I pissed away my teens and early 20s (left school at 16 without finishing 10th grade) and got a job in computer operations in my mid 20s, after trying my hand in the music and photo industries. It was easy then (1975) because so few people were trained or had any aptitude for it.
My employer eventually insisted that I get a high school equivalency and take some programming courses at a community college. I excelled at that and moved on to programming. By 1980 the big money was in COBOL -- yes, COBOL -- programming so I got a diploma from a trade school and moved up to the big bucks.
Over the years I learned IBM PC operations and programming, SQL (bet you didn't think there were SQL programmers in the mid 1980s) online programming (CICS), SGML (Standard Graphic Markup Language) and some networking.
By 1990 I was the "old man" on the floor so nobody trusted me with the cutting edge CASE tool code generators. Eventually I got stuck learning HTML and TCP/IP which none of the hotshots around me wanted to be bothered with.
So there I was, over 40 and useful for nothing more than tinkering with that new internet/world wide web stuff that wasn't going to last while all the young studs around me got to work with the future: Lotus Notes and FoxPro.
You don't want to read the story of my life so I'll cut to the chase. I just turned 58. Late last year I enrolled in a bachelor's degree program. Since I have accumulated some college credit over the years it won't take me forever to graduate. I should have a bachelor's degree by the time I'm ready for early retirement in 2013.
I'm hoping the sheepskin will give my career one last boost to keep me going for another eight or 10 years after that but, really, I did it for myself, not my boss. BTW, I'm just about to take my PMP certification exam. I found that training to be the most useful of my career, despite the fact that I've been a project manager for 20 years.