I simply started working professionally well before starting my BSc, and all through my studies. My work paid for my BSc, then, back in England, I was lucky enough that my employer paid for my MSc and PhD.
My first payslip is from 1985 and I still have it. So yeah, I was indeed a bit off the mark. It is actually 36 years.
You are served: the amount of pastasciutta you have to eat has just increased.