How to Get a Job in California - Top 50 Most Popular Jobs and Their Wages
How to Get a Job in California - Top 50 Most Popular Jobs and Their Wages

In California, job seekers enjoy a thriving economy, great weather, and scenic beauty from the Pacific Coast Highway to the Sierra Nevada mountains. The state boasts the largest economy in the United States — and one of the biggest in the world — with a gross domestic product of over $3 trillion as of 2020. It leads the nation in farm production and exports of computers, vehicles, and pharmaceuticals.

However, the average cost of housing in the state is much more expensive than the national average. You need to earn more than $80,000 a year — $150,000 in Los Angeles — to afford housing, savings, and incidentals in several communities. Consider these top-paying jobs in California. They offer salaries that allow Californians to thrive in their communities.

Here are the 50 most popular jobs and their wages in California.

Working and Living in California

How to Get a Job in California - Top 50 Most Popular Jobs and Their Wages
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According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average annual income for a single person living in California was $36,960 in 2019. The median household income was $75,240 a year. Overall, the state's cost of living exceeds the national average by about 50%, primarily due to housing costs.

MIT economists estimated that a single adult with no children needed to earn a minimum of about $39,000 a year to live in California in 2019. According to the California Legislative Analyst's Office, residents spent more than one-third of their income on rent in 2016.

Living expenses also vary by location. According to the 2020 Census, San Francisco residents reported a median household income of $112,450, a median home value of more than $1 million, and median rent prices of $1,895 a month in 2019. About two and a half hours from San Francisco, Clearlake residents reported a median household income of $31,550. The median home value in the city was $110,500, and the median rent was $860 a month.

The 2020 Census found suburbs are growing faster than the state's metropolitan centers. Vernon, a city of 55,000 residents outside Los Angeles, grew by over 98% in the last 10 years. Unemployment rates vary by region, as well. In 2015, the state reported a range of unemployment from over 3% to nearly 12%, with the highest rates in the Central Valley.

As you begin your California job search, look for communities with affordable housing, a growing job market, and career opportunities among the highest-paying jobs in California.

What are the 50 most popular jobs and their wages in California?

1. Lawyers

How to Get a Job in California - Top 50 Most Popular Jobs and Their Wages
Photo: Getty Images

Median Annual Salary: $165,310

Job Outlook in California: 8%

Lawyers advise and represent individuals, businesses, and government agencies on legal issues and disputes. The majority of lawyers work in private and corporate legal offices. Some work for federal, local, and state governments. Most work full time and many work more than 40 hours a week.

Lawyers must have a law degree and must also typically pass a state’s written bar examination.

Employment of lawyers is projected to grow 9 percent from 2020 to 2030, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 46,000 openings for lawyers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

2. Air Traffic Controllers

How to Get a Job in California - Top 50 Most Popular Jobs and Their Wages
Photo: Getty Images

Median Annual Salary: $156,920

Job Outlook in California: 4%

Air traffic controllers play a critical role in the safety of air travel. As flight traffic increases, airports need more of these professionals. They monitor aircraft both on the ground and in the flight by issuing instructions for take-off and landing and help pilots navigate around severe weather or airport closures. Most work for the federal government as part of the Federal Aviation Administration. The career requires a bachelor's degree or three years of work experience, the passage of a physical exam, and the successful completion of a behavioral consistency exam. Look for aeronautics programs approved by the Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative.

3. Home Health and Personal Care Aides

Employment: 717, 220

Average Salary: $29,680

The Personal Care Aide will assist the elderly, convalescents, or persons with disabilities with daily living activities in the persons home or in a care facility. Duties performed at a place of residence may include keeping house (making beds, doing laundry, washing dishes) and preparing meals. The Personal Care Aide may provide assistance at nonresidential care facilities and may advise families, the elderly, convalescents, and persons with disabilities on nutrition, cleanliness, and household activities.

4. Fast Food and Counter Workers

How to Get a Job in California - Top 50 Most Popular Jobs and Their Wages
Photo: iStock

Employment: 360,980

Average Salary: $30,450

Perform duties such as taking orders and serving food and beverages. Serve customers at counter or from a steam table. May take payment. May prepare food and beverages.

