Astronomy provides a lot of opportunities for serious, significant contributions by amateurs. One way to find out if it interests you enough is to find a local amateur group that is actually regularly involved in such projects. This is not your normal stargazing or imaging groups, but groups that are carrying out observations of astronomical phenomena that the professionals don't have the time or equipment availability to do themselves. This way you can get a feel for what the activity is like and learn how to understand where it fits in the broader astronomical research spectrum before you spend anything on equipment. If you like it, you may find that your local groups already have the equipment they need or you can buy your own - cost is not too high (in the $2-5K range).
I'm personally involved with a group that does exoplanet sightings, NEO object discovery, cataclysmic variable monitoring among others. We're in the east side of SF bay and find we can usually observe over half the nights here.