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Study in California, United States

State overview

The Golden State is by far the most populous state in the US and is home to some of its most famous cities and landmarks – think Los Angeles and Swan Francisco, Hollywood and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Studying a graduate program in California allows you to live in one of the most liberal states in the US. California is extremely diverse, with large Hispanic communities and many international students from around the world. Nevertheless, California embodies American culture and the ‘can-do’ attitude.

With beautiful beaches, inspiring landscape and some of the world’s most exciting industries, it’s no surprise that California is the most popular destination for international students in America – in fact, the University of Southern California enrols more international students each year than any other institution in the US. 

Education profile

The university system in California is based on a mixture of public and private schools and the state has one of the largest populations of students in the US. California is home to some of the most respected institutions in the world, such as Stanford University and the University of California. Some of the institutions that you can study a graduate program in California include:

Professional, or ‘terminal’, masters are designed to lead to employment rather than further study. Popular courses include: Master of Business Administration (M.B.A) and Master of Library Science (M.L.S.).

Academic masters, however, are generally designed to lead the way into doctorate/PhD study. Popular courses include: Master of Education (M.Ed.), and Master of Engineering (M.Eng.). Both last between one and three years, depending on the subject.

Doctoral degrees are the most advanced level of higher education, and usually take between four and eight years to complete, which includes the time it takes to write and present a dissertation. 

Immigration and visas

Before travelling to the USA to study in California, you will need to apply for a non-immigrant visa.

The most common kind of student visa is the F-1 visa, which entitles the holder to study at any US accredited college or university.
To apply for a student visa for a graduate program in California, you will need to fill out an application form (found on the US Embassy website) and send appropriate documentation, such as evidence of financial standing and proof of university acceptance and academic qualifications, as well as possibly attending a visa interview at the US Embassy in your home country.

Life in California

Life in California is all about being relaxed. This is not a state to get overworked in. From long lazy days on the beach, wandering around San Francisco’s fringes or enjoying the wild beauty of Yosemite National Park, Californians pride themselves on their downtime.
As a diverse state, California allows you to get involved in cultures of all kinds – not just American. You can eat amazing Korean, Indian, Chinese, Mexican or even Lebanese food in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

And all this is before you even go celebrity spotting. Los Angeles is home to the US film industry’s big beast – Hollywood, and anybody who is anybody in movies will show up. Grab your autograph and get star-spotting – no wonder this is the destination of choice for international students.

California city guides

Decided that you want to study a graduate program in California? Find out more with our city guides.

Working in California

California is one of the world’s most ingenious and profitable states. Its economy is comparable to many large countries and with a GPD of $1.96 trillion (2011), California is responsible for more than 13% of the USA’s entire GDP. If it were a country, California’s GDP would be bigger than Russia, India, Canada, Australia and Spain – this is a major global player.

So what can you do? In terms of jobs, California excels in trade, transportation, government, education and leisure and hospitality. Computer design and electronics are very important industries, accounting for 42% of the state’s international exports. High-technology hubs in Northern California such as Silicon Valley have emerged from the dot-com bust and are once again leading developments in the IT arena.


Most international postgraduates coming to study in California stay in university accommodation, which allows you to meet fellow students and settle into campus life. Many halls of residence include gym facilities and recreational areas.

Expect to pay upwards $2,000 per semester for university accommodation in California.

However, California is a great place to live and many students choose to live in private accommodation and your chosen university should be able to advise you on how to rent a private flat.

Weather and climate

California has a variable climate, with long dry summers and cool, rainy winters. The north of California is generally wetter than the south, and the state has both the hot desert of Death Valley and the alpine, snowy climate of Sierra Nevada. Death Valley experienced the hottest temperature in the Western Hemisphere in 1913, when a temperature of 57C was recorded.

What to do next

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