12 Highest-Paying Jobs In California

Starlyon King
Starlyon King  - Career Analyst
21 Min Read
12 Highest-Paying Jobs In California

California, the Golden State, is known for its stunning coastline, innovative spirit, and lucrative job market. With many major industries, including tech, entertainment, and healthcare, calling California home, it’s no surprise that the state boasts some of the highest-paying jobs in the country. From Silicon Valley to Hollywood, California offers various high-paying career opportunities. In this article, we’ll explore the 12 highest-paying jobs in California. So, whether you’re a California native or considering a move to the West Coast, this list will give you insight into the state’s most lucrative career paths.

About working in California

California has a very diverse economy. Consequently, it is an expensive state in which to live. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2019, single people had an average annual income of $36,960, while the median income per household was $75,240. The cost of living in the state is 50% higher than the national average. However, the price level differs across the state. For example, San Francisco had a median household income of $112,450 in 2019, with more than $1 million in home values, while median rent stood at $1,895.

Moreover, California offers employment opportunities across different fields due to its well-established technology, entertainment, farming, and tourism industries. Noteworthy, tech and entertainment industries are concentrated in the Silicon Valley and Los Angeles areas. However, employment opportunities and unemployment rates differ by region, and the rates in 2015 varied from over 3 % to nearly 12%, with higher unemployment observed in the Central Valley.

12 highest-paying jobs in California

  1. Nurse practitioner

Average annual salary: $151,830

Nurse practitioners (NPs) are registered nurses responsible for delivering primary and speciality care to patients. They can practice within offices, clinics, hospitals, and even community-based settings. NPs may be solo practitioners or work with doctors, and they analyse patients’ records, do some tests, make diagnoses, and assess treatment outcomes. They usually work in certain fields of medicine like pediatric, geriatric or family medicine, which allows them to specialize in care based on age groups or particular health issues and illnesses.

Nurse practitioners must possess at least a master’s degree in an area of focus within the nursing profession. This education often consists of courses in pharmacology, advanced health assessments, and specialised medical practices. After getting your degree, a state license is required, and you must take a national certification examination. For people in California and other states, the licensing rules are determined by the state Board of Registered Nursing, so people should refer to them. Certification from a national nursing association is also needed, which adds to your qualification as a specialized nurse.

Remember, health care services require experienced nurse practitioners with sound clinical ability and knowledge in patient care. NPs also require good interpersonal and analytical skills to diagnose and manage illnesses effectively. Working alone or collaborating with other people in the healthcare team is also a good skill, depending on the environment.

  1. Surgeon

Average annual salary: $351,580

Surgeons are professional doctors who cure diseases and ailments through operations. Their job entails diagnosing patients and performing surgeries to treat different ailments. They might repair fractures, mend ligaments and tendons, excise malignant and benign tumours or birth malformations. In deciding on the best surgical procedure, they consider issues such as diagnostic tests and the patient’s overall health. It is common for surgeons to focus on a particular branch of medicine. It enables them to gain specialization in areas that would help in improving the health of the patients. For instance, an orthopaedic surgeon deals with the bones, muscles and tendons.

Professional education and training are prerequisites for anyone who wants to become a surgeon. This starts with obtaining a bachelor’s degree in medical school, which usually takes six to eight years and involves academic study and internships. Following graduation from medical school, a person who wants to become a surgeon has to serve an internship or residency in the speciality of his or her choice. It is, however, worth noting that apart from education and training, surgeons are required to secure a license to practice. Each state has its laws and regulations regarding licensing, so it is important to understand the laws of the state where you intend to practice. For instance, there are state requirements in California where one has to obtain a license to practice legally in the state.

The anticipated employment growth for surgeons is 3 per cent for the period ending in 2031, and this is slower than many other occupations. However, despite the growth rate, surgery has remained an essential and rewarding speciality that presents challenges for those who are willing to enhance the health of patients through surgeries.

  1. Lawyers

Average annual salary: $165,310

Lawyers are involved in the representation of clients in many legal affairs. They may practice alone in their own office or as a member of a large or small group practice. Some of their duties include identifying legal requirements and processes, drafting legal papers, and defending clients in civil and criminal trials. To be able to represent the sides of a case and provide the necessary recommendations, lawyers have to understand the applicable laws.

To become a lawyer, individuals are required to complete a Juris Doctorate (JD) degree, which takes approximately three years of university education after the completion of a bachelor’s degree. To become a lawyer in California, one must attend an accredited law school and complete the Bar Exam. Every year, about 15,000 would-be lawyers try their hand at this test, which is a key component of the process of getting a license to practice law. According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics, employment rates for lawyers in California between 2018 and 2028 are expected to increase by 8%, meaning that there is a steady market for lawyers.

