Navigating the Best Business Schools in California: The Ultimate Guide (2024)

Choosing the right undergraduate business program in California is a journey through a landscape as varied and dynamic as the state itself.

You have traditional business schools, programs mixed with economics, and even some that lean heavily into STEM and engineering. This variety means you really need to think about what you want out of your college experience and how it lines up with your future goals.

To help you with this, we’ve put together a guide to the best business schools in California. And if you need help figuring out the program that’s the best fit for you, and getting admitted, Youthfully can help.

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#1. University of Southern California – Marshall School of Business | The most well-rounded of all the business schools in California

how to get into usc

This Southern California business program offers a bunch of undergraduate options:

  • BS Business Administration (BUAD)
  • BS Accounting (ACCT)
  • World bachelor of business
  • BS Accounting and Finance (ACFN)
  • BS Artificial Intelligence for Business (BUAI)
  • BS Business of Cinematic Arts (BCA)
  • BS Real Estate Finance & Development (REFD)
  • BS Accounting and Finance (ACFN)

The most popular option is BUAD, which offers nine optional specializations (called emphases). These include entrepreneurship, analytics, marketing, international relations, real estate, finance, and more.

There’s a ton of autonomy to design your own education, and they even have an interactive tool online to do this. 

USC Marshall’s unique World Bachelor in Business (WBB) program focuses on developing global leaders and is the only 4-year, 3-continent, 3-degree program in the world.

Marshall graduates are highly sought after, with top employers including Amazon, Deloitte, and EY. The program’s reach into the job market is further evidenced by a median starting salary of around $68,791, showcasing the value of a Marshall education in the professional world.

The acceptance rate for the undergraduate business program at USC Marshall is around 12%, reflecting its competitive nature as one of the best business schools in California.

Average Admission: 12%   |   Youthfully Admission: 86%  (7x)

#2. University of California, Berkeley – Haas School of Business | The best business school in California for IB/consulting

The Haas School of Business Undergraduate Program offers a Bachelor of Science degree with three pathways:

  1. Spieker Undergraduate Business Program
  2. Management, Entrepreneurship, & Technology (MET) Program
  3. Global Management Program (GMP)
  4. Robinson Life Sciences, Business, and Entrepreneurship (LSBE) Program

supplement includes an essay question and a video interview upload.

The Spieker Undergraduate Business Program is a four-year undergraduate business program starting in 2024.

The selective Global Management Program (GMP) is a four-year program that prepares students to lead in financial services, management consulting, and more. It begins in the summer and includes the Berkeley Global Edge experience as a mandatory component—completed in fall of freshman year.

MET is a fully integrated, two-degree program. In four years, students earn a full Bachelor of Science degree in Business and an engineering degree with various choices, including Bioeng, Civil, Electrical, Industrial, and Materials.

LSBE is a joint-degree program for students interested in studying both biology and business. Only approximately 25 spots highly competitive and open only to students currently enrolled at UC Berkeley.

Haas undergraduate business program receives about 15,000 applications per year, so it’s highly competitive.

Haas undergrad business offers 100 transfer spots per year, prioritizing those from community colleges rather than four-year degree programs.

The school’s goal is to “develop leaders who redefine how we do business,” and their curriculum is extensive. One highlight is the Berkeley Changemaker courses, which help students “Question the Status Quo” and go “Beyond Yourself” through leadership development.

They also continually assess learning goals throughout the program, ensuring you are acquiring key traits like communication skills and ethics. 

The program’s reach extends into the job market, where a strong 77% of graduates secure job offers with a median starting salary of $88,840

Alumni can be found at top employers like Google, Apple, and McKinsey & Company, with careers spanning finance, consulting, and technology—industries that reflect the innovative spirit of the school.

Apart from academic excellence, Haas is also an attractive option for California residents who benefit from the UC tuition rates.

Getting into Haas requires the UC System app and the Haas supplementary application, which includes an essay question and a video interview upload.

Check out our admissions coaching program to help give you an upper hand.

Average Admission: 9%   |   Youthfully Admission: 81%   (9x)

#3. Stanford University | The best California “STEM” focused business program

At Stanford, students interested in business can choose between two distinct paths: 

  1. Management Science and Engineering (MS&E)
  2. Economics undergrad

Stanford’s MS&E curriculum is very STEM-focused. It’s actually part of the engineering school, not the business school. That’s why some folks call it “soft-core engineering”. 

