10 Degrees That Make Sense to Earn in California

portrait of Tessa Cooper
by Tessa Cooper
Published on November 17, 2021

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Going to college in California benefits students with specific career goals. For instance, regions like Hollywood and Silicon Valley provide optimal career opportunities in film and tech.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the need for producers and directors to grow by 24% between 2020 and 2030. Additionally, the BLS projects that jobs for software developers will likely grow by 22% in the same time frame.

In this guide, we examine the largest and fastest-growing industries in California. Use this information to select a profitable major to earn in the Golden State.

What Are the Biggest Industries in California?

In this section, we highlight some of California's biggest industries, which are home to some of the fastest-growing careers in the state. This list can help current and aspiring California residents make an informed decision about which major to choose in college.

Agriculture

The agriculture industry continues to be one of the biggest industries in California, and it's still growing. The California Department of Food and Agriculture reports dairy products total a $7.47 billion dollar industry. Even non-edible plants represent a large portion of the economy. Floriculture brings in $967 million to the state. According to the BLS, the need for agricultural and food scientists should increase by 9% between 2020 and 2030.

Film and Television

California has historically been known as the epicenter of the American film industry. Several factors contributed to the industry's growth. The sunny weather, available real estate, and a desire to escape Thomas Edison's patent monopoly brought us to where we are today. California's Employment Development Department projects the need for filmmakers to increase by about 18% between 2018 and 2028.

Tourism

With nine national parks and nine international airports, tourism thrives in California. Despite experiencing a 55% decline in tourism in 2020, tourists still contributed $65.1 billion to the state's economy. Tourists spend money on transportation, lodging, food, and entertainment. California's Employment Development Department projects the need for restaurant cooks to grow by almost 28% between 2018 and 2028.

Technology and Information

Home to companies like Apple, Google, and Tesla, the Silicon Valley neighborhood is worth nearly $3 trillion. Even in the late 1800s, the area was a center for the telegraph and radio industries. Today, tech companies in California need qualified coders. The BLS projects that jobs for software developers will likely grow by 22% between 2020 and 2030.

Healthcare and Biotechnology

As the population grows, the healthcare and biotechnology industries are growing all across America. In fact, California's population has been increasing steadily over the past decades. The BLS projects the need for healthcare occupations to grow by 16% from 2020 to 2030. Additionally, the need for biochemists and biophysicists is projected to increase in California by 22% between 2018 and 2028.

Construction

If the increasing population trend continues, California will need more housing and developments. The BLS projects the need for construction occupations to increase by 6% between 2020 and 2030. Specific jobs that should experience an increased need in the construction field include electricians, plumbers, and roofers.

Energy

California leads the nation in renewable energy. The state produces the most electricity from solar, geothermal, and biomass energy. Additionally, it was the second-largest producer of electricity from conventional hydroelectric power and the fifth-largest from wind energy in 2019. Jobs for solar photovoltaic installers in California are projected to increase by 65% between 2018 and 2028.

10 Sensible Degrees to Earn in California

Finance

Many successful finance companies operate in California. A few noteworthy ones include Affirm, Goldman Sachs, and Visa. Pursuing a finance degree in this state may help learners form connections with these companies before they start looking for jobs. For this reason, finance makes the list of top majors in California.

Financial careers should continue to be in demand over the next few years. The BLS projects the need for business and financial occupations to grow by 8% between 2020 and 2030. Financial advisors make the list of highest-paying professionals in California. In 2021, they experienced a median income of $147,480.

Many financial jobs pay generous salaries. For example, accountants and auditors earned a median income of $73,560 in 2020. For reference, the median salary for all occupations in 2020 only measured $41,950.

Healthcare Administration

With the healthcare and biotechnology industries on the rise in California, the state makes an ideal place to pursue a career in healthcare administration. A degree in healthcare administration prepares students to work in behind-the-scenes roles at doctors' offices and hospitals. Healthcare administrators can even find jobs at non-traditional wellness clinics. The wellness industry brings in $4.5 trillion.

According to the BLS, the need for healthcare professionals is projected to increase by 16% from 2020 to 2030. And the BLS projects that jobs for medical and health services managers will have an even higher growth rate of 32% in that same time period. This is much faster than the average growth rate for all other occupations (8%).

With an advanced degree in healthcare administration, graduates can work in high-paying positions. According to California's Employment Development department, medical and health services managers earned a median 2020 income of $132,120.

Business Management

California hosts a thriving business industry, especially in the small business sector. In fact, one study by the U.S. Census Bureau and one by the Kaufman Foundation discovered net job growth was highest among businesses with fewer than 20 employers. For this reason, California makes an ideal state to pursue a bachelor's in business management.

Pursuing a career in business management can prepare learners to become small business owners. However, they may also pursue jobs at successful corporations. In fact, 55 of the 2021 Fortune 500 companies operate in California.

The BLS projects business and financial occupations will bring 750,800 new jobs to the United States between 2020 and 2030. Additionally, the BLS projects management occupations will grow by 9% during the same time frame. This would add 906,800 new jobs. Specialized business management jobs, like construction management jobs, could also see an increase.

Computer Science

Some experts credit California's tech industry with sustaining the state's economy during 2020. With a thriving tech industry surrounding the state, many California colleges hire professionals with first-hand tech experience. Additionally, California students can apply for in-person internships at successful tech companies. Reasons like these make computer science one of the best majors in California.

A degree in computer science opens many career opportunities. Learners can become computer network architects, computer programmers, or information security analysts. The BLS projects employment in computer and information technology roles to grow by 13% between 2020 and 2030.

