18 Best Trade Jobs in California with Descriptions and Salaries!

May 17, 2024

The Nitty Gritty

  • The trades sector is an excellent option for a future career
  • Discover the 18 best trade jobs in California with our handy list
  • Some FAQs about trade jobs in California
Workers smiling

Ready to find the perfect trade for you? Trade roles offer reasonable training costs, competitive salaries, and careers full of opportunities. So, we’ve searched high and low for the best trade jobs in California! Discover our picks for the 18 best trade jobs, complete with descriptions and essential skills to help you find your fit. Find your next career today!

There’s no doubt that choosing a career is a challenging process. More and more jobs need workers to be flexible and cover various skills, alongside high fees for college.

No wonder more Americans are choosing the trades, with a wide and varied sector that offers opportunity to those willing to put the work in. Trade programs are much more affordable, and the careers offer reasonable salaries and stable roles.

Considering a career in the trades but need help figuring out where to start? We’ve got you covered with our list of the 18 best trade jobs in California!

Best Electrical Jobs in California

Effective electrical management is critical nationwide, but it’s been a key point of discussion and focus in California. Electrical jobs are some of the best trade jobs in California as they offer steady work with the potential to upskill, and the more experience you gain in the sector, the more you can earn. There are plenty of specializations, and electrical engineering requires a good head for numbers and complex problem-solving skills.

1. Electrical Systems Expert

Average CA Salary: $97,000

Electrical systems experts specialize in a variety of systems, and they work to maximize the efficiency of electrical production and distribution systems. Example systems experts can work on are:

-Residential solar systems: working with homeowners to ensure quality installation and efficient use of solar power -Remote power systems: helping people create self-sufficient properties that don’t rely on the electrical grid for power -Commercial solar systems: assisting businesses with the installation and efficient use of solar power for self-efficiency and reduced power costs

Essential skills are innovation, extensive knowledge of varied electrical systems, problem-solving and collaboration.

2. Electrical Grid Worker

Average CA Salary: $58,000

Where would we be without the grid? Electrical grid workers are the trade's core, ensuring everyone has a steady power supply. They’re responsible for installing, maintaining and repairing power lines, cables and fixtures. This role includes plenty of travel to inspect and assess the safety and quality of power lines and address any issues. We all know the chaos one damaged power pole can cause, so that’s why one of the best trade jobs in California is the tradespeople that fix it.

Essential skills include knowledge of electrical processes/systems, troubleshooting, communication and a stomach for heights.

3. Commercial Electrician

Average CA Salary: $74,000

Commercial electricians are responsible for the installation, maintenance, repair and troubleshooting of electrical systems in commercial settings. Keeping the lights on literally for businesses, commercial electricians work with complex electrical systems to ensure safety, compliance and quality. They can also plan the layout of wiring/systems, inspect current wiring, fixtures and equipment, and recommend upgrades for energy efficiency, safety and sustainability. It’s one of the best trade jobs in California as it offers plenty of challenges and is in high demand.

Essential skills include attention to detail, a high level of expertise with electrical systems, troubleshooting and innovation.

4. Industrial Electrician

Average CA Salary: $75,000

Industrial electricians work directly in the industrial sector to install, maintain, repair and troubleshoot electrical systems. Industrial electrical systems can be highly tailored and complex, requiring a high level of care and often physically demanding to install and service. Industrial electricians must also review electrical systems to ensure they comply with regulations and codes.

Essential skills include extensive knowledge of electrical systems, physical fitness, troubleshooting and attention to detail.

Top HVAC Jobs

HVAC, which is heating, ventilation, air conditioning (and refrigeration), is a growing industry. California has climate extremes, and HVAC roles are in high demand. Effective climate and ventilation systems are necessary for health and comfort. Residential, commercial and industrial jobs are available, and the sector is ripe for continued learning and upskilling to increase your earning potential.

5. HVAC Service Manager

Average CA Salary: $74,000

As climate systems become standard in homes and businesses, HVAC service technicians are in high demand. HVAC service managers organize some of the most high-demand trade jobs in California. Service managers oversee the organization of an HVAC service team to ensure jobs are completed efficiently and to a quality standard. They create service schedules and work orders, maintain customer information, and review technicians' work.

Essential skills include management, collaboration, high-level organization and HVAC technical experience.