  1. Pharmacists

Average annual salary: $152,780

Pharmacists have a role in the health care system because they give medicine according to the prescription of the doctors. Apart from the provision of medication, pharmacists offer information on interferences, effects, and other related issues concerning drugs. Sometimes, compounding pharmacists prepare their drugs to address the individual needs of a patient, especially when a conventional drug cannot be prescribed. This involves an understanding of pharmaceutical chemistry and the needs of the patient in question.

One has to earn a doctoral degree in Pharmacy, which usually takes 4 years of additional study after the bachelor’s degree is obtained. This advanced education includes a strong emphasis on pharmacology, medicinal chemistry, and pharmacy law and practice, as well as practice experience in clinical pharmacy settings. After earning the degree, prospective pharmacists must pass state licensing exams to practice. Some pharmacists, especially those who wish to specialize in certain fields of practice, may further their education through residency programs.

Despite the Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipating a 2% reduction in pharmacist employment across the US between 2020 and 2030, the prospects for pharmacists in California look far more favourable. Thus, the employment of pharmacists in California is projected to increase by 6% from 2018 to 2028. Such a positive outlook is indicative of the continuous demand for healthcare services in the state, as well as the contribution of pharmacists in managing patients’ medication.

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  1. Computer hardware engineers

Average annual salary: $146,160

Computer hardware engineers play roles in the design and implementation of the hardware devices that drive modern society’s technology. They design and develop computer hardware and peripherals, smartphones, medical equipment, automobiles, and all forms of technology. Their work entails not only developing these components but also integration with software and other components of the system.

Many of these engineers have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in computer science or computer engineering. However, many employers favour candidates with a master’s degree especially when it comes to higher-level positions. This education prepares them to have knowledge in areas of electronics, computer architecture, and materials science, and thus, they can enhance their hardware systems.

Computer hardware engineers do not design software, though they must have adequate knowledge of software to enable effective interaction between hardware and software. According to BLS, employment of computer hardware engineers in California is expected to increase by 11 percent from 2018 to 2028 as more businesses and industries require advanced computer hardware.

  1. Senior translator

Average annual salary: $241,834

A senior translator is an interpreter who translates a piece of writing from one language to another without losing the meaning, feel, and relevance of the piece. They edit different types of copy, including legal, technical, advertising, and literary, which have to be translated and localized for the target culture. Such a position requires elementary knowledge of both the source and target language, as well as the grammar, syntax, and cultural references.

Apart from actual translation, senior translators may be assigned supervisory responsibilities. This involves proofreading translations done by junior translators and making sure that they have met certain levels of quality and accuracy. This includes grammar check, terminology check, and format check according to the client’s requirements. Senior translators can also offer feedback and advice to junior translators as well as inform them of the most efficient processes and techniques of translation. This position requires not only knowledge of the language but also organizational and leadership ability. The senior translators are expected to work on several projects at once and ensure that the translations provided are accurate and completed as quickly as possible.

  1. Sales manager

Average annual salary: $138,390

Sales managers are responsible for managing the sales teams and achieving set sales goals. They manage the sales representatives or the retail workers and offer guidance on how to improve their work. This can include identifying ways of enhancing sales skills and enhancing the understanding of product knowledge and customer relations. They are also involved in data analysis to determine a realistic and achievable target for the sales team.

Many sales managers hold a bachelor’s degree in business, management, or finance to gain the base knowledge to perform their duties. The employment of sales managers in California is expected to increase by 7% from 2018 to 2028. This growth is due to the demand for professionals in the field of sales management and professionals with expertise in sales performance. Sales managers should always learn more about the market and be in a position to update themselves and their teams to meet set sales goals and targets.

  1. Financial Managers

Average annual salary: $147,480

Financial managers are very essential in organisations as they manage the financial framework and help firms and individuals secure sustainable economic objectives. They use financial data to look for areas of cost reduction, investment growth, and business development. Financial managers may have different titles depending on the nature of the work they perform, and these other job titles include controller, treasurer, risk manager or insurance manager, among others.

Although a bachelor’s degree in finance, accounting, economics, or any related major is generally the standard education requirement for financial managers, many of these professionals need to acquire their master’s degrees or other professional licenses. Master’s degrees like MBAs with a specialization in finance can help in the acquisition of specific knowledge and improve career prospects in areas such as government accounting or investment banking.

