Here I am 65 years old and I still only have a BS degree. I am still working and am much respected and needed at my job but am often asked about advanced degrees.
I was bored at work early in my career and was thinking about Grad School. An opportunity came up and Grad School moved to the back burner.
Many, many years later the idea of Grad School came up again, this time maybe an MBA. I was a candidate for a Senior Manager job. Instead, I was enrolled in the Company’s Program Manager Program, and I got my Program Manager Certificate.
The education I received working was much better than what I could have received if I left work and went back to school or tried to work and go to school at the same time.
Before I was being considered for the Senior Manager position, I was leading Independent Research and Development projects. I was leading a team that had a $1M per year budget. I was learning from people senior to me and from the team assigned to me. They were doing research that was certainly at the PHD level. They published papers (I got author credit) that were presented major conferences and were publish by the AIAA. While I don’t have a degree to prove it, my boss often called me Doctor Knowles :-)
I am still leading research that I think is PHD level but my proteges are not going to get degree credit and the work will likely not be published because it is going to be trade secrets or proprietary. I am pushing my leadership to let our researchers publish with certain material kept secret, but we will see.
You don’t need a degree if you can demonstrate your knowledge. Yes, being published does help. Do research and write it up.