San Francisco is one of the most glamorous cities in the country — in the world. Let alone the city’s recognizable icons — the Golden Gate Bridge, the trollies, Lombard Street, the ever-present fog — SF’s culture is remarkably unique, offering acceptance almost regardless of who you are or what you like.

Still, San Francisco isn’t for everyone. Specifically, it is increasingly apparent that the Bay Area isn’t for those with low or average incomes. A study on cost of living determined SF to be the most expensive city in the country, requiring a salary of at least $110,357 for the 50-30-20 budgeting rule to be feasible. On San Francisco’s heels are two other Bay Area cities: San Jose and Oakland, requiring $87,153 and $80,438 per year, respectively.

Though a six-figure income might seem out of the question, with the right career, you can earn that (and more) easily. Here are some careers worth considering if you have already planned your move to the bay.


In San Francisco and surrounds, a chief executive position at a company will earn you an average salary of $226,570 — which is more than double what you need to live comfortably in the city. However, reaching an executive level in your career isn’t easy; to start, you’ll probably need to investigate MBA programs in the Bay Area that will prepare you for the executive track. You might also consider forming your own startup, but with Silicon Valley so close, your success might come slower than if you obtained traditional employment.


It might seem odd, but dentists in San Francisco earn more than any other type of doctor, pulling an average salary of over $194,270. Dentistry can be as rewarding as other careers in the medical field, and dentistry programs are generally less competitive for applicants and students than medical school. To earn your DDS or DMD, you will spend four years in advanced study, and before you can practice, you need to gain licensure from California.

Financial Manager

Financial managers take responsibility for an entity’s financial health, be that entity an individual or an organization. Often, this means developing financial strategies, preparing financial reports, monitoring financial details and assisting clients in making finance-related decisions. Because organizing and improving finances are not simple tasks, financial managers in San Francisco command average salaries of $186,740. Fortunately, this career only requires a bachelor’s degree, typically in finance or economics.

Marketing Guru

Businesses cannot survive without marketing, so marketing professionals can demand high wages. In the Bay Area, you can earn an average salary of $186,320 in a marketing management position, which will put you at the head of a marketing team. You can either climb your way up the marketing ladder or earn an MBA in marketing, which will prime you for higher-level opportunities with higher-level earning potential.

Information Systems Manager

Despite the proximity of Silicon Valley, this is the only tech-related position to appear on this list. Information systems (IS) managers earn more than other types of tech professionals because they oversee an organizations IT fleet and often manage the IT department, as well. For this, IS management positions on average offer roughly $184,290 in salary. Still, this highly technical position demands education and experience in tech, which might take years to accrue.


No matter where you practice, you can almost guarantee yourself a strong and stable salary as a lawyer. Bay Area attorneys bring home an average of $178,110 every year, and that can increase dramatically with certain fields of law. For example, corporate lawyers and intellectual property lawyers are particularly high-earners in and around SF, but you can also earn more than the overall average in healthcare law and complex litigation.

Architectural and Engineering Manager

San Francisco is a city, and it’s a big one, which means there are always dozens of construction projects in-progress. As an architectural and engineering manager, you can be responsible for designing, directing and coordinating these projects — and you can take home a sizeable paycheck, as well. On average, these professionals earn $169,160.


Perhaps the most surprising high-earning career in San Francisco, being a pilot can earn you upwards of $162,600. Because there are a handful of airports in and around SF, you have your pick of working for a major airline with massive aircraft or providing private flights on smaller, more luxurious jets. Depending on your employment, you might be able to return home to the Bay every night — or you might spend most of your time in more exotic locales.

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