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average salary in california

If you’re considering a move to California, you might be wondering how much you can expect to earn and what the average salary in California is. A lot of factors go into determining how much money you’ll make no matter which state you live in, of course. Your chosen field and level of experience both play into how much you can expect to earn from your job. The area of the state in which you live will also impact your paycheck. You should take all of these factors into account when figuring out how much you can expect to earn in the Golden State.

Average Salary in California

According data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012-2016 American Community Survey, the median household income in California is $63,783. Note that this figure is the median gross income, meaning it does not take into account taxes or other deductions. It also does not include other non-cash benefits that one might get from a job, such as insurance or paid vacation time. Also note that this is household income, which includes both single-earner households and single-income homes. The mean income, meanwhile, is $91,149.

Median is the income figure that’s smack dab in the middle of a list of household incomes. Mean is the same as the average. In other words, it’s the number you get if you add up a number of incomes and divide that figure by the total number of incomes you’d added up. Median is a more reliable descriptor for average income because it isn’t as affected by outlier salaries on either end. For example, extremely low-paid professions don’t drag down the figure and extremely high salaries don’t artificially inflate it.

Average Salary in California by City

The average salary in California varies greatly by city. Different cities have different costs of living, so it makes sense that the average salary is higher in some of the places where it costs more to live. The cities with the highest average household income are Fremont, San Jose and Irvine. The city with the lowest average income is San Bernardino.

Here is the average household income for the 20 largest cities in the state, based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012-2016 American Community Survey:

Average Salary in California by City
 City Average Household Income
Los Angeles $51,538
San Diego $68,117
San Jose $90,303
San Francisco $87,701
Fresno $41,842
Sacramento $52,071
Long Beach $55,151
Oakland $57,778
Bakersfield $58,669
Anaheim $61,826
Santa Ana $54,062
Riverside $58,979
Stockton $46,033
Chula Vista $66,956
Irvine $93,823
Fremont $111,613
San Bernardino $38,456
Modesto $50,996
Fontana $65,995
Oxnard $61,709

This table highlights how much the average salary in California can vary based on where you live. Remember that California is a very large state, and thus everything from the weather to the cost of living is also going to be different based on where you choose to put down roots.

Average Salary in California by County 

average salary in california

You can also break down the average salary in California by county. According to data from the American Community Survey for 2012-2016, the counties with the highest average household incomes are Santa Clara, Marin and San Mateo. The table below includes the average household income for each of California’s 59 counties.

Average Salary in California by County
 County Average Household Income
Alameda County $79,831
Alpine County $62,375
Amador County $57,032
Butte County $44,366
Calaveras County $53,502
Colusa County $54,946
Contra Costa County $82,881
Del Norte County $42,363
El Dorado County $72,586
Fresno County $45,963
Glenn County $41,699
Humboldt County $42,685
Imperial County $42,560
Inyo County $47,278
Kern County $49,788
Kings County $47,241
Lake County $36,132
Lassen County $51,457
Los Angeles County $57,952
Madera County $45,742
Marin County $100,310
Mariposa County $49,265
Mendocino County $43,510
Merced County $44,397
Modoc County $41,194
Mono County $58,937
Monterey County $60,889
Napa County $74,609
Nevada County $57,429
Orange County $78,145
Placer County $76,926
Plumas County $50,125
Riverside County $57,972
Sacramento County $57,509
San Benito County $73,814
San Bernardino County $54,469
San Diego County $66,529
San Francisco County $87,701
San Joaquin County $55,045
San Luis Obispo County $64,014
San Mateo County $98,546
Santa Barbara County $65,161
Santa Clara County $101,173
Santa Cruz County $70,088
Shasta County $45,582
Sierra County $43,984
Siskiyou County $38,524
Solano County $69,227
Sonoma County $66,833
Stanislaus County $51,591
Sutter County $52,943
Tehama County $40,687
Trinity County $35,270
Tulare County $42,789
Tuolumne County $50,731
Ventura County $78,593
Yolo County $57,663
Yuba County $48,739

Highest Paying Jobs in California

average salary in california

Of course, how much money you make in California is also largely dependent on what your job is. The table below shows the top 10 highest paying jobs in California and each job’s mean annual wage, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for May 2017. Most of the highest paying jobs are in the medical field, with only CEOs and airline pilots as outliers.

Average Salary in California by Job
 Job Average Household Income
Anesthesiologists $283,860
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons $262,050
Psychiatrists $259,570
Surgeons $229,340
Chief Executives $222,950
Obstetricians and Gynecologists $221,120
Nurse Anesthetists $217,230
Orthodontists $216,590
Physicians and Surgeons, All Other $214,730
Airline Pilots, Copilots, and Flight Engineers $207,080

The Bottom Line

The average salary in California is $63,783. That is the median salary, which is a more accurate picture of average salaries in California than the mean salary. The mean salary is $91,149. Your salary in California largely will depend on where you live and what your job is. You can get a better idea of what your salary might look like in the Golden State by looking at the above tables that break down salary by city, county and profession.

Retirement Tips

  • Eventually, you’ll want to stop working whether you live in California or elsewhere. To be able to live comfortably without bringing home a regular salary, you’ll need to plan carefull. You may find it helpful to hire a financial advisor to help you with that planning. SmartAsset can help you find an advisor with our free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions, and we’ll match you with up to three advisors in your area. We’ve fully vetted them all, and they are free of disclosures. You’ll then have a chance to talk to your advisor matches to see if one feels right for you.
  • No matter how much money you make living in California, you’ll end up giving some of it to the government. You can determine your likely tax burden with SmartAsset’s California income tax calculator.

Photo Credit: ©iStock.com/Ron_Thomas, ©iStock.com/AndreyPopov, ©iStock.com/ronstik

Ben Geier, CEPF® Ben Geier is an experienced financial writer currently serving as a retirement and investing expert at SmartAsset. His work has appeared on Fortune, Mic.com and CNNMoney. Ben is a graduate of Northwestern University and a part-time student at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing and a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®). When he isn’t helping people understand their finances, Ben likes watching hockey, listening to music and experimenting in the kitchen. Originally from Alexandria, VA, he now lives in Brooklyn with his wife.
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