Surgeons, pathologists, and radiologists are the top three highest paying jobs in California in 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Most of the highest paying jobs in California are in the medical industry, but some law and managerial positions pay a good salary as well.
With its vast number of amusement parks, beaches, and national parks, California is an appealing and enjoyable place for many people to live. However, it is also incredibly expensive. According to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, California is the third most expensive state to live in due to its high gas prices, housing costs, and transportation costs. So job seekers living in the state or looking to move there should make sure to secure a good source of income.
We’ve compiled a list of the top 20 highest-paying jobs in California, according to data published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. While most of these high-paying jobs are in the medical field, there are a few other industries that pay their workers a high wage. While not on the top 20 list, air traffic controllers, podiatrists, commercial divers, and petroleum engineers also earn a high annual salary in California.
Average annual salary: $351,580
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, surgeons earn the highest salary in California. It’s easy to see why: surgery is a highly valued profession that requires at least 13 years of training.
While surgeons are mainly tasked with operating on patients, they are also in charge of leading surgical teams, giving diagnoses, and providing post-operational care. A surgeon makes life-altering decisions during operations and must constantly make sure their team is fully equipped to help them, so this particular high-paying job is not for the faint of heart.
Average annual salary: $350,980
Pathology is the study of human tissue, organs, and fluids to understand diseases. Pathologists have a number of responsibilities, including surgically removing tissue, testing tissue samples, diagnosing infections, and establishing treatment plans.
It takes about 11 years to complete the training required to become a pathologist, and you will have to be recertified every ten years after that.
Average annual salary: $345,100
A radiologist is a medical doctor who uses radiology procedures to diagnose injuries and diseases. These doctors are trained to use CTs, ultrasounds, PETs, nuclear medicine, X-rays, and MRIs, and this technology can be used on nearly every part of the human body. Radiologists are also trained to treat conditions such as heart disease, cancer, and strokes.
It takes about 13 years of training to become a radiologist. This training includes medical school, residency, and a one- to two-year fellowship of specialized training.
Average annual salary: $343,370
Cardiologists specialize in the study and care of the heart and blood vessels, and they work to prevent, diagnose, and treat a variety of heart conditions. Patients might see a cardiologist to treat chest pains, coronary artery disease, heart rhythm abnormalities, and congenital heart disease.
Between medical school and residency, it takes around 14 years to become a cardiologist. That’s a lot of time, dedication, and training, but it may be worth the effort to land one of the highest paying jobs in California and the United States.
Average annual salary: $318,030
While anesthesiologists are best known for administering anesthesia, these doctors have many important duties. Anesthesiologists are present during surgeries to monitor and supervise patients, and they also provide patients with pain medications.
Those pursuing a career in anesthesiology must complete medical school, residency, and two examinations — a process that takes around 12 to 14 years to complete. That dedication pays off, however, as anesthesiology is one of the top paying jobs in California and throughout the United States.
6. Obstetricians and gynecologists (OB/GYN)
Average annual salary: $309,610
An obstetrician and gynecologist (OB/GYN) specializes in women’s health. Basically, any medical case involving women’s health care will be handled by an OB/GYN, including delivering babies, prescribing contraceptives, performing surgeries, and checking for gynecologic cancers. Obstetricians and gynecologists also perform cesarean sections, sonograms, and pelvic laparoscopies.
It takes about 12 years of training to become an OB/GYN.
Average annual salary: $305,290
Psychiatrists diagnose and treat patients with mental illnesses. Psychiatrists are in charge of coming up with treatment plans for conditions such as depression, PTSD, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, ADHD, anxiety, and OCD. These treatment plans include ECT, medicine, and psychotherapy.
Factoring in undergraduate studies, medical school, and residency, it takes about 12 years to become a psychiatrist.
Average annual salary: $280,100
A dermatologist studies, diagnoses, and treats diseases affecting a patient’s skin, hair, and nails. These doctors undergo 12 years of training and treat patients of all ages, including infants and the elderly. Dermatologists diagnose and treat a large variety of conditions, including eczema, hair loss, itchy skin, skin cancer, and psoriasis.
9. Family medicine physicians
Average annual salary: $261,260
Like dermatologists, family medicine physicians also treat patients of all ages. However, family medicine physicians are trained in a wide range of medical fields, including neurology, gynecology, pediatrics, and psychiatry. These doctors also perform general procedures like endoscopies and colonoscopies, and they can refer patients to specialists if necessary.
Overall, it takes about ten years of training to become a family medicine physician.
Average annual salary: $245,750
While dentists specialize in general oral health, orthodontists specifically treat misaligned teeth and bite and jaw problems in both children and adults. These issues can be treated with a variety of methods, such as Invisalign, braces, or retainers.
Orthodontists must undergo up to 11 years of training, including undergraduate studies, dental school, and an orthodontic graduate program.
11. General internal medicine physicians
Average annual salary: $242,260
General internal medicine physicians are usually in outpatient care and diagnose and treat a wide range of internal diseases and injuries. These treatments are generally nonsurgical and mostly performed on adolescents and adults.
Including residency, it usually takes about 11 years to become a general internal medicine physician.
12. Nurse anesthetists
Average annual salary: $232,540
A nurse anesthetist’s job mainly involves monitoring and treating patients in emergency rooms, outpatient clinics, operating rooms, or intensive care units. Nurse anesthetists receive seven to ten years of schooling, and their responsibilities include administering medicine, monitoring patients’ vitals, and overseeing patient recovery.
13. Chief executives
Average annual salary: $230,730
If you have an interest in the business world, it’s worth knowing that chief executives are among the highest paying jobs in California. The duties of a chief executive depend on the company, but in general, they are in charge of overseeing operations within a company. Executives lead teams, help the company achieve its goals, and make important decisions that affect the company as a whole.
