These Are The 10 Best Colleges For Economics Majors In California

Using science and data, we can tell you which colleges in CA offer the best opportunities for economics majors.

John McLeanby John McLeanRankings - 2 years ago

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You know there are a ton of great reasons to major in economics — the job prospects, the intellectual challenge, and the chance to follow in the footsteps of some of the greatest thinkers of all time.

But what program in California offers the most to would be economics majors?

We at Zippia decided to take a look at the data on the 805 institutions of higher learning in the Golden State to determine which programs offer the best career opportunities for economics majors.

After the dust settled, we’re left with this set of the top colleges for economics majors in California:

  1. California Institute Of Technology
  2. UC Berkeley
  3. Stanford University
  4. Claremont McKenna College
  5. UCLA
  6. Harvey Mudd College
  7. Pomona College
  8. UC Davis
  9. UC San Diego
  10. Pepperdine University

If you go to one of these schools, chances are, you’re not surprised. After all, you know how great you have it.

But for the rest of you — keep reading and we’ll get to just why these schools have some of the best economics programs the Golden State has to offer.

How We Determined The Best Econ Schools In California

Economics is, at its core, the study of choice under constraints. When it comes to identifying the best economics schools we wanted to approach the ranking like economics major would, by looking at data on how schools perform and comparing them to one another.

What better way to optimize your choice?

So with that mind, we looked at the following data from the NCES (National Center For Education Statistics) and College Scorecard data from ED.gov to understand what economics department offer the best career opportunities:

  • Career Results
    • Mean Earnings After 6 Years
    • Mean Earnings After 10 Years
    • Ratio of people working to not working after 10 years
  • Economics Emphasis
    • Percentage of Graduating Class That Are Economics Majors (Larger the better)
  • School Performance
    • Admissions Rate (More selective the better)
    • Graduation Rate
    • Average Cost Of Attendance (Lower is better)
    • Average amount of debt

It’s hard to argue with a selective school that features economics and produces strong earning potential for your career.

After we had this data, we looked at the 805 institutions of higher learning in California. We then ranked each of these schools for each of the criteria above with 1 being the best in any given criteria.

Next, we averaged the ranks for each school to create an “Economics Quality Index”. The school with the best score on the “Economics Quality Index”, California Institute of Technology, earned the distinction of being the ‘Best College For Economics’ in California.

1. California Institute Of Technology

California Institute Of Technology, California

Source: Wikipedia

Enrollment: 2,209

Cal Tech is probably the most respected economics department on this list. Math geeks who want up close, personal attention, stand to benefit from a very small cohort of students each year.

Cal Tech econ grads earn the 2nd-most incomes up to a decade after school, and Cal Tech ranks first in the state for percentage of graduates still working in the field 10 years out.

2. UC Berkeley

University Of California-Berkeley, California

Source: Wikipedia

Enrollment: 37,815

There are only a handful of other programs in California that are more exclusive than Berkeley. Recent econ grads earn the 6th-highest salaries after leaving school, and the cost of attending Berkeley is only about average – meaning this is the biggest bang for your buck if you want to get an economics degree in California.

3. Stanford University

Stanford University, California

Source: Wikipedia

Enrollment: 16,136

If ‘hard to get into’ means a program is good, than Stanford has bragging rights. Only 5.6% of high school grads who apply for Stanford’s economics program actually make it in. Stanford also has the highest graduation rate for all econ departments in the state – at a whopping 96%.

4. Claremont McKenna College

Claremont Mckenna College, California

Source: Wikipedia

Enrollment: 1,300

The first of several Claremont Colleges to make this list, McKenna gets high scores for its low admission rate (11.8%) and earnings after graduation. Only 4 other departments in California see their economics graduates go on and earn more money after completing school than little CMC.

5. UCLA

University Of California-Los Angeles, California

Source: Wikipedia

Enrollment: 43,239

UCLA only lets about 20% of applicants into its economics department every year, which is far lower than the state average. Plus, economics students at UCLA are at an advantage since there are so many UCLA alumni across the nation, and most come out of school commanding top 10 salaries statewide.

6. Harvey Mudd College

Harvey Mudd College, California

Source: Wikipedia

Enrollment: 735

It doesn’t get any more exclusive than at Harvey Mudd, one of the top colleges in the nation, much less California. The admission rate at HMC is understandably very low (18%), and only Stanford graduates earn higher salaries in the state.

7. Pomona College

Pomona College, California

Source: Wikipedia

Enrollment: 1,663

The final of three Claremont Colleges, Pomona is widely considered a top destination for math nerds across the nation. Why? Because it’s a darn good program.

Pomona is the 4th-most exclusive, and 96% of economics students graduate, which is the 3rd-best rate in the state. The best part – Pomona’s econ department ranks 1st in California for lowest debt that its students incur.

8. UC Davis

University Of California-Davis, California

Source: Wikipedia

Enrollment: 35,868

Davis gets high ranks for its graduation rate (81%), admission rates (45%) and student debt (10th lowest). That means the economics program here is hard to get into, but not overly expensive.

9. UC San Diego

University Of California-San Diego, California

Source: Wikipedia

Enrollment: 31,502

UCSD has the 11th-highest graduation rate among all econ students in the state (86%), and once students have been working for a decade or more in the field of economics, they’re earning the 11th-highest salaries in the state.

10. Pepperdine University

Pepperdine University, California

Source: Wikipedia

Enrollment: 7,632

Who wouldn’t want to go to school in beautiful Malibu? Besides the eye-candy that comes with Pepperdine, econ grads get to take advantage of a great reputation. Graduates earn the 6th-highest salaries down the road. Pepperdine is much harder to get into than most other programs in California, too.

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