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The Average Salary in California

Ben Geier, CEPF®
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   CityAverage Household IncomeLos 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   CountyAverage 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   JobAverage 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

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