Sample of reported job titles: Cafe Server, Cafeteria Server, Cafeteria Worker, Deli Worker (Delicatessen Worker), Food Server, Food Service Assistant, Food Service Worker, Prep Cook (Preparation Cook), School Cafeteria Cook, Server

5. Retail Salespersons

Employment: 344,380

Average Salary: $30,650

As a retail salesperson, you will greet customers enthusiastically and determine their needs. You will recommend products and services based on their wants, explain the benefits of merchandise, answer questions, and demonstrate how products work. You must have an excellent working knowledge of current promotions and sales events, payment and exchange policies, and security practices. You will also process payments, and bag or package the purchases. You may be required to open or close cash registers, which involves counting the till and separating coupons, charge slips, and exchange vouchers. You will also stock shelves, mark prices on items, and prepare the floor for displays.

6. Registered Nurses

How to Get a Job in California - Top 50 Most Popular Jobs and Their Wages
Photo: Shutterstock

Employment: 324,400

Average Salary: $125,340

A registered nurse, or RN, typically monitors patients, administers medications, keeps records, consults with healthcare providers, educates patients and more. They typically do not need to meet the master's degree requirement of a nurse practitioner.

7. General and Operations Managers

Employment: 286,030

Average Salary: $107,850

Plan, direct, or coordinate the operations of public or private sector organizations, overseeing multiple departments or locations. Duties and responsibilities include formulating policies, managing daily operations, and planning the use of materials and human resources, but are too diverse and general in nature to be classified in any one functional area of management or administration, such as personnel, purchasing, or administrative services. Usually manage through subordinate supervisors. Excludes First-Line Supervisors.

8. Office Clerks, General

How to Get a Job in California - Top 50 Most Popular Jobs and Their Wages
Photo: Your Free Career Test

Employment: 274,700

Average Salary: $38,740

Plan, direct, or coordinate the operations of public or private sector organizations, overseeing multiple departments or locations. Duties and responsibilities include formulating policies, managing daily operations, and planning the use of materials and human resources, but are too diverse and general in nature to be classified in any one functional area of management or administration, such as personnel, purchasing, or administrative services. Usually manage through subordinate supervisors. Excludes First-Line Supervisors.

9. Stockers and Order Fillers

Employment: 261,130

Average Salary: $36,060

Receive, store, and issue merchandise, materials, equipment, and other items from stockroom, warehouse, or storage yard to fill shelves, racks, tables, or customers' orders. May operate power equipment to fill orders. May mark prices on merchandise and set up sales displays.

Sample of reported job titles: Checker Stocker, Inventory Specialist, Marking Clerk, Order Filler, Order Picker, Order Puller, Stock Clerk, Stocker, Stockroom Clerk, Warehouse Clerk

10. Nuclear Engineers

How to Get a Job in California - Top 50 Most Popular Jobs and Their Wages
Photo: Leverage Edu

Median Annual Salary: $154,040

Job Outlook in the U.S.: -8%

Nuclear engineers work in nuclear power plants, manufacturing facilities, or research centers. They design equipment, write operational instructions, direct maintenance activities, and ensure the safety of workers and the community. Most entry-level positions require a minimum of a bachelor's degree in nuclear engineering, but many engineers pursue master's and doctoral degrees. Nuclear power remains a highly regulated field — the government limits the number of new power plants companies can build. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 900 openings each year nationwide to replace retiring workers.

11. Pharmacists

2021 Median Annual Salary: $152,780

2018-2028 Job Outlook in California: 6%

Pharmacists prepare medications according to physician orders. They may work in retail pharmacies, hospitals, or healthcare facilities. Compounding pharmacists create customized medications for patients with specific needs. Pharmacists must complete a doctoral degree in pharmacy and meet state licensing requirements. This degree typically requires four years of study beyond a bachelor's degree. Some positions in specialty areas require applicants to complete residency programs. While the BLS projects -2% growth for pharmacist positions nationwide between 2020 and 2030, jobs for these professionals in California are projected to grow by 6% between 2018 and 2028.

12. Forestry and Conservation Science Postsecondary Teachers

2021 Median Annual Salary: $151,570

2020-2030 Job Outlook in the U.S.: 12%

Postsecondary teachers may work in community colleges or universities teaching college-level courses. Forestry and conservation science teachers need a minimum of a master's degree, though many full-time postsecondary teachers pursue a doctorate in their field. Conservation scientists study the quality of forests, parks, and natural resources. They often ensure compliance with federal and state environmental regulations.

13. Software Developers

Employment: 228,240

Average Salary: $140,510

A Software Developer designs and builds computer programs that power mobile devices, desktop computers, and even cars. They not only identify user needs but also create new applications for any given market while making improvements based on feedback from users.

Software Developers have many different day-to-day responsibilities, such as creating efficient algorithms, producing clean code, integrating third-party programs into systems, and identifying areas of improvement based on user feedback.