To become a chief executive, you should pursue a degree in law, finance, or business administration.
14. Airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers
Average annual salary: $227,870
Airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers are some of the highest paying jobs you can get without a degree. Each of these jobs has its own set of responsibilities, but they have the same basic purpose: to make sure a plane operates safely and efficiently.
Pilots and copilots are known for operating aircraft, but they have other responsibilities as well. This includes performing maintenance checks, communicating with personnel on the ground, and learning safety procedures.
Flight engineers, on the other hand, do not operate the aircraft; instead, they monitor the aircraft engine and control systems from the ground while the plane is in flight. Additionally, they perform inspections and make sure all the technical and mechanical pieces of the aircraft are operating properly.
Average annual salary: $223,400
Neurology is the study of disorders of the nervous system. Neurologists study and treat diseases in the central nervous system — the brain and spinal cord — as well as muscles and nerves connecting the brain and spine to other organs. These diseases include Parkinson’s disease, movement disorders, strokes, epilepsy, and even headaches.
To become a neurologist requires completing around 12 years of training.
16. Judges, magistrate judges, and magistrates
Average annual salary: $206,790
Those looking for a high-paying career in the field of law can find a high salary as a judge or magistrate. Judges arbitrate, advise, and administer justice in the court of law. Professionals with these job titles have a wide range of possible responsibilities, including officiating weddings, sentencing defendants, issuing rulings in civil cases, and granting divorces.
Judges in the Golden State earn more than the national average annual salary for magistrates of $125,880. However, it’s a long road to becoming a judge — you first need to be a practicing lawyer for several years — and even then it’s not a guarantee.
17. General pediatricians
Average annual salary: $198,000
General pediatricians monitor and treat the physical, emotional, and social health of patients from infancy to age 21. These doctors look for, diagnose, and treat life-threatening illnesses and acute and chronic disorders, mainly in children. In addition, general pediatricians conduct age-appropriate screenings and supervise a child’s overall health.
Pediatricians are required to undergo at least nine years of education.
18. Computer and information systems managers
Average annual salary: $193,500
Like with chief executives, the duties of computer and information systems managers — also known as IT managers — depend on the company itself. Generally speaking, however, IT managers help direct, plan, and manage computer-related activities within the company. Some managers may also be in charge of deciding which technology should be used by their company.
A bachelor’s degree is required for this position, while a master’s degree is recommended.
19. Natural sciences managers
Average annual salary: $192,750
Natural sciences managers have duties similar to other types of managers, but in a natural science setting. These managers hire, train, and supervise scientists and lab technicians. They also monitor projects, work with other executives, and ensure laboratories are stocked with needed supplies.
Those interested in this management position will need a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree and must complete a capstone course focusing on applied statistics.
20. Architectural and engineering managers
Average annual salary: $187,770
Architectural and engineering managers are in charge of training, development, and decision-making for architectural and engineering companies. These managers can also be in charge of handling budget issues and managing and leading projects.
A bachelor’s degree is required for this position, and most companies prefer to hire a manager with a background in architecture or engineering.
What is the highest paying job in California in 2022?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, general surgeons are the highest paying career in California, with an annual mean wage of $351,580.
What is a good career in California?
If you define a good career in California as one that pays a lot of money, multiple jobs in the medical field can give you a good salary. Surgeons, psychiatrists, and OB/GYNs are among the highest paying medical jobs in California.
What city in California pays the most?
San Jose and San Francisco are the two best-paying cities in California. However, these cities also have higher costs of living, so be sure to consider that balance when applying for work.
What is a comfortable salary in California?
The recommended annual income for an individual person in California is just over $74,000. For a family of four, $125,000 is recommended.
- California is the third most expensive state to live in, with a recommended salary of $74,000 for a single individual.
- Surgeons, pathologists, and radiologists are the top three highest paying positions in California.
- Californians looking for high-paying jobs that don’t require a degree can look into becoming a pilot, a copilot, or a flight engineer.
- Judges, chief executives, and architectural and engineering managers are other high-paying jobs outside of the medical field.
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View Article Sources
- State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, California — U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Cost of Living Data Series — Missouri Economic Research and Information Center
- What is the job description for surgeons? — American College of Surgeons
- The Pathologist — Johns Hopkins Medicine
- What Is a Radiologist? — American College of Radiology
- What Is a Cardiologist? A Look at These Heart Health Specialists — St. George’s University
- Role of an Anesthesiologist — American Society of Anesthesiologists
- What Is an OB/GYN? A Look at the Doctors Specializing in Women’s Health — St. George’s University
- What is a dermatologist? — American Academy of Dermatology Association
- The Specialty of Family Medicine — American Academy of Family Physicians
- How to Become a Nurse Anesthetist — Nurse.org
- Chief Executive Officer — Alvernia University
- What Does a Commercial Airline Pilot Do? — Academy College
- Flight Engineer – Air Force Reserve
- Computer and Information Systems Managers — U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- What Architectural and Engineering Managers Do — U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Orthodontics — University of Illinois Chicago College of Dentistry
- Should You See a Neurologist? — University of Utah
- Example Career: Judges, Magistrate Judges and Magistrates – West Virginia University
- Consider a Career in Pediatrics — American Academy of Pediatrics
- General Internal Medicine Physicians — U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- How to Become a Natural Sciences Manager — Brookline College
Camilla has a background in journalism and business communications. She specializes in writing complex information in understandable ways. She has written on a variety of topics including money, science, personal finance, politics, and more. Her work has been published in the HuffPost, KSL.com, Deseret News, and more.