Somewhat wishful thinking. My work for example hires 90% of our employees fresh out of school often after having done a 1 year coop placement with us at some point in their schooling. No schooling, no coop, no coop no hire, or at least very very unlikely. I imagine it is like that at a lot of companies. You put a job posting up and you have at least 10X the applications as the positions, you need a quick way to narrow things down. So: no degree, there goes a few, typo in the resume or too long/short there goes a couple more. Etc. Your degree exists to help prevent you from getting cut out of the stack before even getting an interview.
Oddly enough though, I guess people can kind of figure it out in the interview if you are too much BS, but I have a masters and have done several professional jobs (in different fields) none of which have asked me for my transcript and other form of proof that I actually am "qualified". It is enough to make you wonder if you should just drop out after second year and go right to work. Everyone expects a fresh out of school programmer to have some pretty crappy code for a year or so until code reviewers beat good practices into them anyways so ... Probably could have made another 150k or so in my lifetime if I'd known ahead of time. Oh well, what would life be without nuclear physics and complex analysis?