My undergrad degree was BA in International Relations. I got out of school and drove for UPS, Managed Apartments, Worked 2 jobs - switchboard for a hospital and custom audio/video installation.
The hospital job got me a break into IT - I talked Geek talk to the Computer guy when he came out at night to restart batch jobs on the old system. When the hospital got a new system, I taught myself as much as I had access to and then started writing how to's because I was bored (night shift) and I didn't like people calling me for something when they could just look it up for themselves!
So, about '95 I started as a "computer operator" with no experience or certs for $8/hr. I got my CNA and after about a year or two got bumped to $10/hr and got changed to salary because I was working too much over time.
After 3 yrs there (and being promoted to "Network Administrator") - in a 4 person shop - I got a new job at another hospital for $42k. I taught myself MCSE (NT) and CCNA (book studying and a little hands on) and got bumped to $52k in '00. I took my current position, as Network Engineer, in '01 for $60k + .
Since I've been here, I have gotten NNCSS and A+ but haven't seen any more $$ because of "current economic conditions"
. At least the company is paying in full for my MBA in Technology Management. It's my goal to move into management for the near term and possibly have my own company - like Drupy - or become a CIO eventually.
So, I would say, yes certs are worth it - if not in your current job then at least for getting your next job. And if you're company won't pay - life is what you make of it. You are the captain of your destiny. You have to look out for number 1, blah blah blah.