It really varies. Sometimes the value varies. In fact, what is most valuable is a detail that can vary. So there's no single universal answer that is right for all cases. (In some cases, one answer is right. In other cases, that same answer is wrong and a different answer is right instead.) I will explain why I reach this conclusion.
- Some people are more impressed with degrees from formal college programs, including being able to handle a variety of tasks like computers, language, and Math. It can show the ability to complete college, which may represent modern challenges similar to what has been traditionally valued. It may also indicate well-roundedness, and endurance with less liked subjects.
- Some people are more impressed with certifications, which show specific skillsets from certain industries. This may show an ability to focus and accomplish, including some hands-on skills (depending on the certification).
- Some people are more impressed with stories of hands-on experience. Such skills may indicate having a stronger sense of the "big picture" of how businesses operate.
So, if you're trying to get a job, which of these approaches works out best for you?
The correct answer is: whatever impresses the person that you're trying to get the job from. Unfortunately, there are different opinions, and in most cases you may not have a very good idea of how much a person values each of these different approaches... until you get to know the person. However, until you get to work alongside them, you may not have much opportunity to get to know their individual attitudes.
Once you're hired, promotions might be made by different staff, who may have their own different values on which qualities they care about most.
Getting a degree is generally a great thing, because degrees tend not to expire. In most employers' minds, they aren't a negative thing. The "standard" amount of education has risen: centuries ago, a 6th grade education may have been considered decent. In the 1980s to early 1990s, a high school education was a good standard for many people. Nowadays, an Associates Degree is preferred for many relatively simple positions, and even a Bachelor's Degree doesn't count as much as it used to. So this indicates a trend that the value of a particular degree may be less impressive to society over time. Still, having a bachelor's degree is more valuable than not having any college, so getting a degree is nice so you don't need to obtain that same degree later.
As for certifications, this is industry-specific. Referring to the IT industry, I can say that some of them expire, so they are worth a whole lot less after they expire. Still, learning the required material can be quite useful. If you're going to get a degree, many college programs teach the material for these certifications anyway, which may be a benefit to going to college instead of avoiding college. (That way you also make progress on getting the college degree.)
As for hands-on experience, your best bet is if you work with numbers, so you can then tell people later about how you raised revenue by 15% or whatever specific details you can do. If you don't get to see the numbers because you're not part of management, then a lot of people will just pay attention to your lump sum detailing how many years you've worked. Stories may be very valuable, or not, depending on your audience.
I hope this overview explains why there isn't a correct clear-cut answer that is correct in all cases. As a generalization (recap), the more good things you have going in your favor, the better. It is better to have degrees than to not have them. It is better to have formal certifications than to not have them. How much an individual degree or certification is worth will vary among different audiences you may contact.