14. Pathologists

Average annual salary: $350,980

Number of people employed in California: 1,570

Pathologists are specialist physicians that undertake research and testing of medical specimens for the diagnosis and treatment of disease. Pathologists do not work directly with patients, but they do assist medical practitioners in diagnosing their patients’ illness and developing treatment plans.

15. Financial Managers

2021 Median Annual Salary: $147,480

2018-2028 Job Outlook in California: 19%

Financial managers help companies and clients meet long-term financial goals. They also review financial data to find ways to save money, investment improvements, or business opportunities. Job titles may include controller, treasurer, risk manager, or insurance manager. These business leaders often have a minimum of a bachelor's degree. However, many pursue graduate degrees or professional certification, particularly in specialized finance areas like government accounting or investment banking.

16. Computer Hardware Engineers

2021 Median Annual Salary: $146,160

2018-2028 Job Outlook in California: 11%

These engineers develop new computer and technology hardware such as computers, phones, medical devices, and cars. Entry-level jobs often require at least a bachelor's degree in computer science or computer engineering, though many also require master's degrees. While hardware engineers may not develop computer software, these individuals need familiarity with coding to ensure systems work together. As more industries implement computer systems into products, the need for computer hardware engineers is projected to grow.

17. Nurse Practitioners

2021 Median Annual Salary: $138,230

2018-2028 Job Outlook in California: 31%

Nurse practitioners can provide direct patient care, including preventative care, diagnosis of injuries or illnesses, or management of chronic conditions. Beginning in 2023, California nurse practitioners meeting education and certification requirements can practice independently of a physician. Nurse practitioners can specialize in pediatric medicine, maternal medicine, geriatric medicine, or other specialties. To start a career as a nurse practitioner, interested professionals must first become a registered nurse and then complete a master's degree in nursing. California and other states look to nurse practitioners to fill critical gaps in the healthcare system. They often provide care at lower costs than physicians.

18. Petroleum Engineers

2021 Median Annual Salary: $138,310

2018-2028 Job Outlook in California: -4%

These engineers specialize in extracting gas and oil from underground reserves and delivering them to the market. They may develop plans for removing the resources or oversee maintenance and installation of equipment. They may also conduct tests to determine the best areas to drill to maximize production. Most petroleum engineers earn a bachelor's degree in mechanical or civil engineering and complement their education with internships or cooperative learning assignments.

19. Purchasing Managers

2021 Median Annual Salary: $141,760

2018-2028 Job Outlook in California: 8%

Purchasing managers ensure companies have the supplies they need to deliver products or services promptly. They work closely with business vendors, overseeing purchasing contracts and quality specifications. They need skills in negotiation, data analytics, and communication. A bachelor's or master's degree in supply chain management or logistics can help applicants secure purchasing manager positions. While the BLS projects a national decline in employment between 2020 and 2030 for purchasing managers, in California, positions for these professionals are projected to grow 8% between 2018 and 2028.

20. Sales Manager

2021 Median Annual Salary: $138,390

2018-2028 Job Outlook in California: 7%

Sales managers oversee sales representatives or retail employees. They may provide training and coaching to help their teams meet sales goals. They analyze sales data to set goals for the sales team and determine product profitability. They develop plans to gain more customers through direct sales or in coordination with marketing and advertising departments. Most sales managers have a bachelor's degree in business, management, or finance.

21. Human Resources Managers

2021 Median Annual Salary: $143,360

2018-2028 Job Outlook in California: 12%

These business administrators work in every industry, leading efforts to recruit and retain a qualified workforce. They handle onboarding, ensure new employees receive training in company policy, and complete paperwork for benefit programs. They may mediate disputes or handle employee discipline. They may also take on internal communications to ensure employees receive timely updates on company changes or work with executives to plan for staffing needs. HR managers need a bachelor's degree in human resources or business management.

22. Anesthesiologists

Average annual salary: $318,030

Number of people employed in California: 2,560

An anesthesiologist is a highly skilled medical doctor who specializes in pain relief and cares for patients before, during, and after surgery. During operations, anesthesiologists serve a central role in delivering anesthesia to a patient and regulating their critical life functions. Anesthesiologists are trained to understand how different medications will interact with a patient’s unique physiology and are responsible for diagnosing and treating any issues that may arise during surgery. Outside of the operating room, anesthesiologists help treat patients who suffer from pain due to chronic illness or injury.

23. Family medicine physicians

Average annual salary: $261,260

Number of people employed in California: 14,230

Family doctors are medical practitioners who take a personalized approach to healthcare, offering holistic medical supervision. They differ from specialists in that they provide a full range of healthcare services, treat all genders and age groups, and build long-term patient relationships.

