it's a difficult industry to get into because most of the jobs are really good and there's more bartenders that need jobs than jobs for bartenders. i recommend bartending school if you can spare the cash. it also happens to be the type of profession you can get jobs on the spot overseas in some of the backpacker towns... incredibly useful skill if you're traveling.
Yeah I feel that...
I'd hate to have to spend more money on school but it sounds like that's the only way to really get a good bartending gig.
I worked at Starbucks for 3 years and my manager said that it looks really good on a resume for bartenders. I know Starbucks isn't the same as bar school but I worked my ass off there and became a master of serving people's drinks to them and very good with remembering tons of different techniques and combinations of beverages.
Like you said, I just think it would be a great profession to have under my belt.