Key to San Francisco’s continuing success as a center for the new talent-based, innovation economy is the outstanding level of educational attainment among its workforce. A full 19.9% of City residents hold graduate degrees, more than 50% of Bay Area residents have four-year degrees or higher, and around 85% of the population have training beyond high school. Its primary and secondary education system boasts an extensive network of public and private institutions-there are more than 100 private and parochial schools in the City alone-that prepare students for the international economic environment in a dynamic multicultural setting with class sizes well below the California average.
San Francisco State University, founded in 1899 continues to be at the forefront of academic excellence. With over 30,000 students at three campuses they were the first in the nation to establish an International Relations Department and an Ethnic Studies College. The University ranks number one among master level universities for total grants in biological and physical sciences. San Francisco’s community college, City College of San Francisco provides high quality education opportunities to all populations of the city from eleven campuses-preparing students for transfer to baccalaureate institutions, achievement of Associate Degrees of Art Science, and development of career skills closely linked to the business community needs. In addition, the Bay Area is home to more than 35 colleges and universities with some of the world’s best graduate institutions and research facilities. With numerous federal and private research centers, they form a cluster representing the cutting-edge of development in technology and the life sciences.
Click any higher education institution on this interactive map for more information.
Primary & Secondary
San Francisco provides its residents a variety of options in primary and secondary education. The San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) provides public education to more than 57,000 students. The SFUSD offers primary and secondary education, as well as charter schools and special education programs.
In addition to the public school system, there are over 122 public and 120 private schools in the City alone. It has a broad array of academically competitive public, private and magnet schools. The City and its residents recognize the importance of maintaining and improving the competitiveness of their workforce and to that end make education broadly accessible.
The City’s cultural vibrancy extends to the atmosphere of its schools—with pupils in the system coming from all walks of life—and graduates are exposed to a dynamic cultural setting that prepares them for an international economic environment. San Francisco continues its efforts towards educational excellence by emphasizing the small class sizes which have continually proven to improve learning. In nearly all grade levels, it maintains class sizes lower than the California average.
Colleges & Universities
The San Francisco Bay Area is home to one of the best educated workforces in the world. More than two-thirds of Bay Area residents have training beyond high school and above 51% have attained a four-year college degree or higher. In addition, 20% of City residents hold graduate degrees, topping the rankings of major cities in the United States. More than 60 colleges and universities comprise the Bay Area’s world-class educational and research facilities.
The Best Global Universities Rankings 2016 published by U.S. News places the University of California Berkeley (UC Berkeley) and Stanford University within the top ten list. Also, the 2016 U.S. News and World Report ranks UC Berkeley #3 and University of California San Francisco (UCSF) #5 in biological sciences. UC scientists have founded one in three biotechnology companies in California; with California serving as the home to two of the world’s three largest Biotech Corporations (Amgen and Gilead Sciences).
Notable Colleges & Universities in San Francisco
The University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) is one of the nation’s top health, science and educational institutions and a world leader in advancing new techniques to diagnose and treat disease. It is known for medical, nursing, and pharmacy degree programs. Master’s and doctoral degrees are available. Around 3,100 students attend this school. UCSF’s School of Medicine and School of Nursing maintain their high national rankings in the annual survey of the best graduate schools published by US News & World Report. The 2017 ranking of the same publication ranks UCSF’s School of Medicine #3 in medical research, primary care and nursing. In 2014, the School of Nursing, Pharmacy and Dentistry ranked #1 in the nation.
UC Hastings College of Law, founded in 1878, was the first law department of the University of California and offers master’s and doctoral degrees. More than 900 students are enrolled. Currently, Hastings is one of the top-rated law school programs in the United States.
The top ranked U.S. executive-MBA program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School now has an extension campus in San Francisco. The Wharton School-SF offers top-quality management education to West Coast executives and business leaders as well as access to innovative programs, unrivaled thought leadership and a talented pool of students and alumni.
The University of San Francisco, founded in 1855, continues its mission of training young people for positions of leadership in the community. USF was the first college in the nation to offer a Computer Sciences degree and in 2013 was ranked 6th in the nation for Computer Science majors by Affordable Colleges Online. The university is also home to the prominent McLaren School of Business; additionally, the USF School of Law has a top-tier J.D. program. The University offers strong management, business, and nursing degree programs. Bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and doctoral degrees are available with very expensive tuition fees. Over 10,000 students attend this school.
San Francisco State University, which celebrated its centennial in 1999, has built a national reputation for its commitment to social justice and for addressing real-world issues through practical, applied research and scholarly work. SFSU is best known for offering business, management, and education degree programs with bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and doctoral degrees offered. ROTC programs are also available. Tuition prices are above average with roughly 26,000 students enrolled. The SFSU College of Business offers an executive MBA program at their downtown campus in the heart of Union Square.
Golden Gate University, which traces its origins to the founding of the YMCA in 1853, is an independent, multi-campus university with strong emphasis on business, accounting and finance, and management programs that offer certificate and degree programs throughout California, Nevada, Washington and abroad. GGU offers both an MBA and JD program as well as the fast-tracked JD/MBA with average tuition fees. Approximately 4,400 students are enrolled.
Alliant University continues to serve the area by providing educational programs in psychology. Four campuses throughout California have offered highly regarded programs for more than 25 years. AU has an affiliation with Presidio Graduate School which offers executive education, an MBA program, and an MPA program with a direct emphasis on sustainable management through an integrated approach resulting in knowledge, skills, and confident leadership.
City College of San Francisco, a public, two-year community college popular for its general, work and family studies, and medical programs offers credit and non-credit classes to approximately 90,000 full and part-time students at eight campuses and additional outreach locations throughout the City. Associate’s degrees are available with inexpensive tuition costs. Approximately 34,600 students are enrolled.