Family Doctor Responsibilities:

  • Develop personal relationships with patients.
  • Create patient-specific health programs that make use of historical data.
  • Monitor and adapt individualized health programs over time.
  • Schedule and administer follow-up examinations.
  • Make use of patient health data in medical analyses.
  • Offer comprehensive wellness exams.
  • Administering vaccinations.
  • Perform medical operations.
  • Recommending specialists for treatment outside of their capacity.
  • Educating patients in health management and disease prevention.
  • Offer birthing services.

24. Security Guards

Employment: 142,040

Average Salary: $36,060

A Security Guard, or Security Officer, is responsible for protecting a person, organization or asset in the case of an incident. Their duties include monitoring a specific area, evicting trespassers and writing reports detailing any occurrences during their shift.

The overall duty of a Security Guard is to protect a company’s property, employees and visitors. Here are some of their typical daily responsibilities that you can include in a job description:

  • Patrolling and monitoring activities on the company’s premises regularly to discourage criminals and ensure the environment is safe and secure
  • Evicting trespassers and violators and detaining perpetrators while following legal protocols before relevant authorities arrive to take over
  • Controlling the entrance and departure of employees, visitors and vehicles according to protocols
  • Monitoring surveillance cameras to watch out for any disruptions or unlawful activities
  • Providing detailed reports on daily activities and any incidents that may have occurred to management
  • Testing security systems and, if needed, operating X-ray machines and metal detectors
  • Using provided communication devices such as two-way radios in a clear and concise manner
  • Performing CPR or first aid when needed

25. Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks

Employment: 170,580

Average Salary: $47,940

Compute, classify, and record numerical data to keep financial records complete. Perform any combination of routine calculating, posting, and verifying duties to obtain primary financial data for use in maintaining accounting records. May also check the accuracy of figures, calculations, and postings pertaining to business transactions recorded by other workers.

26. Maintenance and Repair Workers, General

Employment: 131,460

Average salary: $47,160

Perform work involving the skills of two or more maintenance or craft occupations to keep machines, mechanical equipment, or the structure of an establishment in repair. Duties may involve pipe fitting; boiler making; insulating; welding; machining; carpentry; repairing electrical or mechanical equipment; installing, aligning, and balancing new equipment; and repairing buildings, floors, or stairs.

General maintenance and repair workers fix and maintain machines, mechanical equipment, and buildings. They paint, repair flooring, and work on plumbing, electrical, and air-conditioning and heating systems.

27. Natural sciences managers

Average annual salary: $192,750

Number of people employed in California: 11,260

Natural sciences managers supervise the work of scientists, including chemists, physicists, and biologists.

Natural sciences managers spend most of their time in offices, but they also may spend time in laboratories. Most natural sciences managers work full time.

Natural sciences managers typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in a natural science or a related field. Most natural sciences managers work as scientists before becoming managers.

28. Restaurant Cooks

Employment: 129,350

Average Salary: $36,490

Besides their primary responsibility of preparing food for a restaurant, restaurant cooks often prep ingredients, ensure the cleanliness of their working area, and keep the restaurant stocked with necessary cooking supplies. They may also help make decisions on menus and day-to-day offerings.

Restaurant Cook Responsibilities:

  • Preparing awesome meals for our customers.
  • Weighing, measuring, mixing, and prepping ingredients according to recipes.
  • Steaming, grilling, broiling, baking, or frying meats, fish, vegetables, and other ingredients.
  • Checking food and ingredients for freshness.
  • Arranging and garnishing dishes.
  • Working well under pressure and within the time limit.
  • Ensuring that the kitchen area, equipment and utensils are cleaned.
  • Helping lead and inspire our kitchen staff with the restaurant manager.
  • Wowing our guests with amazing dishes.

28. Fast Food Cooks

Employment: 123,640

Average Salary: $30,430

Fast Food Cooks work in fast food establishments where they are responsible for operating cooking equipment, preparing food, mixing ingredients, ensuring food quality, maintaining food preparation areas clean, collecting payment from customers, and serving orders. A successful example resume for Fast Food Cook highlights qualifications like cooking skills, dexterity, the ability to work long hours in a standing position, customer service orientation, and good communication skills. No formal education is required for this role, and most Fast Food Cooks hold a high school diploma.

29. Miscellaneous Assemblers and Fabricators

Employment: 122,690

Average Salary: $36,590

Assemblers and fabricators build finished products and the parts that go into them. Most assemblers and fabricators work in manufacturing plants. Their duties may involve long periods of standing or sitting. Most work full time, including some evenings and weekends.