We considered it a quasi-business program because it’s purpose-built to equip students for careers in investment banking and management consulting, as well as technology sectors or for pursuing advanced studies.

Alternatively, the Economics program is a more liberal arts-oriented education, studying aspects of modern society and macro- and microeconomic theory.

Stanford MS&E alumni have a strong presence in the job market, with many securing internships and roles in finance, consulting, and technology. 

Top firms like Goldman Sachs, Boston Consulting Group, and Google are common internship and post-graduate destinations. Some also pursue their own startups. 

The employment report does not publish salary information.

Stanford is highly competitive with about a 5% acceptance rate. Join Youthfully to 15x your chances.

Average Admission: 5%   |   Youthfully Admission: 75%   (13x)

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#4. University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) | The choice for an “economics” business education

At UCLA, students interested in business can choose from three distinct undergraduate majors: Economics, Business Economics B.A., and Mathematics/Economics. 

  • Business Economics: Designed for students seeking a business orientation in their economics study.
  • Economics: Focus on theoretical and analytical aspects of economics, ideal for students aiming for high finance jobs, where a rigorous understanding of economics and mathematics is essential. 
  • Mathematics/Economics: tailored for roles involving data or economic graduate studies.

Each offers a unique perspective on the vast world of economics and finance within the setting of one of California’s top universities.

However, UCLA’s John E. Anderson Graduate School of Management contributes to the Business Economics B.A. program specifically, ensuring that students receive both a broad and deep understanding of modern business and economic principles.

UCLA offers a comprehensive and challenging curriculum, with students encouraged to participate in research, internships, and the UCLA Investment Competition.

All majors culminate in a thesis, allowing students to explore a topic of their choice in depth.

UCLA’s approach to these majors reflects a commitment to providing a comprehensive and rigorous education in economics and finance. 

Graduates of UCLA’s Economics major report a median new graduate salary of approximately $62,000, while those from the Business Economics program typically start at slightly lower median salaries of around $58,000. The data can be found here.

This variation in salaries might be attributed to the diverse career paths chosen by graduates. Some may pursue non-traditional entrepreneurial roles or positions in sectors like accounting, which traditionally offer lower starting salaries.

UCLA’s acceptance rate stands at about 11%, reflecting the competitive nature of its programs. 

In summary, the university’s diverse offerings, combined with its commitment to preparing graduates for a variety of career paths, make UCLA a compelling choice for those looking to explore the multifaceted world of economics and business in a competitive and dynamic academic environment.

UCLA requires students to submit the personal insight questions. Working with a coach can help ensure you have the best extracurricular profile and standout essays.

Average Admission: 11%   |   Youthfully Admission: 83%   (9x)

#5. Claremont McKenna College – Robert Day School of Economics and Finance | The best finance & accounting business program

Best business program in california claremont mckenna

Claremont McKenna College, through its Robert Day School of Economics and Finance, offers a distinctive approach to business education in a liberal arts setting. 

The School offers majors in Economics and Economics-Accounting.

Popular among students is the option to dual major or augment their major with sequences like Financial Economics or the Leadership Sequence.

The school is designed for students aiming to assume leadership roles in business, finance, government, and not-for-profit organizations.

Students engage in research alongside faculty, thanks to the various Research Institutes on campus, providing a hands-on experience that complements classroom learning.

A unique aspect of the curriculum is the senior thesis requirement, encouraging students to delve deeply into a subject of their choice.

Alumni of the program have used their education in diverse fields, from powering global small business ventures to practicing tax law, showcasing the program’s versatility and practical impact.

Claremont McKenna’s Career Services offers substantial support to students, including sponsored internships and fellowships, helping them transition seamlessly from academia to the professional world.

The college’s strong emphasis on practical skills and real-world applications prepares students for successful careers in various sectors. 

The median starting salary is impressive at $87,000 in 2022. Most students either pursue finance (29%), consulting (23%), or tech and entrepreneurship (16%). 

The integration of the Robert Day School within Claremont McKenna’s liberal arts framework ensures that students receive a well-rounded education, blending the depth of business knowledge with the breadth of a liberal arts perspective.

CMC’s application process is quite rigorous, including the Common App, supplementary essays, and a video interview.

