Those who argue I DO NOT NEED A DEGREE got in in 1999 when you didn't need one. If you are one of these try being born 15 years later and getting a job today? ... no degree? How does $12/hr aka 20,000 a year sound? Great!
It's funny you broke everything down that way, because that's pretty much my life. Except it's not and I don't have a degree.
See, I joined the military in 1992 and quickly learned the technical side of my vocation since it was always mostly OJT in the first place. In between I took a few college courses here and there, and after I got out of the military I went to college full-time. Back then the GI Bill covered $12,500 for college tuition, which in 1997 was around 3 semesters at the school I attended. I never finished and dropped out while I was just starting my junior year.
After a few temp jobs I found myself landing a position as a civilian with the government! It was structured exactly like the military was, with the lower paid employees being the worker bees, and middle management being your average NCO. The "upper" management staff were your E-7's and above, with CO's managing them all.
I'm a product of the system - If you're young like I was when I started and were able to move around, promotions came quickly. I went from 25k a year in 2001 to 45k a year in 2008. 20k in 7 years isn't too bad! I kept my eye open on places to move to that had low cost of living expenses, and now I'm working at a job that pays me 60k a year when the average family takes home 50k. I bought my house here for 97k and with the monthly payment of $460, I'll have it paid off before I turn 50.
I still haven't gotten my degree yet, but I'm working on it.
You don't need a degree, you just need to be smart.