One answer: Military (for experience) assuming you can get your specialty written in the contract when you join. When I went in, I gave an extra year (5 instead of 4) to get my Radioman A school guarantee- they wouldn't guarantee I would stay in my rate, but I did and I returned to Civilian with lots of on the job training and "better looking" than before. Couldn't have gotten all I did anywhere else. Would I go in today? No. Did I regret my 5 years? Not even when I was away from my family and it "hurt" so bad. Am I better off than I was? Definitely. Am I rich? No. Am I "wealthy" with knowledge? More than I ever imagined. Constant certifications and schools afterward - never stop. As far as projects; the ones that would substitute are probably not legal or dangerous at best. School would be so expensive I would go after tech bootcamps and certifications like Ethical Hacker, all COMPTIA and as many Microsoft, Unix/Linux and networking as possible. Always too many requirements humanly possibleon the "we want"... lists from employers; mostly due to post-military competition.