HI BubbaSac.... I dont regreat getting my Degree... at the time thats what I wanted to do "draw and paint" and it has in my opion helped me in a lot of ways when it comes to my 3d studies. The biggest help with my formal training is being able to SEE, in other ways like understanding lines, form and delveloping my creativity.
Some times to do think what and where I be if i got hit with the 3d bug before the drawing bug.
As far as replacing the visual degree, I think I could have replaced it for me if I got interested in it earlier. Its really comes down to the individual... I see both sides, Great artists with formal training, artist that have none, and artsit who learnd on there own. As Mike said it really comes down to your work (PORTFOLIO)..... A degree might stop your resume from being tosted at the start, but you have to have work that shows exactly how good you are or can become with some guideness.
I sometimes wish now that I went into 3d right off the bat...I wouldn't have so much school debt now=)
The Academy will give you a lot of the skill sets you will need to break into the 3d market, but like any specialized field it takes a lot more work, time and determintion out side of school as well to break in.
Hope you have a good time on Sunday. If you see Steven Bowie, Valary Ibbett.. tell them Kurt said to say hi.
I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination, knowledge is limited, imagination encircles the world. (Albert Einstein)