6. Refrigeration Technician

Average CA Salary: $77,000

This is where (and Refrigeration) comes in, another pick for best trade jobs in California! Refrigeration technicians are responsible for the installation, maintenance and repair of HVAC systems and refrigeration units. Essentially, HVAC technicians but with the addition of specialized refrigeration expertise. How does this differ from other parts of HVAC(&R)? It requires in-depth knowledge of chemicals and chemical interactions, as coolants are a vital part of these systems.

Essential skills are troubleshooting, knowledge of HVAC systems, and mechanical expertise.

7. HVAC Design Engineer

Average CA Salary: $110,000

As we mentioned above, HVAC has some of the best trade jobs in California, and there are plenty of options for specializing. HVAC offers many opportunities depending on your particular training: design engineers design HVAC systems, covering the entire scope of the system while following local authority regulations and meeting the project's needs. This includes designs, parts, and bid-ready documentation. Design engineers also review changes and produce equipment/suppliers for the project.

Essential skills are collaboration, knowledge of all aspects of HVAC systems, high-level design and thorough attention to detail.

Plumbing Jobs in California

Our most appreciated modern amenities are running water and effective sewage systems. When these fail, we notice immediately. As such, plumbing specialists are in high demand wherever you go. Compared to the rest of the best trade jobs in California, the trade-off is consistent, stable work alongside slightly lower salaries.

8. Plumbing Specialist

Average CA Salary: $60,000

Plumbing specialists can specialize in many aspects of plumbing: they maintain, repair and install all aspects of the home's water supply and plumbing systems. It might not be the flashiest role, but these are the people who keep one of the most vital systems of a home running smoothly and effectively.

Essential skills include complex problem-solving, troubleshooting, hands-on ability, and knowledge of plumbing systems.

9. Master Plumber

Average CA Salary: $81,000

Master plumbers take being a plumbing specialist to the next level. These plumbers have earned the qualification of master plumber through years of work as a journeyman and passing the master plumber exam. It makes sense that one of the best jobs in California is being the best in your field!

Essential skills include extensive plumbing expertise, troubleshooting, problem-solving and communication.

10. Plumbing Project Manager

Average CA Salary: $106,000

Plumbing project managers oversee all aspects of plumbing projects, from design to implementation, adjustments and the final product. They collaborate with the architects, engineers and the construction team to ensure the project gets started and stays on track throughout. They’re responsible for the proposed pricing/budget for the design, the required inventory and equipment, and sourcing subcontractors.

Essential skills include high-level knowledge of plumbing systems, innovation, design and collaboration.

11. Commercial Plumber

Average CA Salary: $69,000

Commercial plumbing differs from residential plumbing in that commercial systems are often larger and more complex in nature. These systems require specialized skills and experience to install and maintain, and commercial/industrial operations depend on these systems. The best trade jobs in California evolve and reflect your ongoing experience; commercial plumbers are vital to businesses!

Essential skills include a high attention to detail, understanding and experience with complex plumbing systems, and the skills required to become a qualified plumbing specialist.

Best Jobs in Construction

Construction is another vital sector providing some of the best trade jobs in California. Construction relies on often complex projects, with even the short projects requiring plenty of planning, communication and teamwork. There are also great salaries on offer that reflect the hard work and expertise required to succeed.

12. Construction Compliance Inspector

Average CA Salary: $104,000

Interested in construction and safety? Or want to know where a role in construction can take you? Construction compliance inspectors ensure that safety and quality standards are being met during construction projects. Inspectors will assess hazards/risks, quality of foundations, structures and fittings, ensure compliance with regulations and identify any issues that need addressing.

Essential skills include a thorough knowledge of construction, regulations and standards, attention to detail and communication.

13. Technical Civil Engineer

Average CA Salary: $96,600

Technical engineers in any field work to support technical issues that may arise. Civil engineers plan, design, construct, improve, and maintain infrastructure; they’re essential to starting the construction process. As one of the best trade jobs in California, a technical civil engineer combines these roles to provide technical support to civil engineers by inspecting and assessing construction projects/blueprints. It’s the more practical side of engineering, which involves more involvement in the process.

Essential skills include technical knowledge, problem-solving, communication and collaboration.