Advanced computer science degrees prepare students to work in even higher-paying roles. For example, computer and information research scientists earned a median income of $126,830 in 2020, according to the BLS. This profession typically requires at least a master's degree.

Nursing

California's older population will likely double over the next 20 years. As health needs generally increase with age, the state will need more qualified nurses than ever before. California colleges prepare aspiring nursing to meet licensure requirements specific to the state.

Specifically, the need for nurse anesthetists and nurse practitioners in California will grow rapidly. The state's Employment Development Department projects these careers will grow by nearly 31% between 2018 and 2028. The BLS reports a 2020 median income of $117,670 for nurse anesthetists and nurse practitioners.

Learners can earn an RN-to-BSN to practice in the state. More advanced roles require an MSN or nurse practitioner degree.

Marketing

With a booming business industry, California needs qualified marketing professionals. The film industry also makes California an ideal place to learn about creating marketing materials like commercials.

Marketing professionals can represent businesses in the state's top growing industries. For example, they could work as a marketing director for a green energy company or a large-scale dairy farm.

With a bachelor's in marketing, learners can become marketing managers or specialists. The BLS projects the need for marketing managers to grow by 10% between 2020 and 2030. Other marketing careers include advertising and public relations managers, graphic designers, photographers, and writers.

Environmental Science

Home to diverse ecological systems and many different types of terrain, California is a great place to study environmental science. Students get hands-on experience with studying how human interactions impact mountains, beaches, and forests.

Since green energy is a thriving industry in California, environmental science students may have more access to industry professionals. According to the BLS, the need for environmental scientists and specialists should increase by 8% between 2020 and 2030.

An environmental science degree prepares students to work in other roles, too, especially jobs that involve studying the environment. California's Employment Development Department projects the need for soil and plant scientists to increase by about 15% between 2018 and 2028.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapists work with both young and aging populations. California's population is increasing and the life expectancy for its residents ranks number two in the nation. So, the state needs plenty of qualified healthcare professionals like physical therapists.

Each state sets its own requirements for licensing. Most California colleges prepare students to meet the licensure requirements specific to the state. So, people who want to practice in California should consider earning this degree in the state.

Physical therapists help people with injuries and illnesses move and regain strength. They work at medical offices and hospitals. Some physical therapists make house visits to patients. According to BLS projections, the need for these professionals nationwide should increase by 22% between 2020 and 2030.

Information Technology

Information technology is another worthwhile tech degree to earn in California. California's Employment Development Department projects the need for computer and information systems managers to increase by almost 16% between 2018 and 2028.

With this degree, graduates often earn jobs as computer support specialists for businesses. They work one-on-one with employees to troubleshoot technological issues. They also take steps to ensure a company's technological equipment stays up-to-date and secure. Most of these professionals work during traditional business hours.

Nearly every business industry needs qualified information technology professionals. According to BLS projections, the need for these professionals is likely to increase by 9% between 2020 and 2030.

Engineering

In terms of types of college degrees to earn in California, engineering wraps up this list. With an increasing demand for construction, the state will need more qualified civil engineers. According to the BLS, the need for engineers, in general, should grow by 6% between 2020 to 2030.

However, engineers contribute to several other growing fields. These professionals can work as aerospace engineers, bioengineers, and chemical engineers. With the growing green energy sector in California, these professionals can earn niche jobs and become turbine engineers.

Frequently Asked Questions About Degrees in California

What is the best major to study in California?

The best major to earn in California varies based on personal preference and skills. However, the rapidly growing industries in the state make ideal majors. A few fast-growing positions include solar photovoltaic installers, occupational therapy assistants, and statisticians. Many people enjoy pursuing tech-related majors in California and pursue internships and positions at Silicon Valley tech companies and start-ups.

What degrees pay the most in California?

The state's Employment Development Department offers data on the highest paying positions in California. The most recent data shows lawyers benefit from the highest median salary at $165,310. Air traffic controllers earn the next highest median wage at $156,920.

Most of the jobs that make this list fall in the STEM category. However, the state's bustling film industry also offers opportunities. For example, makeup artists in the theater and performance industry earn a median income of $123,980.

What industries are booming in California?

According to WorldAtlas, the agriculture, services, film, and manufacturing industries in California are experiencing fast growth. The services industry refers to business services, education, and hospitality. WorldAtlas attributes the growth in manufacturing to the state's bustling tech environment. In terms of film, Hollywood hosts many major studios like Paramount Pictures.

With such an inviting climate for farming, the state produces more than a third of the United State's vegetables and two-thirds of the country's fruits and nuts. Certain agriculture sectors lead the growth in this field. According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, milk, almonds, grapes, and pistachios are multi-billion dollar industries.

What jobs are in high demand right now in California?

California's Employment Development Department projects that solar photovoltaic installers, occupational therapy assistants, physician assistants, and information security analysts will likely see large job increases between 2018 and 2028.

What college should I go to in California?

BestColleges ranks the best schools in California in general, and for specific majors. When choosing a college, learners should consider their financial and career goals. Class size is another important factor to consider. Public colleges in California often feature larger class sizes. But keep in mind private colleges with smaller class sizes often cost more.

Find the top-ranked online colleges in 2021 from BestColleges. See our picks for the 25 best online schools and find the right match for you. We've ranked the most affordable online colleges in the U.S. Begin earning a high-quality degree with low annual tuition. Our ROI rankings are based on two factors: The true cost of attending a school, weighed against the median earning power of its graduates over 30 years.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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