Background China's rapidly changing economic landscape has led to widening social inequalities. Occupational status in terms of occupational type and prestige may reflect these socio-structural shifts of social position and be more predictive of self-rated health status than income and education, which may only reflect more gradual acquisitions of social status over time. The goals of this study were to understand the role of occupational status in predicting self-rated health, which is well known to be associated with long-term mortality, as well as compare the occupational status to the other major socioeconomic indicators of income and education. Methods Data from the 2010 baseline surveys of the China Family Panel Studies, which utilized multi-stage probability sampling with implicit stratification was used. Logistic regression was used to examine the relationship of various socioeconomic indicators (i.e. occupational status, income, and education) with self-rated health as the primary outcome of interest. A series of models considered the associations of occupational category or occupational prestige with self-rated health. Results The final sample consisted of 14,367 employed adults aged 18-60, which was nationally representative of working adults in China. We found that occupation was not a major predictor of self-rated health in China when age, ethnicity, location, marital status, physical and mental health status were controlled for, with the exception of women working in lower grade management and professional jobs (OR = 1.82, 95% CI: 1.03-3.22). In comparison, income followed by education exhibited greater association with self-rated health. The highest income group had the least probability to report poor health (In men: OR = 0.30, 95% CI: 0.21-0.43. In women: OR = 0.44, 95% CI: 0.26-0.73). People educated with junior high school had better self-rated health than those with primary and below education level (In men: OR = 0.62, 95% CI: 0.50-0.75. In women: OR = 0.53, 95% CI: 0.42-0.68). Income, education and occupation were correlated with each other. Conclusions Within the context of rapid societal changes in China, income and its implications for greater healthcare access and benefits had the greatest association with self-rated health followed by education. Occupational status was not associated. Occupational categories and prestige should be better adapted to reflect China's unique sociopolitical and historical context.