14. Site Construction Coordinator

Average CA Salary: $58,000

Complex construction projects can run into plenty of issues, especially as different teams, subcontractors, and general contractors all try to work around and with each other. Site construction coordinators are the people on site, ensuring that all the crew members work together and complete the project on time and on budget! They provide training, scheduling and safety procedures and coordinate with other essential team members, such as architects and engineers, who might not always be on site.

Essential skills include collaboration, communication, knowledge of regulations, procedures and laws and a high level of expertise in construction codes/processes.

15. General Contractor

Average CA Salary: $128,000

General contractors oversee a construction job from start to finish, hired by the owner or design team to make a vision a reality. This is one of the best trade jobs in California as it’s a highly skilled and well-paid role that demonstrates years of hard work and experience.

General contractors manage daily operations and provide materials, equipment and labor. They also manage the work site and subcontractors. They’re necessary for complex, multi-stage projects to ensure each stage is completed efficiently. They’re needed throughout pre-construction, construction and post-construction.

Essential skills include extensive knowledge of the construction process, collaboration, communication, attention to detail, knowledge of laws and regulations and problem-solving.

Top Miscellaneous Jobs in CA

How about none of the above? Here are some more of the best trade jobs in California from different niches. The great thing about the trades is the number of roles and the flexibility of your career.

16. Safety Compliance Officer

Average CA Salary: $76,000

We’ve included safety compliance officers in our list of best trade jobs in California because they’re a vital but sometimes underrated part of the team. Safety is essential, and safety compliance officers are responsible for ensuring safety policies and guidelines are being followed by everyone on site. They provide training, develop and assess policies/procedures, undertake risk assessments and prepare reports. Safety compliance officers are vital to fostering a safe workplace.

Essential skills include attention to detail, knowledge of occupational health and safety (OHS) policies and guidelines, communication and analysis.

17. Fire Systems Technician

Average CA Salary: $57,000

Californians are unfortunately familiar with fire and the danger it poses. There are many roles that assist in the prevention and mitigation of fire danger, and one of the best trade jobs in California is one of them! Fire systems technicians are responsible for the installation, maintenance and repair of fire alarm and sprinkler systems to ensure they’re effective and protect others in an emergency. Many volunteer firefighters become technicians and utilize valuable skills in a great career.

Essential skills include knowledge of fire hazards, attention to detail and technical ability.

18. Solar Installation Manager

Average CA Salary: $124,000

Power is a big industry, so it makes sense that some of the best trade jobs in California are part of the sector. Solar installation managers are a vital part of the renewable energy sector and are responsible for the planning, processing, and quality completion of solar panel/photovoltaic cell projects. They design the projects, collaborate with engineers and the installation teams, prepare and review the budget, and ensure compliance with local/state/federal regulations.

Essential skills include extensive solar/photovoltaic systems knowledge, collaboration, communication and design.


How Does the Salary for Trade Jobs in California Compare to Other States?

Many of the best trades jobs in California have salaries in line with the average national rate. This is good news if you’re considering a trade role and many qualifications have reciprocal agreements with other states. Depending on the trade job you choose, you may be able to work in other states and widen your job opportunities.

Some roles also offer high salaries on average compared to the rest of the country. These include:

-Electrical grid worker -Safety compliance officer -Commercial plumber -Construction compliance inspector -Solar installation manager -Commercial electrician -Industrial electrician

How Much Does a Qualification for a Trade Job Cost?

Trades are an attractive option not just for their stability and necessity but also due to their relatively lower cost of study. Community colleges and technical colleges offer a variety of trade programs, with education and apprenticeships to get you started in your career.

These courses are a fraction of the cost of a typical college education and offer the opportunity to work as you gain your full qualification. The average cost of a trade course is around $4,000-$8,000 per year, but this fluctuates depending on the type and location of your chosen qualification.

What Are the Key Trends Impacting Trade Jobs in California for 2024 and Beyond?

It’s no secret California is an expensive place to live. Key factors that impact trade jobs are cost of living pressures, in and out flows of people in the state and how many new tradespeople join different roles. Many people are turning to technical colleges and trade schools to earn qualifications and obtain stable careers, and competition in California is growing.

What’s the trade job you’ll go for?

Reading through our list of the best trades jobs in California, did any catch your eye? There are so many options, and it can be hard to decide. The important thing is to consider what appeals to you, if any in particular are appealing. Trades provide many opportunities to shift your career and even start your own business, so whatever you do, your future is up to you.

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