I have an undergrad in Photography....its about worth as much as the paper its printed on. Everything that I know about how to make a living as a photographer I have learned through working for and with other photographers. 90% of everything that I have picked up was not in a class room. And some of that was just because of a passion for the medium and wanting to know more about it.
I am going back to grad school this fall- I want to teach and earn some semblance of retirement and health insurance when all is said and done-- I've given up the dream of building a dream business....but I have learned:
--Take business courses and work for other photographers. Learn to work with and for people you dont like- the world is full of them and it makes working with the people that you do like that much better to work with.
--Learn marketable skills as a photographer- Learn copy work, a general knowledge of how weddings work, some product photography, portraiture, headshots/model photos and how to light EVERYTHING!! Being specialized is GREAT, you can charge more and you can be highly elite in the field, but being able to pay the bills as a general practitioner in the medium is a better for your health and mortgage!
--While you are an assistant make connections.
--Dont rely on photography when you are starting out to answer your money woes-
The more money you put into marketing, promos, mailers, advertising, charity and community events, fund raisers...blah blah blah...the more you will get out of it. But....it all takes money on your end. Money that you may not have when you are just starting out and the car insurance is due in a week, or whatever it may be. Have a SECOND job...yeah sounds like hard work having two jobs....but life wasnt designed to be easy!
Starting a small business is a hard job- the research, odd jobs, assisting/apprenticing that you do while you are just starting out is crucial to securing a marketable skill set in a hard economy.
If you start busting ass now...you will be better prepared that most of you peers when you get out of college.
All the best,