Education Needed for a Photography Career

Photographers work in industries like portrait photography, journalism, advertising and science. Because many photographers prefer to be self-employed, only a small number hold salaried positions. A fine arts undergraduate degree in photography is the most common degree sought after as a career entry point.

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Education Needed to Become a Photographer

An undergraduate fine arts degree program in photography is different from a standard arts degree because it emphasizes studio work and the completion of a final project. Applicants to such bachelor's degree programs in photography should have strong artistic sensibilities and be able to grasp technical concepts and techniques.

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography (BFA)

A Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography program is studio intensive and challenges students to master photographic principles and develop distinct styles. Many fine arts programs allow students to choose a major area of study. Some possible concentration areas include commercial photography, fine arts photography and biomedical photography; however, most BFA programs in photography focus solely on the area of fine arts. Some key topics covered in a photography curriculum include photographic practices, color digital photography, large format photography and documentary photography.

Many of these classes require that students spend a significant amount of time taking pictures in the field and gaining experience with photographic equipment, such as tripods, lighting equipment and meters. During the final year of the photography program, each student develops a portfolio of work on a particular subject of interest, working closely with their advisers to develop a theme that is closely mirrored in the work. Graduates can use these portfolios to demonstrate professional competency to future employers. It is not uncommon for a student's final project to be exhibited at a university's museum.

Optional Certification

The Professional Photography Certification Commission offers the Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) designation. Those interested in certification must declare their candidacy by filling out an application and paying a fee. Then, candidates must take the CPP examination. The exam covers technical topics in lighting, color and exposure. Finally, candidates must submit photographic images for review. Benefits of the CPP designation include proof of professional competency to potential clients and a listing in the photographer referral service offered through the Professional Photography Certification Commission.

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Top Schools for Photography

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  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    School locations:
    • Online Learning
    • Colorado (1 campus)

    Online and Classroom-Based Programs

    • Bachelor
        • BFA in Commercial Photography (Online)
        • BFA in Undeclared
        • BFA - Fine Art
        • BFA in Art Education

    What is your highest level of education?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    School locations:
    • Online Learning
    • Florida (1 campus)

    What is your highest level of education?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    What is your highest level of education?

Other Schools:

  • School locations:
    • Florida (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Miami include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Design and Applied Arts
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
      • Photography, Film, and Video
        • Cinematography and Film Production
        • Film and Cinema Studies
        • Photography
  • School locations:
    • New York (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Syracuse University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Certificate
      • Post Degree Certificate: Post Master's Certificate, Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Design and Applied Arts
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
      • Photography, Film, and Video
        • Cinematography and Film Production
        • Photography
  • School locations:
    • New York (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at New York University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Certificate
      • Post Degree Certificate: First Professional Certificate, Post Master's Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Dance
      • Design and Applied Arts
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
      • Photography, Film, and Video
        • Cinematography and Film Production
        • Photography
  • School locations:
    • Pennsylvania (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Temple University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: First Professional Certificate, Post Master's Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Dance
      • Design and Applied Arts
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
      • Photography, Film, and Video
        • Film and Cinema Studies
        • Photography
  • School locations:
    • Columbia (D.C.) (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at George Washington University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Certificate, Coursework
      • Post Degree Certificate: Post Master's Certificate, Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Dance
      • Design and Applied Arts
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
      • Photography, Film, and Video
        • Photography
  • School locations:
    • Oregon (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Oregon include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Dance
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
      • Photography, Film, and Video
        • Film and Cinema Studies
        • Photography
  • School locations:
    • Ohio (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Dayton include:
      • Graduate: First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Design and Applied Arts
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
      • Photography, Film, and Video
        • Photography

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