Average Admission: 11%   |   Youthfully Admission: 95%   (9x)

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#6. California Institute of Technology (Caltech) | The best business program “add-on” for future engineers

At Caltech, students eyeing a business-centric education have two distinct paths: the Business, Economics, and Management (BEM) program and a degree in Economics. Known for its intense focus on science and technology, Caltech offers these programs with a unique twist.

The BEM program at Caltech stands out for its integration with other technical disciplines. It’s rare to find students pursuing BEM in isolation; most combine it with a Computer Science (CS) or Applied and Computational Mathematics (ACM) major.

This interdisciplinary approach aligns with Caltech’s ethos but presents a challenge for those seeking a standalone business education. 

The BEM curriculum will span finance, economics, political science, and psychology, equipping students to navigate the complexities of the modern business landscape.

The Economics degree offers a more traditional option. However, considering Caltech’s tech-centric environment, top students solely focused on business should pursue an economics degree at an institution that is more liberal arts oriented.

Those passionate about integrating technical knowledge with business fundamentals will find Caltech’s approach rewarding, but it may not be the ideal destination for students seeking a pure business program.

While the BEM department is reputable, it may not be on par with Caltech’s world-class science departments. 

However, its graduates are well-equipped for careers in finance, consulting, or entrepreneurial ventures, especially when combined with a technical major.

Getting into Caltech requires submitting strong supplemental materials, like a research paper, maker portfolio or internship.

That’s why Youthfully students have such a high acceptance rate (9x higher than the average).

Check out our Research Paper program and Internship Experience to help boost your chances.

Average Admission: 9%   |   Youthfully Admission: 85%   (9x)

#7. University of California, San Diego (UCSD): Business & Economics Programs | A great overall business school in California

Best business program in california University of California, San Diego

UC San Diego offers distinctive business-related majors through collaborations between the Rady School of Management and other departments. 

These programs cater to students seeking a comprehensive understanding of business operations within the modern marketplace.

Program Options:

  • Business Economics: Launched in Fall 2021, this major is a collaborative, interdisciplinary degree between the Department of Economics and the Rady School of Management. It educates students on core economics disciplines and business functions, including accounting, finance, management, marketing, and operations.
  • International Studies – International Business: Offered through the International Studies department, this program hones business skills and cultural understandings essential in the Age of Globalization.
  • Business Psychology: Focused on applying psychological principles to the workplace, this major is tailored for students interested in the intersection of business and psychology.

As an honorable mention, UCSD’s Data Science program could be a more math-oriented degree to set students up for a career in analytics and data roles.

UCSD’s business and economics programs are beneficial for students targeting finance careers. 

The university’s focus on interdisciplinary learning and real-world skills prepares graduates for successful careers in various business sectors, especially finance. 

Students looking for an education that combines business acumen with practical experience in a research-intensive environment will find UCSD’s programs especially appealing.

UC San Diego also consistently ranks among the top universities in America, more recently at #20 by U.S. News & World Report.

Plus, if you love the beach, you can’t get a more beautiful campus environment than UCSD. 

If you’re looking for help getting in, we recommend working with a Youth Coach.

Average Admission: 13%   |   Youthfully Admission: 100%   (8x)

#8. University of California, Irvine: Paul Merage School of Business | A must for those considering ‘pure’ business programs

University of California, Irvine, offers a unique perspective in business education through its Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration through the Paul Merage School of Business. 

Ranked 29th in the U.S. for undergraduate business program by U.S. News & World Report in 2023, UC Irvine provides a pure business undergraduate program with a focus on various aspects of business and management​​.

The curriculum includes 11 foundational business courses, followed by a minimum of 5 business electives, with one emphasis in areas like Accounting, Finance, or Marketing.

Known for its small class sizes, UC Irvine’s Merage School offers undergraduate minors in Accounting, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and Management. 

Graduates from the Merage School find employment in various sectors, with a 95.4% placement rate six months after graduation. 

According to their employment report, the average new grad salary is $61k. Alumni pursue a variety of industries, 24% go into marketing/sales, 21% accounting, 15% finance, and 11% consulting. 

Average First-Year Incoming GPA is 4.08, so despite its 28% acceptance rate, you’re still going to be surrounded by very academically strong students in the business program.

Overall, it stands out for its balanced approach, catering well to students who are looking for a more traditional business education as opposed to the more STEM-focused options offered by other top schools.

Average Admission: 28%   |   Youthfully Admission: 100%   (3x)



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