Salaries for some of the highest-paying jobs in California give new meaning to the term “Golden State.” All five of California’s highest-paying jobs have annual salaries in excess of $300,000. But each of these jobs is a specialist doctor position in the healthcare industry — which entails years of undergraduate and medical school education. Still, California has dozens of other high-paying jobs that lay outside the realm of healthcare.
To identify these jobs and create a complete list of the highest-paying jobs in every state, Credit Karma compiled and analyzed a variety of recently available datasets, namely from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Here are the five highest-paying jobs in California.
- Surgeons: $351,580
- Physicians/pathologists: $350,980
- Radiologists: $345,100
- Cardiologists: $343,370
- Anesthesiologists: $318,030
While all of the above are healthcare occupations, other high-paying jobs outside of healthcare exist in California. Read on for more details.
Highest-paying jobs in California
In California, as in almost every single state, specialized healthcare jobs dominate the top five highest-paying jobs in the state. But there are plenty of high-paying jobs outside of the healthcare field to be found in California. Here are the top-paying jobs in each of the BLS’s major occupational groups, in order of their average annual wage.
|Major occupational group||Occupation title||Annual mean wage|
|Healthcare practitioners and technical occupations||Surgeons (excluding oral/maxillofacial surgeons)||$351,580|
|Management occupations||Chief executives||$230,730|
|Transportation and material moving occupations||Airline pilots, co-pilots, and flight engineers||$227,870|
|Legal occupations||Judges, magistrate judges, and magistrates||$206,790|
|Life, physical, and social science occupations||Animal scientists||$177,430|
|Architecture and engineering occupations||Computer hardware engineers||$169,970|
|Educational instruction and library occupations||Economics teachers, postsecondary||$165,280|
|Installation, maintenance and repair occupations||Commercial divers||$161,210|
|Protective service occupations||First-line supervisors of police and detectives||$150,760|
|Computer and mathematical occupations||Software developers||$146,770|
|Arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media occupations||Art directors||$144,000|
|Personal care and service occupations||Makeup artists, theatrical and performance||$136,340|
|Sales and related occupations||Sales engineers||$136,120|
|Business and financial operations occupations||Agents and business managers of artists, performers, and athletes||$130,930|
|Construction and extraction occupations||Elevator and escalator installers and repairers||$112,530|
|Production occupations||Power distributors and dispatchers||$107,600|
|Community and social service occupations||Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists||$94,650|
|Office and administrative support occupations||Executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants||$75,230|
|Healthcare support occupations||Occupational therapy assistants||$75,080|
|Farming, fishing and forestry occupations||Fallers||$73,490|
|Building and grounds cleaning and maintenance occupations||First-line supervisors of landscaping, lawn service, and groundskeeping workers||$61,000|
|Food preparation and serving related occupations||Chefs and head cooks||$60,670|
Several of California’s highest-paying jobs are common across many other U.S. states. For example, in 20 states, the highest-paying legal job is judges, magistrate judges and magistrates, as in California. For highest-paying law enforcement jobs, first-line supervisors of police and detectives earn the most in California — this is also the best-paying police job in 33 other states. And in California, this law enforcement career pays much better than the national average — $150,760 in California versus $98,760 nationally.
Notable jobs in California
Here are some less-common jobs that made the list of the highest-paying jobs in California.
- Animal scientists — California is the only state in which animal scientists are the highest-paying job in the life, physical, and social science occupations group, with an average pay of $177,430 versus a national average of $80,390.
- Fallers — These professionals use chainsaws or axes to cut down trees, ensuring controlled direction of the trees falling and minimizing damage to the trees themselves. In California, fallers earn an average annual pay of $73,490. California is one of only seven states where this is the highest-earning job in the farming, fishing, and forestry occupations group.
- Makeup artists, theatrical and performance — California’s entertainment industry likely accounts for this job’s comparatively excellent annual pay of $136,340 in the state. California is also only one of two states where this is the highest-paying job in the personal care and service occupations category, along with New York.
- Power distributors and dispatchers — These employees coordinate, regulate and distribute electrical or steam power.
- Elevator and escalator installers and repairers — These workers assemble, install, repair and maintain elevators and escalators. California’s average annual wage of $112,530 is better than the national average $91,320.
High-paying jobs and cost of living in California
When considering California’s salaries, it’s crucial to keep in mind the state’s notoriously high cost of living. Based on another Credit Karma study, The Cheapest States to Live In, California came in as the third-most expensive state to live in. Its overall cost-of-living index score from the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center is 139.7, well above the baseline of 100.
So while California boasts plenty of high-paying careers and jobs, likely a larger portion of that pay goes toward the state’s above-average cost of living, especially when it comes to housing.
Jobs in certain industries or occupational types, like healthcare careers or jobs in management may help to offset the higher cost of living in California. Legal occupations and computer and mathematical occupations also boast higher average salaries than other industries in California.
To identify the highest-paying jobs in California, we analyzed all U.S. states, then scored and ranked them based on the following criteria:
- Annual mean wage for occupations, with occupations chosen based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Standard Occupational Classification that categorizes an occupational level as “detailed.” Other SOC occupation levels such as “major,” “minor” and “broad” were excluded for being too general in their occupational title.
- Hourly mean wage for occupations, with occupations chosen based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Standard Occupational Classification that categorizes an occupational level as “detailed.” Other SOC occupation levels such as “major,” “minor” and “broad” were excluded for being too general in their occupational title.