As a former musician, I'd say that there are enormous similarities between the two fields. (talking about music as a career, not as a rock star)
In music, for instance, there is studio and commercial work and there is art/live gigs and so on. The problem is that one sucks your soul dry and the other pays next to nothing. It's a very very hard way to make a living, as either you are a studio musician or have a permanent gig, or you are scraping around for change to keep the power on and working 60-70 hours a week in nasty smoke filled environments. And the gear also is very pricey as well - comparable to cameras, in fact. The DIYer can get by with less equipment, but the studio musician needs a full setup.
Now replace studio musician with studio photographer and gig with art for photography. Maybe you are one of the lucky few who are employed by a newspaper or whatever, but many just job out the stuff or pay one of the news feeds and recycle shots. Like music, it is an enormous field. Always something to do. But most of it pays very little.
I'd take a class first or at least just get a simple camera. It takes years to get good shots and skills down, and you need a simple and direct tool, IMO, to get started on. I'd personally recommend something simple and film, and start with the class until you decide to get started. There are tons of nearly new film cameras for sale from people who took photography classes and gave up on it as well - so your total starting money shouldn't be more than a couple of hundred dollars. If you gravitate towards sports and action, an old Canon AE1 or similar would be an ideal starting point(shutter priority). Me - I was more into scenery, so an aperture priority model was ideal.(Minolta in my case)
You can get these for next to nothing as well, used or new old stock.http://www.pbase.com/image/68430093
Film works fine, really. This is not my photo, but is shot on a 20+ year old SLR with film.
Me? I like medium format black and white film. If you're serious, this is a very good place to start as well - just get an old camera (I have an old purely manual Rollei) and a light meter. Develop the film yourself. This gives you quick and easy (and cheap) results as well as skills to really understand optics, light, exposure, and so on - and how to correct for them as well. Black and white is simpler but it's also extremely "honest" in how it deals with subject matter and lighting, so it forces what I think are good skills upon you. http://www.betterphoto.com/gallery/dynoGal...er=6&camID=
Again, not my photo, but a great example of what black and white does for impact and subject matter.
Oh - yes, I also have a DSLR(Sigma SD14 now - having fun with it!) and a pocket camera and a range finder. But the pocket digicam gets 80% of the use for family and trip photos. The rest/actual real "work" is almost entirely the Rollei and black and white film.
P.S. This is the type I have - these can be found fairly inexpensively as well(well, under $1000 if you shop around - not "dirt cheap" but not silly money, either.)http://www.sl66.com/
The Hasselblad 500C is also a good choice.
And then there are the various range finders and so on - those are even less money. My first camera, in fact, was an old ~1970 or so Rolleicord TLR. It took gorgeous pictures despite fairly average optics. I didn't even pay $100 for it, IIRC.