In Australia, it was very easy to be employed as an Assistant to an established professional 20 years ago (I was one in the country) when all one had then was an out-of-school education or mentorship. Today assistants commonly have their own degree/post-graduate degree, in either a like or allied area of the arts or something different e.g. somebody with post-graduate qualifications in market research and analysis could be potentially very useful to a long established professional in seeking out a "route of least resistance" against the competition, and there is heaps and heaps of competition! I am aware of only one wedding photographer in a pool of professionals who employs an assistant who has more qualifications than the boss! Masters graduates also fall into the Assistant foot-in-the-door area but generally only for the duration of their Masters (3-4 years).
.::Gary Rowan Higgins
A comfort zone is a wonderful place. But nothing ever grows there.