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

    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



    Additional 2-4 years

    Doctorate of Philosophy



    Additional years or more

    Professional Degree



    1 year or more

    *Time to earn a degree varies based on the student rate of course completion and availability of classes.


    Types of Colleges


    California Community College  (CCC)

    • There are 109 Community Colleges in California. CCC Campuses
    • 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.
    • Explore Community Colleges in California here.

    California State University (CSU)

    • There are 23 California State Universities.  CSU Campuses
    • Each campus offers Bachelor of Arts/Sciences and Masters of  Arts/Sciences degrees.
    • They accept high school seniors and community college transfers.
    • They provide a broad liberal arts education and prepares students for professional goals.
    • Learn more about the CSU system here.

    University of California (UC)

    • There are 10 University of California campuses.   UC Campuses
    • 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.
    • UCs also have Professional Schools for Law, Medicine, Education, Engineering, Journalism, Social Welfare, among others.
    • 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.
      • Find out more about California's Private Colleges and Universities here.


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