Best Engineering colleges in California

Written by Sarah Jividen

Engineers work with architects and general contractors to design mechanical systems, public works like dams and roadways and even certify structural integrity for skyscrapers and office buildings. For those interested in combining science, physics, and math, an engineering degree can be the first step towards a fulfilling career. 

Pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Engineering typically allows students to apply to full-time entry-level roles immediately after college, though many choose to apply to internships before deciding where to find employment. Due to the size of the state of California, there are countless opportunities to work for city governments in permitting offices, or at engineering firms that are helping design construction projects. An engineering major combines in-class courses like mathematics and computer skills with programs like AutoCAD and REVIT, which may provide a great balance for those that enjoy technical lab work and digital tools. 

Students can get a degree in engineering at an in-person university or online, but many top universities provide networking opportunities that help ensure their students are recruited after graduation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that opportunities in the state of California for civil engineers typically pay up to $100,000 and over 45,000 engineers work in the state, the highest of any state nationwide.

Best Engineering colleges in California for 2023

Stanford University
Stanford, CA
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Located within the heart of Silicon Valley, Stanford University produces some of the most successful engineers in the world. A top-notch faculty, 65 state-of-the art university centers and labs, intelligent and supportive classmates – what else could an engineering major desire? There are nine central engineering departments at Stanford University, including aeronautics, bioengineering, chemical engineering, computer science, management science, civil and environmental engineering, and mechanical engineering. With over 50 centers and labs to study in, it’s no wonder Stanford produces great engineers. 

Stanford’s School of Engineering has been at the forefront of innovation for nearly a century - engineering faculty and graduates have founded an estimated 12,700 companies over the decades - and shows no signs of slowing down. Engineering is one of the university’s most popular majors, and roughly 1,600 undergraduates and 3,200 graduate students seek engineering degrees. Curiosity-driven research that crosses disciplines or even schools is encouraged, as seen by the School of Engineering’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, which brings together students and faculty in engineering, business, education, medicine, and the humanities to learn design thinking and work together to solve big problems in a human-centered way. The engineering program at Stanford is extremely competitive, with about 16% of applicants earning acceptance into the program. The annual price of tuition at Stanford is about $74,00.

The USC Viterbi School of Engineering has eight engineering departments and 109 engineering degree programs. It is a large, private 4-year university in the heart of Los Angeles. The engineering research centers are known for their role in developing the internet, among various other technologies. The USC School of Engineering graduated 673 undergraduate and 2,608 master’s degree students in 2020. Undergraduate tuition is about $60,000 per year.

The College of Engineering at the University of California-Berkeley is one of 14 schools within the University of California system. The university is in the northern California bay area, near San Francisco. There are 55 engineering degree programs with an acceptance rate of about 9%. In 2020, there were 3,892 undergraduate and 2,155 graduate students enrolled in the engineering program. Full-time in-state tuition is approximately $36,00 per year, and out-of-state tuition is about $67,000 per year.

The Engineering School at the University of California-San Diego (UCSD) offers an outstanding 41 engineering degree programs! There are currently 5,857 undergraduates, and 2,951 postgraduates enrolled in the UCSD engineering program. This program offers summer internships with local industries, including Cisco Systems. Full-time in-state tuition is about $36,00 per year, and out-of-state tuition is about $67,000 per year.

The University of California-Irvine engineering school began in 1961 with a class of 75 students. Today, it is one of the most prestigious engineering universities. The school currently has 3,695 undergraduate and 926 graduate students enrolled in 11 undergrads and one graduate degree program. Full-time in-state tuition is about $36,00 per year, and out-of-state tuition is about $67,000 per year.

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The University of California- Los Angeles (UCLA) has a large program with 192 full-time faculty members. It is located in Westwood, Los Angeles. During the 2020-2021 school year, 3,331 undergraduate and 2,185 graduate students enrolled in the engineering program. In the summer of 2021, 940 undergraduates received engineering degrees. Full-time in-state tuition is about $36,00 per year, and out-of-state tuition is about $67,000 per year.

The University of California-Davis College of Engineering is one of the largest engineering programs in the United States. The program offers 12 undergraduate engineering majors:

  • Aerospace Science and Engineering
  • Biochemical Engineering
  • Biological Systems Engineering
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Civil Engineering
  • Computer Engineering 
  • Computer Science and Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Materials Science and Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering

There are currently 4,404 undergraduate and 1,159 postgraduate students enrolled. Full-time in-state tuition is about $36,00 per year, and out-of-state tuition is about $67,000 per year.

Located in Silicon Valley, San Jose State University offers 10 undergraduate engineering programs and 11 graduate programs. The university serves over 7,100 undergraduate and graduate engineering students with its 390 faculty and staff members. San Jose State tuition starts at $7,8582 per year, which is affordable considering it is one of the top engineering programs in California. 

Santa Clara University
Santa Clara, CA

Santa Clara University is a 4-year, private, not-for-profit university. The school of engineering offers eight undergraduate majors, twelve master’s programs, and three doctorate degrees. The undergraduate program provides students an opportunity to complete some units towards the master’s degree while still enrolled as undergraduates. Tuition is approximately $55,200 per year.

California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo offers 14 undergraduate engineering and 11 master’s degree programs. They pride themselves on having over 80 state-of-the-art laboratories! There are also roughly 250 engineering faculty on campus. In-state tuition is $9,943 per year, and out-of-state tuition is $23,833 per year.

Top schools offering Engineering degrees in California

What is Engineering?

Have you ever wondered how new technologies such as cars, roads, machines, or computers become part of society? It’s safe to say that most of our modern conveniences were the brain-children of innovative engineers. Engineering is a career that, at its core, has helped everyday life become possible. 

Engineering is a branch of science and technology that involves construction and design to create solutions to real-world problems. In a nutshell, engineers are inventors, designers, and builders.

An engineer’s many tasks include new product development, helping an organization run more efficiently, improving current technology, and so much more.

Great engineering programs must foster excellent science and math skills in their students, and it is essential for engineering programs to be accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) to ensure a quality engineering education.

What Can I Do with a Degree in Engineering?

Engineering is a popular field of interest for many prospective college students, and for good reason. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a need for an additional 140,000 new engineers between 2016-2026. In addition, the mean income for all engineers in the U.S. in 2020 was $103,380.

The most popular types of engineering fields include civilmechanical, and industrial. However, there are many types of exciting engineering career fields available.


List of all Engineering colleges in California

School Average Tuition Student Teacher Ratio Enrolled Students
Stanford University Logo Stanford University Stanford, CA
11 : 1 15,953
University of Southern California Logo University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA
22 : 1 46,287
University of California-Berkeley Logo University of California-Berkeley Berkeley, CA
23 : 1 42,327
University of California-San Diego Logo University of California-San Diego La Jolla, CA
27 : 1 39,576
University of California-Irvine Logo University of California-Irvine Irvine, CA
26 : 1 36,303