The education and qualifications typically needed to enter these occupations vary by industry and employer. Although a high school diploma is enough for most jobs, experience and training are needed for advanced assembly work.

30. Light Truck or Delivery Services Drivers

Employment: 121,060

Average Salary: $42,610

Drive a light vehicle, such as a truck or van, with a capacity of less than 26,000 pounds Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW), primarily to deliver or pick up merchandise or to deliver packages. May load and unload vehicle.

31. Farmworkers and Laborers, Crop, Nursery, and Greenhouse

Employment: 186,600

Average Salary: $29,680

Manually plant, cultivate, and harvest vegetables, fruits, nuts, horticultural specialties, and field crops. Use hand tools, such as shovels, trowels, hoes, tampers, pruning hooks, shears, and knives. Duties may include tilling soil and applying fertilizers; transplanting, weeding, thinning, or pruning crops; applying pesticides; or cleaning, grading, sorting, packing, and loading harvested products. May construct trellises, repair fences and farm buildings, or participate in irrigation activities.

32. Janitors and Cleaners, Except Maids and Housekeeping Cleaners

Employment: 214,640

Average Salary: $35,440

Manually plant, cultivate, and harvest vegetables, fruits, nuts, horticultural specialties, and field crops. Use hand tools, such as shovels, trowels, hoes, tampers, pruning hooks, shears, and knives. Duties may include tilling soil and applying fertilizers; transplanting, weeding, thinning, or pruning crops; applying pesticides; or cleaning, grading, sorting, packing, and loading harvested products. May construct trellises, repair fences and farm buildings, or participate in irrigation activities.

33. Medical Secretaries

Employment: 98,120

Average Salary: $46,140

The Medical Secretary will perform secretarial duties using specific knowledge of medical terminology and hospital, clinic, or laboratory procedures.Duties will include scheduling appointments, billing patients, and compiling and recording medical charts, reports, and correspondence.

Duties/Responsibilities:

  • Greets visitors, ascertains purpose of visit, and directs them to appropriate staff.
  • Interviews patients to complete documents, case histories, and forms such as intake and insurance forms. Compiles and records medical charts, reports, and correspondence using a computer and various software programs. Transmits correspondence and medical records by mail, email, or fax.
  • Schedules and confirms patient diagnostic appointments, surgeries, and medical consultations.
  • Answers telephones and direct calls to appropriate staff.
  • Receives and routes messages and documents such as laboratory results to appropriate staff.
  • Operates office equipment such as voicemail messaging systems, and uses word processing, spreadsheet, and other software to prepare reports, invoices, financial statements, letters, case histories, and medical records.
  • Maintains medical records, technical library, and correspondence files.
  • Performs various clerical and administrative functions such as ordering and maintaining an inventory of supplies.

34. Landscaping and Groundskeeping Workers

Employment: 94,560

Average Salary: $37,230

Landscape or maintain grounds of property using hand or power tools or equipment. Workers typically perform a variety of tasks, which may include any combination of the following: sod laying, mowing, trimming, planting, watering, fertilizing, digging, raking, sprinkler installation, and installation of mortarless segmental concrete masonry wall units.

35. Computer and Information Systems Managers

Employment: 92,880

Average Salary: $176,870

36. Shipping, Receiving, and Traffic Clerks

Employment: 87,880

Average Salary: $37,810

37. Human Resources Specialists

Employment: 84,590

Average Salary: $76,480

38. Project Management Specialists

Employment: 83,400

Average Salary: $99,800

39. Receptionists and Information Clerks

Employment: 79,660

Average Salary: $36,220

40. Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

Employment: 72,180

Average Salary: $61,600

41. Computer User Support Specialists

Employment: 66,080

Average Salary: $62,860

42. Electricians

Employment: 65,870

Average Salary: $71,140

43. Automotive Service Technician and Mechanics

Employment: 60,910

Average Salary: $50,740

44. Dishwashers

Employment: 54,800

Average Salary: $30,310

45. Social and Human Service Assistants

Employment: 51,940

Average Salary: $46,370

46. Cleaners of Vehicles and Equipment

Employment: 51,020

Average Salary: $30,330

47. Production, Planning, and Expediting Clerks

Employment: 50,760

Average Salary: $48,950

48. Child, Family, and School Social Workers

Employment: 47,380

Average Salary: $61,190

49. Buyers and Purchasing Agents

Employment: 46,780

Average Salary: $72,340

50. Property, Real Estate Managers

Employment: 44,560

Average Salary: $56,840

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