Tired of your current job? You may be able to switch things up without going back for another traditional degree.

Four years of traditional college aren't a necessity if you want to bring home a hefty paycheck, according to a new study from the Brookings Institution.

"It is well established that knowledge in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects leads to high-paying careers," the study's author writes, "but we have the misconception that all STEM workers are advanced degree holders."

To prove the point, USA Today  ran a list spelling out 8 of the jobs that pay well without a traditional four-year college degree. All figures are based on the May 2011 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates (OES) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

At the same time, I saw another list recently that had fashion designer as a job that doesn't necessarily require college, but probably requires some targeted post-high school education or experience. Yet the truth is most people in any art field will struggle, though some will certainly make big money.

But back to the Brooking Institution/USA Today list. Keep in mind that many of these fields require several years of trade school or apprenticeship:

  • Welders, Cutters, Solderers and Brazers
  • Average wage: $38,000


  • Plumbers, Pipefitters, Steamfitters
  • Average wage: $52,000


  • Machinists
  • Average wage: $41,000


  • Computer systems analysts
  • Average wage: $82,000


  • Electricians
  • Average wage: $53,000


  • Carpenters
  • Average wage: $44,000


  • Automotive service technicians and mechanics
  • Average wage: $39,000


  • Registered nurse*
  • Average wage: $70,000

* While many RNs do have a degree, a traditional college route is not the only way to gain employment in this field, hence the inclusion in the USA Today tally. The newspaper reports the following: "To complete their education, nurses can either get a bachelor's degree, an associate's degree or a diploma from an accredited nursing program.")