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.")

Image of Clark Howard About the author: Clark Howard

Clark Howard is a consumer expert whose goal is to help you keep more of the money you make. His national radio show and website show you ways to put more money in your pocket, with advice you can trust. View More Articles

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