A friend who's a highly successful Advertising & Commercial photographer began by assisting for a Summer before doing his degree, chose the right course/University very carefully which allowed for placement with a top London photographer for a few months.

He then made sure he learnt all the skills he already knew he needed. Within 2-3 years of his degree he was shooting for major International clients, covering the Le Mans 24 hr race for a sponsor, photographing their calendar in exotic locations etc.

As everyone one else says education is important, but one that allows work experience is going to fast track you in the right direction.