The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) is an institution that promotes athletics as an integral component of academic learning. There are approximately 300 NAIA member colleges nationwide, out of which 23 are in California. Students enrolled in an NAIA college have the opportunity to study in small classes and receive individualized attention from faculty. NAIA student athletes participate in 23 championships and 13 sports including baseball, golf, football, soccer and football. There have been less than 10 designated NAIA Division 1 schools in California in the last five years.

California Baptist University

Founded in 1950, California Baptist University is located in Riverside, and is a private Christian college. In 2010, the university’s baseball team received NAIA’s Gold Glove team player award. The athletics department at the university includes aquatics, baseball, basketball, cross-country and wrestling.

In addition to offering a variety of programs in Christian studies, students can enroll in undergraduate or graduate fields like behavioral science, nursing, public administration and history. Students who wish to specialize in athletics can major in kinesiology and sports managements.

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The Master of Science in athletic training is the only degree program that is offered in California, and is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE). The course prepares students for work in a variety of athletic fields as certified athletic trainers.

California Baptist University 8432 Magnolia Avenue Riverside, CA 92504 877-CBU-3615

California State University Maritime

California State University Maritime (Cal Maritime) is located in Vallejo, and is one of just seven national degree-granting maritime academies. The university is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). It is one of the top NAIA schools in California due to its competitive athletics program.

In addition to providing maritime degrees, students can also enroll in international business, engineering technology and global studies. All programs are offered at the bachelor’s degree level. "U.S. News & World Report" has consistently ranked Cal Maritime as one of the best NAIA colleges in the nation. The athletics department consists of sports like rugby, basketball, sailing and water polo.

Cal State University Maritime 200 Maritime Academy Drive Vallejo, CA 94590 707-654-1000

Concordia University

Concordia University was founded in 1955 and provides a liberal arts education based on the Lutheran tradition. The university offers undergraduate programs in art, history, mathematics, business administration and communication. Graduate studies include coaching and athletic administration, education, business administration and theology.

In addition to enrolling in traditional programs, the adult education program offers accelerated degree courses; students typically can complete their course work within 16 months. The athletic training department consists of basketball, cross-country, track and field and swimming.

Concordia University 1530 Concordia West Irvine, CA 92612 800-229-1200

Marymount California University

Located in Rancho Palos Verdes, Marymount has the Oceanview Campus and Waterfront Campus for its tight-knit student body of just over 1,000 undergraduates and access to experienced faculty. It offers two associate degrees in arts and science and bachelor’s degrees in:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Business
  • Bachelor of Arts in Media Studies
  • Bachelor of Arts in Psychology
  • Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts

Marymount has three master’s programs:

  • Business Administration
  • Science in Community Psychology
  • Science in Leadership and Global Development

The Marymount Mariners compete in the CalPac. It’s athletics programs include cross country, golf, lacrosse, soccer, baseball, women’s indoor/outdoor volleyball, soccer and softball.

Marymount California University, 222 W. Sixth St., Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90731 310-377-5501

La Sierra University

Nestled in Riverside, Calif., La Sierra University is home to the Golden Eagles and has a small student body of just around 1,500. It is a leading university in the Enactus and has won each time it represented the United States, in 2002 and 2007, at the Enactus World Cup. La Sierra is relatively new to the NAIA, join the organization’s California Pacific Conference in 2013. The Seventh Day Adventist university’s sports include cross-country, soccer and basketball for both men and women’s teams. It offers baseball for men and softball and volleyball for women athletes. It has majors in the College of Arts and Sciences, H.M.S. Richards Divinity School, School of Education and the Tom and Vi Zapara School of Business.

La Sierra University, 4500 Riverwalk Parkway, Riverside, CA 92515 800-8745587

About the Author

Selam Nuri has been writing academic articles and working across the curriculum since 2001. She has been published online at various websites and earned her Ph.D. in cultural anthropology in 2006 from the City University of New York.