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Graduation, College, and Career » Types of Colleges

Types of Colleges

There are four main college systems (or types of Colleges) in California: Community College (CCC), California State University (CSU), the University of California (UC) and Independent Private College and Universities. Students begin their pathway into any one of these college systems after receiving their High School Diploma or GED.

Types of Degrees

Within each college system students may earn degrees and/or certifications by following a set load of coursework as outlined by the college. There are five types of degrees associated with higher education.

Type of Degree


Higher Education Institution

Length of Time to Earn*

Associate’s of Arts/Sciences


Community College

About 2 years

Bachelor’s of Arts/Sciences



About 4 years

Master’s of Arts/Sciences



Between 2-4 years

Doctorate of Philosophy



3 years or more

Professional Degree



1 year or more


Types of Colleges

California Community College (CCC)

  • There are 109 Community Colleges in California.
  • All of them prepare students to transfer to a 4 year institution.
  • They offer Associate Degrees and Certificate Programs.
  • They offer technical training in specific occupations (bookkeeping, culinary arts, cosmetology, etc.).
  • Most are non-residential, meaning that students live off-campus.
  • Students may attend part-time or full-time.
  • In order to enroll, students must be 18+ OR have a High School Diploma/GED.
  • Average annual cost: $15,473
    Explore Community Colleges in California here.

California State University (CSU)

  • There are 23 California State Universities.
  • Each campus offers Bachelor of Arts/Sciences and Master’s of Arts/Sciences degrees.
  • They accept high school seniors and community college transfers.
  • They provide a broad liberal education and prepares students for professional goals.
  • Average annual cost is: $24,718
    Learn more about the CSU system here.

University of California (UC)

  • There are 10 University of California campuses—Berkeley, Davis, Hastings (Law School only), Irvine, Los Angeles, Merced, Riverside, San Diego, San Francisco (Medical and Graduate School only), Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz.
  • Each campus offers Bachelor of Arts/Sciences degrees , Master’s of Arts/Sciences degrees, J.D, M.D., and Ph.D degrees.
  • Undergraduate schools accept high school seniors and community college transfers.
  • The mission of UC is research and teaching.
  • UCs also have Professional Schools for Law, Medicine, Education, Engineering, Journalism, Social Welfare, among others.
  • Average annual cost is: $34,013
    Click here for additional information about the University of California.

Independent and Private Colleges/Universities

  • There are 77 Private Colleges/Universities in CA
  • Each college/university varies in size, prestige, and cost.
  • They offer Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctorate, and Professional degrees.
  • They accept high school graduates and Community College transfers.
  • Campuses have Professional schools in law, medicine, education, engineering, journalism, and social welfare, among others.
  • Average annual cost is: $61,300
    Find out more about California's Private Colleges and Universities here.

    Content adapted from UC Berkeley's Center for Educational Partnerships.

How to Choose a Major

Know Your Interests

  • A student should be gathering information about themselves, discovering their likes and interests through middle and high school by participating in job shadows, volunteer opportunities, internships, and part-time work.
  • Knowing what jobs, fields, and careers naturally fit their personality, skills and values are part of doing research.
  • Students can assess and explore their interests with inventories at and

  • Get a sense of types of majors.
  • Interview family friends and neighbors about their major and career choices.
  • Find out more about what types of jobs result from studying certain majors online at and/or by using The Book of College Majors.
  • Students should research and explore colleges that have programs that align with their field of interest AND offer hands-on opportunities for experience in the field

Myths About Majors

Pick a major, pick a career: Not really.
  • A major does not necessarily define a student’s career path. This might be true for very specialized majors like nursing, engineering, social work, and nutrition. However, choosing a major does not limit a student to just one career choice.
  • Some careers, like law and medicine, do not require that an undergrad degree be in a particular major.

Choosing one major excludes all others: NOT EVEN!
  • Students can combine interests by undertaking a double major.
  • Students can minor in an alternate program of study.
  • Students can obtain a certificate in different subject/program/field.
  • Students can take classes to validate and promote their interests, whether or not they desire to pursue them as a career path.
  • It’s not unusual for students to change their majors, sometimes more than once!
  • Just be aware that the longer it takes a student to decide on a major, the longer they will be in school (and paying tuition)!

My major—my life track: Probably not!
  • The typical American has at least 3 different careers in his/her lifetime (and 15+ jobs). It is likely that not all of those careers or jobs necessarily relate directly to their college major.
  • Some majors (e.g. philosophy and theatre) don’t relate to many careers, BUT the skills acquired (critical thinking, effective communication) are applicable to many career fields.
  • Remember, choosing a major is an important decision, but it is not absolutely crucial to one’s future success.