Let me tell you the story of a man I know -- a high school dropout at 16. Landing a job in construction, no job skills to speak of, he took every moment and opportunity to learn and to do. By 18, he had a well-rounded set of construction skills and earned his GED. Over the next five years, he developed his skills into that of a craftsman, a mason, a carpenter.  
At 24, he landed a job in a restoration company as a carpenter. He was dependable and solid, his company t-shirt was pressed, tucked in, and he stood out as a professional. Within a year, he was promoted to team leader. As a team leader he focused on honing his customer service skills, communication abilities, and aggressively seizing every chance to learn the restoration sciences. He did not just execute a scope of work; he understood how it was written. His performance was consistently excellent in the following years. Customer service, quality and efficiency were his signature to job results.
He was promoted to project manager at the age of 27. Now his tool was a computer. One could assume a high school dropout who spent his career up to this point in the field (his work tools were saws, hammers, dehumidifiers), would naturally struggle to become proficient on a computer, operating estimating packages, and employing the variety of software packages necessary to perform his new job duties.
Think again… He did not just perform; he met or exceeded all best practices. His accuracy, honesty, knowledge, follow-through and consistency were quickly appreciated by adjusters, customers and all those he served. By 29, he was promoted to senior project manager. He understands and contributes to the operations by having a high level of organizational awareness. 
Today at 36, manages a department of seven that handles over $8 million in jobs per year. He trains new project managers and runs a department that produces high level results. Nobody has ever asked about his degrees, nobody has ever noticed he has a GED.  He is a Master Water, Fire and Smoke and Textile Restorer and has a variety of other designations and credentials. He is a true professional who consistently meets and exceeds the expectations of those he serves and his company, and is highly respected by his 50 co-workers. 
He demands excellence and brings out the best in others.  
The story of this high school dropout is not an endorsement of taking this track. Formal education at all levels and disciplines should be highly valued for a variety of reasons and statistically correlated with earning potential. Many white collar professionals with a variety of degrees enter this field for the satisfaction of being able to serve and help others in a tangible and meaningful way. Once one starts a career in restoration, reconstruction and/or cleaning, it is no longer about your degree or your experiences. It is what you do in every moment that counts, with every opportunity. It is about discipline, consistency and attitude.  
You must respect the profession and understand you have to pay your dues; you have to work for it. It is there for all to seize. High school dropouts, veterans, college graduates: this industry does not discriminate. The tools are there, the jobs are there, you may have to work in sewage, soot and work 70 hours during a busy week, but it all comes back to discipline, consistency and attitude.
You can view your career as a dead end job, that is hard, dirty and unappreciated work, or you can look at it as a career that allows you to serve others and have a profound impact on the lives of others. A career filled with opportunity to learn, grow and develop.  
Aggressively seek knowledge, training and skills. Not just technical expertise, soft skills are also critical. Communication and leadership skills will serve you well. Owners, managers, and supervisors should inspire and present the tools and opportunities for greatness to flourish.
Be proud of what you do and the path you took to a successful career in the restoration, reconstruction and cleaning industry, no matter your background, level of education, or knowledge. Truly, the sky’s the limit.