There is no such thing as "best way", different paths offer different opportunities. A degree is quickly becoming an unofficial requirement and you'd be silly not to get one if you're starting out. I'd recommend diversifying a bit and study something outside of aviation, wouldn't want all your eggs in one basket.
Salary range in this industry is very large. But strictly looking at the major regionals and then major airlines, you're looking at; 35-45K as a regional FO, 65-80k for Regional Captain, 55-80k major FO and 120-200 major Captain.
Those are rough figures to start. As time goes by and you build some tenure, your salary will also increase to the tune of north of 300K at some of the majors (depending on equipment, profit share, OT, etc.).
Times are good at the moment and movement has never been quicker. There are people having to decide if they want a 737 job at SW or a dash/CRJ at Jazz, right out of school. But this will certainly not last forever, when it will end is anyones guess. Anybody that gives you an explanation of why it will all come crashing next year or why it will last another 10 is full of shit and are generally just trying to calm their own insecurities.
That being said, airline flying is not the end all be all. There is a whole world of different types of flying that you may end up preferring along the way. But should you still want to be an airline pilot by the time you're ready, then get in as soon as you can. Seniority is everything in this racket and will make or break your experience.