|education, however you come by it, is a good and necessary thing. there are pros and cons to all your options; what you have to do is find a path that fits your personality and your pocketbook. start budgeting now for the ride of a lifetime. not only will you need equipment, you'll have to learn how to use it, as well as how to run your business.
making a successful go at it as a professional photographer is no different than making it as a cake baker, lawyer, car salesman, or musician. it takes much more than being able to do the work (ie, bake the cake, take the picture). you have to be able to handle sales, and you have to be able to handle the administrative tasks. if you can't make sales or handle the paperwork, you won't make it. simple as that.
you'll find barnes & nobles to be a valuable resource, as well.