Established in 1929, the Academy of Art University is now the largest fully accredited private school of art and design in the nation. Increasingly, academy students are winning national art competitions and are recruited by industry leaders nationwide. The university is well known for graphic design and animation, fashion, and film and acting programs. AAU offers associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees with moderately expensive tuition rates. Over 10,000 students are enrolled.
The Art Institute of California San Francisco is best known for computer science, graphic design and animation, and fashion degree programs; offers associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees; moderately expensive tuition fees. Roughly 1,700 students attend this school.
California Institute of Integral Studies has strong psychology, general studies, and management programs. Bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and doctoral degrees are offered. Approximately 1,500 students enrolled.
Other Notable Colleges & Universities outside San Francisco
Located in Berkeley, which is situated north-east across the Bay from San Francisco, is the University of California, Berkeley. The university was the first campus in the public University of California system, and is widely regarded as a leader in a variety of fields. It offers undergraduate and post-graduate degrees, as well as MBAs through its Haas Business School and law degrees through its Faculty of Law.
Stanford University is a private university located in the heart of Silicon Valley, near San Jose and Palo Alto. It is a highly selective university, and a leading technology and science research institution. It enrolls more postgraduates than undergraduates.
California State University, East Bay is located in Hayward, southeast across the Bay from San Francisco. A member of the California State public university system, it primarily educates undergraduates across a variety of disciplines.
The Berkeley-Columbia Executive MBA program brings together two extraordinary faculties in two of the world’s great business centers—New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area—to create a single unique program that can help students acquire the requisite skills and vision needed for the next stage of success. The BCEMBA represents the only partnership between two nationally ranked top 10 business schools.
Founded in 1907, the California College of the Arts is the largest regionally accredited, independent school of art and design in the Western United States.
Northern California houses a world-class cluster of science research centers and medical institutions, famous for their collaboration with private enterprise. Five major research universities-Stanford, University of California (UC) Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz and UC San Francisco-and three medical schools-Stanford, UC Davis and UCSF-are located in Northern California.
In addition to university-based research, the San Francisco Bay Area is home to many well-funded and highly respected federal and private research institutions including The Western Genome Project, Lawrence Berkeley Livermore National Lab, NASA Ames, SRI International and the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. Some of the largest performers of biotech research-Abbott Laboratories, Chiron, Boston Scientific, Acuson Corp, Gilead Sciences, COR Therapeutics and Cell Genesys-also call the Bay Area home.
Research & Development Capacity
The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM)-CIRM has a $3 billion funding initiative for stem cell research. Since the program’s inception in 2005, more than 500 grants have been given to both academic and private-sector research institutions. Some of the largest Bay Area grant recipients include:
Stanford University: 98 grants totaling $302,876,653
UC Berkeley: 22 grants totaling $53,507,965
UC San Francisco: 60 grants totaling $138,809,261
UC Santa Cruz: 12 grants totaling $26,131,285
Gladstone Institutes: 27 grants totaling $51,345,508
Institute for Quantitative Biomedical Research (QB3)—A collaborative of professors at UC San Francisco (UCSF), UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz, among them a Nobel Laureate and 42 members of the National Academies, the institute involves more than 140 scientists housed in a new 153,000 sq. foot building at Mission Bay in San Francisco. The institute is part of a public/private biomedical research park focusing on fundamental discoveries, new product development and biomedical training for the next generation of biotech workers.
Gladstone Institute—Adjacent to the UC San Francisco (UCSF) Mission Bay Campus—is a six-story, 180,000-square-foot lab research facility developed by the J. David Gladstone Institutes, a non-profit bioresearch facility closely affiliated with UCSF, which carries out research in virology, immunology, neurological disease and cardiovascular disease. There are more than 300 scientists in the building occupied in late 2004 that includes research and administrative space.
University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)—Overall, the University of California system has received more patents than any other university in the world, and UCSF is ranked 1st in the system for active patents. UCSF has been among the nation’s top institutions in NIH funding for more than two decades with a steady increase in total NIH funding as well as the number of NIH awards to its researchers. It received the largest amount of research funds in 2015, ranking 2nd among all institutions nationwide with more than $560.4 million. In addition, UCSF consistently ranks among the top U.S. biomedical research institutions in cancer-specific federal funding. As of 2015, UCSF ranked 2nd nationwide in NIH support with grants totaling $501.1 million for the School of Medicine, $27 million for the School of Pharmacy, $16.9 million for the School of Dentistry and $14 million for the School of Nursing.
UCSF Comprehensive Cancer Center—The 2015-16 U.S. News & World Report “America’s Best Hospitals” survey ranked UCSF 9th for cancer care and 2nd among California cancer-care providers. The survey placed UCSF’s cancer care among the top 15 in the nation for the eleventh consecutive year. Current grant funding to UCSF investigators for cancer research from all sources totals more than $210 million annually. This total includes funding from the National Cancer Institute as well as from other areas of NIH, the American Cancer Society, and other agencies and industry partners. UCSF has seen a 79% growth in clinical trial accruals since 2007. The Cancer Center continues a growth period made possible a decade ago by an anonymous pledge of $150 million.
Bay Area Research University Patents Issued and Research Funding
University of California San Francisco; 679 active U.S. Patents; $560.4 million Research Funding from NIH (2015)
University of California Berkeley; 1,401 Patents (As of 2016); $690.8 million Research Funding (2015)
Stanford University; 182 Patents Filed (2014); $1.22 billion Research Funding (2015-2016)
University of California Davis; 149 Filed U.S. Patents; $786 million Research Funding (2014-2015)
University of California Santa Cruz; 89 Active U.S. Patents; $132.5 million Research Funding (2012-2013 Latest Available)
Source: CIRM-Funded Institutions