the United States, underlining the popularity and significance of advanced education in this field (NCES, 2022).

Graduate education in this field often takes one to two years. These graduate programs, such as psychology masters programs in California, enable students to delve into specialized areas like clinical psychology, counseling psychology, industrial-organizational psychology, or school psychology. Avenues for in-depth exploration often include research projects or the completion of a thesis.

Lastly, taking up psychology graduate programs in California at the doctoral level may take four to seven years to complete. These terminal degrees offer comprehensive training, including advanced research methods, statistics, and psychology coursework. As part of the journey, you will undertake a year-long internship to hone your practical skills. Throughout this rigorous process, an aspiring psychologist is meticulously groomed to make impactful contributions, particularly in specialized fields, to become a child psychologist.

Source: NCES, 2022

Tuition and Costs of Psychology Schools in California

The cost of a psychology education can fluctuate significantly based on several factors, including the type of program, the degree level, and whether one is an in-state or out-of-state student. In addition, it is important to understand the financial landscape of the state when assessing the tuition and expenses linked to psychology schools in California

For four-year undergraduate degrees, public institutions often charge an annual fee of $9,700. Meanwhile, for private non-profit and private for-profit schools, students can expect to pay an average of $38,800 and $17,800 for tuition and fees, respectively (NCES, 2023).

On the other hand, a graduate degree in California can cost between $24,924 and $33,320 (California State Polytechnic University, n.d., University of Southern California, n.d.). These figures illuminate the financial considerations of acquiring an advanced psychology degree and underscore the importance of thorough financial planning when pursuing higher education.

For both types of programs, prospective students have the opportunity to leverage scholarships and grants as a means to alleviate educational expenses.

NCES, 2023

Best Psychology Schools in California

Selecting the right psychology program can significantly shape one's future career prospects. Our team at has meticulously curated a list of the best colleges in California for psychology, considering essential factors like tuition costs, accreditation, and academic excellence to offer valuable guidance to aspiring psychologists on their educational journey.

1. California State University

California State University provides a Bachelor of Arts (BA) program in Psychology designed to serve as a foundation for advanced studies and a comprehensive liberal arts degree. Under this program, students are expected to learn major psychological concepts, theoretical frameworks, historical developments, and empirical discoveries, enabling them to analyze how these principles relate to behavioral issues. Moreover, the Psychology department offers diverse research laboratories dedicated to investigating contemporary topics within the field of psychology.

  • Program Length: Four years
  • Cost-per-Credit: $425
  • Required Credits to Graduate: 120
  • Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)

2. University of California

The University of California offers a BA in Psychology degree program exploring the core and traditional facets of the discipline. This major offers students extensive and in-depth exposure to fundamental psychological concepts, making it a robust platform for pursuing advanced studies in psychology. Furthermore, the program equips graduates with valuable skills and knowledge that can be applied to various career paths, including law, education, government, public policy, business, and various healthcare professions.

  • Program Length: Four years
  • Tuition and Fees: $13,225
  • Required Credits to Graduate: 120
  • Accreditation: American Psychological Association (APA)

3. California State Polytechnic University

California State Polytechnic University offers an MS in Psychology program tailored to meet the educational prerequisites for obtaining the California Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) license. This graduate degree program is committed to producing highly proficient master-level clinicians adept at providing counseling services to individuals, couples, families, and groups within a culturally diverse context. Graduates typically find employment opportunities in various settings, including County Mental Health, Social Services, community mental health centers, inpatient and outpatient, and nonprofit organizations, while some establish successful private practices.

  • Program Length: Two to three years
  • Program Cost: $24,924
  • Required Credits to Graduate: 90
  • Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)

4. University of Southern California

The University of Southern California offers a PhD in Social Psychology focused on providing students with essential tools and research skills to study human social behavior. This program emphasizes methodological, statistical, and theoretical training, including experimental methods and statistical analysis. Moreover, students collaborate with faculty on research projects addressing real-world issues for a multidisciplinary approach to understanding and addressing societal challenges.

  • Program Length: Four years
  • Program Cost: $33,320
  • Required Credits to Graduate: 72
  • Accreditation: WASC

5. California Lutheran University

California Lutheran University offers a PsyD program in Clinical Psychology that integrates practical experience and research to develop clinical proficiency. This program emphasizes research skills and promotes an appreciation for human diversity, particularly in marginalized communities. Furthermore, prospective graduates are well-prepared for careers as licensed clinical psychologists in various settings, and the university's commitment to diversity enhances the overall quality of psychological training.

  • Program Length: Five years
  • Cost-per-Credit: $1,135
  • Required Credits to Graduate: 114
  • Accreditation: APA

What To Look For in Psychology Schools in California

To make the most out of your psychology education in the Golden State, you should first discern the key factors that distinguish reputable institutions. Here are the things to look for in psychology schools in California to help make informed choices to nurture academic and professional aspirations.


Prioritize institutions that extend in-state tuition rates to California residents, a potential cost-saving opportunity. Public schools often present a more economical choice than private counterparts, making them a prudent option for budget-conscious students who must factor in tuition, fees, and living expenses.

This aside, you may also want to take a look at institutions that offer financial assistance or scholarship programs specifically for Psychology majors.


Opt for accredited psychology schools in California that guarantee your chosen program adheres to essential quality standards, providing robust educational assurance. This is especially vital in California, where there are six schools approved to provide doctorate in psychology programs ( Board of Psychology, 2023). You can verify the accreditation status of a school by checking it with a recognized institution like the American Psychological Association (APA). You can also check for regional accreditation to confirm the institution's commitment to high-quality education and academic rigor.

Student Outcome

Seek psychology schools in California with impressive graduation and job placement rates, indicating the institution's effectiveness in preparing students for the job market. Explore the school's official website for comprehensive data on student outcomes, including graduation rates, job placement statistics, and the average starting salaries of graduates. Doing so provides valuable insights into the institution's ability to equip students for successful careers.

Faculty Expertise

Prioritize psychology schools in California with a faculty of seasoned experts, particularly those specializing in your areas of interest in psychology. Gather details about faculty members, including their research areas and published work, as this information reflects their capacity to impart the essential knowledge and skills for your academic and career success.

california schools with doctorates in psychology programs

Enjoy a Flourishing Career Beginning from Psychology Schools in California

California is a prime destination for aspiring psychologists, with a robust selection of psychology schools that offer diverse programs and opportunities. Notably, the top psychology schools in California offer academic excellence and research contributions. More so, the Golden State's vibrant job market further enhances its appeal, as California is among the highest-paying states for psychologists and boasts one of the highest employment levels in this field.

Whether your ambition is to be a forensic psychologist, a clinical psychologist, or pursue any other specialty within the field, prestigious psychology schools in California provide the educational foundation and resources to nurture your career aspirations. With a thriving academic environment, abundant research opportunities, and a flourishing job market, California offers a compelling destination for those seeking a career in psychology.