What Education Do You Need to Become a Photographer?
While an eye for detail is necessary for a career in photography, many positions also require photographers to hold at least bachelor's degrees in photography. Colleges and universities also offer graduate degree programs in photography geared toward students looking to advance their skills or teach at the college level.
Photographer Education Requirements
While some photographers lead successful careers with only experience and skill, many photographers pursue formal career training through undergraduate degree programs. This is especially true for those in specialties such as industrial photography, photojournalism or scientific photography. Even photographers specializing in freelance and portrait photography often gain technical expertise through college degree programs.
Undergraduate degree programs in photography and related fields may be available at art schools, colleges and universities. Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography programs generally focus on hands-on instruction in the technical and creative aspects of the visual art. Courses may include photography techniques, studio lighting, color theory, graphic design, digital photography and artwork critique.
Upper-division courses may include studio classes in which students use advanced techniques including lighting and digital photography. These courses typically allow students to experiment with their photographic skills. Many photography degree programs culminate in a senior project. These projects help students to build their portfolios and transition to a career as a professional photographer.
Photographers interested in further developing their skills and advancing their careers may consider earning master's degrees. Some colleges and universities offer Master of Fine Arts in Photography programs, which typically take 2-3 years to complete. Studio courses and independent study are the backbone of such degree programs. Students utilize their advanced knowledge of photography to complete various projects while pushing the boundaries of their creative abilities.
Students generally develop their own curricula according to areas of interest and complete visual and written thesis projects based on their graduate studies. Thesis projects may be displayed in university exhibitions. Completion of master's degree programs in photography may qualify graduates for teaching positions at community colleges and some 4-year colleges. Some programs prepare students for careers in postsecondary education by incorporating teaching courses.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
As of May 2012, the annual median salary for photographers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), was $28,490. Overall, employment of photographers from 2010-2020 is expected to increase by 13%, with somewhat higher growth of 15% for self-employed photographers, per the BLS.
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