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Golden State Gold: Highest Paying Jobs in California

Updated on March 29, 2012
California is the eighth largest economy in the world.
California is the eighth largest economy in the world. | Source

© Copyright 2012 by Aurelio Locsin.

(Updated March 27, 2012) As the largest state in the U.S. in terms of population, and with employment at over 14 million, California offers more jobs than any other state. Average salaries here run $24.96 per hour or $51,910 per year, which is higher than the national average of $21.74 per hour or $45,230 per year. All information comes from official statistics provided by the U.S. Department of Labor as of 2011.

Top Four

The top four highest salaries belong to medical practitioners, which closely reflects rankings throughout the country. These professionals deserve the highest paying jobs because they can affect the life and death of an individual. In addition, they require a long and demanding education. Typical physician training starts with four years of college and continues with four years of medical school. It then ends with three or more years of residency and internship, with additional years for subspecialties.

  1. Obstetricians and gynecologists make $222,960 annually. They specialize in women’s health issues such as pregnancy and breast cancer.
  2. Anesthesiologists make $221,990 per year by helping patients manage pain before, during and after surgical procedures.
  3. Surgeons earn $216,350 annually. They operate on people to manipulate internal medical conditions manually or with instruments.
  4. Oral surgeons correct defects in the teeth and jaw through operations. They earn 204,050 per year.


At number four are chief executives, who are ultimately responsible for the profitability of an enterprise. They may affect the lives of tens of thousands of employees, in the case of large companies, and are accountable to the company’s shareholders and owners. They may rise to their positions from lower job levels, or hold advanced degrees such as Masters in Business Administration (MBAs). In either case, the job requires many years of experience with increasing responsibility. Chief executives average a salary of $201,030, but can garner higher compensation when stock options and other perks are included.


More physicians occupy the next highest paying jobs in California:

  1. General internists, who diagnose and treat the internal systems of the body such as the liver and lungs, make $192,560 yearly.
  2. Psychiatrists earn $192,290 per year by treating mental conditions through therapy, drugs and hospitalization.
  3. All other physicians and surgeons covers those not broken out into separate classifications by the Labor Department. They make $182,260 annually.
  4. Family and general practitioners receive $174,530 each year by handling general medical conditions. They are often the first doctors that patients see.


In terms of employment from this list, chief executives show the greatest numbers of positions, since that classification applies to heads of large and small companies. Technically, this means the position holds the greatest employment possibilities among the top ten highest paying. Oral surgeons hold the fewest positions.

Here is the complete list of numbers:

(click column header to sort results)
Job Title  
Chief Executives
Physicians and Surgeons, All Other
Family and General Practitioners
Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Oral Surgeons


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    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 

      6 years ago from USA

      It's interesting that in California the highest paying jobs are in the medical field. California is so entertainment heavy that it would seem like entertainers would earn more. I'm glad to see that the medical field is well paid.

    • vespawoolf profile image


      6 years ago from Peru, South America

      This is an interesting installment in your series about jobs around the U.S. From the news, I know CA was really hit by the economic crisis. Still, medical professionals will always earn well and I agree that they deserve it.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Always interesting to see the earning potential of different jobs in various locations. Thanks! Useful and interesting votes.


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