The growth rate for financial managers in California for the time between 2018 and 2028 is a record 19%. Such growth is due to the need for well-trained financial experts to cope with existing financial system challenges, investment management, and compliance with current legislation.

  1. Airline pilot

Average annual salary: $227,870

Commercial pilots are tasked with the responsibility of flying aeroplanes, helicopters, and other related aircraft to transport passengers and cargo safely and efficiently. Their responsibilities involve ensuring that aircraft are fit to fly as well as liaising with the air traffic control when it comes to planning, directing flight movements and implementing take-off and landing procedures. They must also be able to make appropriate decisions in case of any eventuality that may happen in the course of the journey.

An airline pilot, in most cases, needs a bachelor’s degree in any transportation or engineering-related field. This type of education equips pilots with the necessary knowledge of aerodynamics, aircraft systems, and other regulations governing flying. Moreover, one has to pursue a flight training program that is recognized by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Additional licenses may be necessary depending on the kind of aircraft to be flown or the intended operation of the airline. Employment growth for airline pilots for the period from 2021 to 2031 is expected to be 6%. This growth is attributed to the increasing demand for air travel and the need for qualified pilots to fulfil operational needs in the commercial aviation industry and other sectors.

  1. Hospitalist

Average annual salary: $277,050

Hospitalists are persons who mainly focus on the medical management and monitoring of the patients admitted to the hospital at any given time. Some of the common duties of hospitalists include examinations of patients to evaluate their health status and treatment needs. According to such evaluations, hospitalists prescribe appropriate diagnostic procedures, including laboratory tests or imaging studies, for diagnosing and evaluating patients’ conditions. They also consult often with medical specialists and consultants to get second opinions and different perspectives in cases where a particular patient may need special attention.

One has to undergo medical school and then go through a residency program in either internal medicine or family practice to become a hospitalist. A few hospitalists may opt to undertake further training or a fellowship in hospital medicine to acquire advanced skills in managing hospitalized patients.

  1. Human Resources Managers

Average annual salary: $143,360

HR managers are responsible for workforce management and satisfaction in various organizations and industries across the globe. They cover various aspects of human resource management that seek to attract, maintain, and develop a competent workforce.

Recruitment is one of the key tasks of HR managers, which includes the search for candidates, interviewing and selection of the best candidates to fill vacancies in the company. Besides recruitment and employee relations, the HR managers are also in charge of internal communications within the organization. Their work involves consulting with executives and department managers on how best to achieve staffing and organizational objectives. This may include workforce planning, succession planning and staff training and development activities to improve the skills and career growth of employees within the organization.

Generally, it requires a bachelor’s degree in human resources or business administration with a concentration in human resource management or a related area. Depending on the position, some employers may require extra certifications like the Professional in Human Resources (PHR) or the Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR), which show proficiency in HR processes and knowledge of legal requirements in the workplace. According to data from the Bureau of Labour Statistics, the employment of HR managers in California is expected to increase by 12% between 2018 and 2028.

  1. Natural sciences manager

Average annual salary: $192,750

Natural sciences managers are responsible for coordinating and supervising scientific research and development in fields such as chemistry, physics, biology and earth and environmental sciences. Such duties include supervising and directing scientific teams inside and outside of the laboratories as well as overseeing the successful conduct of research projects. Recruiting, hiring and managing scientists is one of the major responsibilities of natural sciences managers. They coordinate the activities of research teams by defining research objectives, supervising the research process, and enforcing project time and cost restraints. Natural sciences managers also scrutinize research data and information and develop interpretations and recommendations grounded in empirical evidence.

For a natural sciences manager position, one must hold a bachelor’s degree in one of the natural sciences, including biology, chemistry, or environmental science. Most natural sciences managers pursue an advanced degree, such as an MBA or MPA, to advance their managerial and leadership skills. Licensing and certification are not always required for natural sciences managers. However, it might be useful to gain appropriate credentials for certain fields of science or the industry’s standards. According to the BLS, the employment of natural sciences managers is expected to increase by 6% from 2021 to 2031, highlighting the ongoing need for competent managerial professionals to manage scientific progress and innovation.


California’s economy has created a hub for high-paying job opportunities. From surgeons to lawyers, these 12 highest-paying jobs in California offer lucrative careers that can help individuals achieve financial stability and success. While the cost of living in California may be high, the salaries for these jobs can reduce the financial burden, making the Golden State an attractive destination for professionals seeking a challenging and rewarding career.

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By Starlyon King Career Analyst
I'm Kingsley Neji, popularly known as Starlyon King, CEO of UnicrossBlog and SportPremi. Join me on a journey of knowledge and excellence in education, career and financial guide.
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