I have CS degree and it has served me well but it really depends on your career aspirations.
In my career path I have gone from QA analyst - programmer - senior programmer - system analyst - IT lead - senior system analyst - Project Manager - Solution / application / Enterprise Architect
I loved being a programmer and if I had to I would slip back into that role happily. I love where I am now too but it is high stress and hard work. And high risk for making a bad decision that is very visible. Lots of dealings with execs and clients and that is a whole nother world of pressure. PM was the one I enjoyed the least. It was exciting and fast paced and very gratifying and if you have leadership skills things get done, but the stress wasn’t worth it. ( I actually had grooves in my toenails 6 months apart that aligned with project launch dates due to the stress)
Not that you asked about my career or anything, but when I started school the only jobs I new about was coder and boss of coders so it might be good for you to research the career paths a bit and see what you are interested in. Although I wouldn’t have thought for a minute I’d have gone in the non coding direction I’ve gone so I guess you change as you go too.
I have a bunch of certs too, ITIL, PMP, TOGAF etc. I don’t know how much the certs help. I mean, I don’t think I gleaned an awful lot getting them, but HRs love to tick things off lists so if you don’t have a degree certs can probably go along way.
It varies a lot but how far down that track you can go might constrained by your education. Not a rule of course. As a programmer and a sys analyst I worked with a lot of programmers, network admins, sys admins and other IT people who did not have degrees but now It would be rare for my peers to not have a degree and some have masters or multiples. That said, beyond programmer, all my promotions and new jobs were landed by reputation rather than education so perhaps it’s correlation more than causation.
If you are like a lot of IT types and are overly introverted and do not work well with others, don’t have business skills or any interest in working with the business side of things, then moving beyond programmer probably wouldn’t be a good career path anyway. But the harder time you have explaining to potential employers how awesome you are, something difficult for introverts, the more I think you need on your resume.
For myself, I don’t think I would have gotten as far as I have, but that has a lot to being a woman, and women in the field were rare when I began, and a meek timid girl before entering University, and still one although somewhat less so after graduating. (There are still very few women where I am currently, about a 10:1 ratio, but I’ve grown and fit in well.)
We’re doing some interviewing right now for some developers and the people who have a hard time getting a second chance for an interview are timid types. That is often the young women who act like girls, unable to bring out the interview Awesome that some guys can pull off without the experience just by entitlement and ego. And sometimes it is the nicer quieter guys who struggle to get their abilities showcased. If they look really good on paper with degrees and stuff they have a much better shot.
4+ years full time is a long time though! But personally I feel enriched and enlightened in many ways more than is required for my job so to me it was worth it.