How Much Do Doctors Make a Year in California?

By Austin Kilham · April 27, 2023 · 7 minute read

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How Much Do Doctors Make a Year in California?

Understanding the average salary of a profession can help you make a variety of important decisions, from what field you want to enter to where you want to live and work. In California, the average physician makes more than $200,000 per year. Knowing that, medical students have a better idea of what they could make when they get out of school. Likewise, physicians looking to relocate to a new state have a better sense of how their salary can change based on where they decide to move.

Here’s a closer look at how much medical doctors make a year in California, regional differences in salary, and the top-paying medical specialities in the state.

Key Points

•   In California, the average annual salary for a physician is $229,420.

•   Salaries for doctors in California are mid-range compared to other states like Arizona and Florida.

•   Factors such as Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements can influence doctors’ incomes.

•   Specialties like psychiatry and surgery offer higher wages, with some salaries exceeding $300,000.

•   The path to becoming a doctor involves extensive education and licensing, impacting potential earnings.

What Is the Average Salary for a Medical Doctor in California?

The average salary of a physician in the state of California is $229,420 per year, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This figure doesn’t account for a physician sign on bonus, which some doctors receive. Interestingly, California is squarely in the middle when it comes to average physicians’ salaries, along with Oregon, Texas, Maryland, and New York. The average salary in California lags more than half of states, including Arizona, Florida, Wyoming, Kentucky, and South Carolina.

Though many consider anything more than $100,000 a good salary, California’s relatively low pay may come as a surprise to some. However, there are some possible explanations. For one, California spends the most on Medicaid among U.S. states. Medicaid — and Medicare, for that matter — both reimburse physicians at rates lower than their usual fees. Doctors who are seeing a lot of elderly or low-income individuals may see their incomes reduced.

Note that early in your career as a doctor, while you’re in your residency or fellowship, you’ll likely make considerably less than you will later in your career. Explore ways to get by on a medical resident’s salary.

You may also want to consider using a spending app, which can help you set financial goals and a budget and track where your money goes.

Recommended: Budgeting as a New Doctor

How to Become a Doctor in California

Doctors are health care professionals who are charged with meeting with patients, diagnosing their conditions, and managing their care plans. They perform tests and prescribe medications. And they must coordinate with a range of other health care professionals, including other doctors, nurses, and emergency medical technicians.
That’s a lot of responsibility, and as a result, it takes a lot of training to become a doctor.

First, you’ll need to complete a bachelor’s degree in a field that relates to medicine, such as pre medicine, biology, or biochemistry.

Next, you’ll need to go to medical school, where you will receive classroom and practical training to advance your knowledge in the medical field. Medical school is typically a four-year program. While in school, you’ll complete the first and second parts of the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). The average cost of medical school can be high, running more than $50,000 a year at private institutions.

When you graduate from medical school, you’ll enter a residency program that helps you choose a medical specialty. These programs usually last three years, and under the supervision of an experienced physician, you’ll work full time as a resident doctor. You’ll complete your residency by passing the third and final part of the USMLE.

After your residency, you can choose to complete a fellowship that gives you further training in the specialty you’ve chosen. Though fellows tend to make more than residents, their salary isn’t as high as new doctors. The good news is, there are ways to budget on a medical fellowship salary.

Finally, you’ll need to obtain a California medical license from the Medical Board of California. You can renew your license every two years, which requires 50 hours of continuing medical education.

Recommended: What Is the Average Medical School Debt?

Reasons to Become a Doctor

Becoming a doctor can involve a lot of challenges, but it can also be immensely rewarding work. Here are a few reasons you might become a doctor:

•   To help others: Doctors diagnose and treat medical conditions, helping to save and improve patients’ lives. They are often involved in ongoing treatment, ushering patients down the path to recovery. Being a physician is a people-centric profession that involves working closely with patients and their families to explain medical conditions and treatment options.

•   To work in the sciences: If you’re interested in a variety of scientific fields, from biology to chemistry to anatomy to pharmacology, being a doctor is a way to explore these subjects while also helping others.

•   To find purpose: The responsibility toward patients and coworkers and the ability to better people’s health and well-being often provide doctors with a sense of satisfaction and meaning in their work.

•   To become a teacher: Becoming a doctor requires a lot of schooling and ongoing training. Doctors may pass on this knowledge by educating patients on how to lead healthier lives, educating medical students in teaching hospitals, and supervising residents.

•   To have job security: The job outlook for physicians is relatively low, with the field expected to grow 3% through 2031. That said, there are still 23,800 openings for physicians projected each year, according to BLS data.

•   To make a good salary: The annual average wage for all workers in the United States is $58,260, according to the BLS — quite a bit lower than the $229,420 average annual pay for physicians in California.

Best-Paying Medical Doctor Jobs in California

The medical speciality you pursue in California will have a big impact on your salary. According to BLS data, here are some of the highest-paid physicians in California:


Psychiatrists help diagnose and treat mental disorders. Unlike psychologists, they are allowed to prescribe drugs for medical treatment.

Average salary: $305,290

Obstetricians and Gynecologists

OBGYNs provide medical care related to childbirth and diagnose and treat diseases of the female reproductive organs. They also specialize in women’s health issues like hormone problems, infertility, and menopause.

Average salary: $309,610


Before, during, or after surgery, anesthesiologists administer anesthetics (which reduce sensitivity to pain) and analgesics (which act as pain relievers).

Average salary: $318,030


Cardiologists diagnose and treat conditions of the cardiovascular system.

Average salary: $343,370


Radiologists use medical imaging techniques, such as x-rays, MRIs, and ultrasounds to diagnose and treat diseases and injuries.

Average salary: $345,100


A pathologist helps diagnose diseases by running tests on organs, tissue, and bodily fluids, such as blood.

Average salary: $350,980


Surgeons are medical doctors that may have to perform surgery, a procedure that physically changes a patient’s body.

Average salary: $351,580

Recommended: Starting (and Keeping) an Emergency Fund

The Takeaway

Being a doctor can be fulfilling, as it allows you to help people through work in the medical sciences. It can also be monetarily rewarding, and understanding average salaries can help you make decisions about where you want to live and what you want to specialize in. Though income varies by speciality, the average salary for physicians in California is $229,420 per year.

As you build your practice and earn a salary, a money tracker app can help you get your financial house in order. The SoFi app connects all of your accounts in one convenient dashboard. From there, you can see all of your balances, spending breakdowns, and credit score monitoring, plus you can get other valuable financial insights.

Stay up to date on your finances by seeing exactly how your money comes and goes.


What is a doctor’s yearly salary in California?

In California, a doctor can expect to make $229,420 per year on average, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What is the highest-paying medical specialty?

Among the highest-paid doctors in California are pathologists, surgeons, and radiologists.

Who earns more: a dentist or a doctor?

In California, doctors tend to make more than dentists, who earn ​​$165,950 per year on average.

Photo credit: iStock/Drazen Zigic

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