If you want to perform research at the highest level, a PhD is essential. The process of obtaining a PhD centers around doing research, while obtaining a BS or MS degree will consist primarily or entirely of coursework. Leading a research group, as most professors do, requires a PhD.
Having said that, there are also roles for BS and MS holders in research, especially in industry. These roles may not have as much research or as advanced as academic positions, but can also be a better fit for many people.
If possible, you may want to seek out a professor in your university and ask if you can work part time in their lab. This will help you get a taste of what research is like. You can also meet some PhD students and ask them about their research. Be advised, they may be a bit jaded, as obtaining a PhD is hard work, but generally PhD students love doing science.