Cinematography Majors: Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become a cinematography major. Learn about the duties of this job, the education requirements and the salary range to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Digital Cinematography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Careers Are Available With a Cinematography Degree?

Movies, television shows, commercials, music videos, internet films all need someone behind a camera. All the greats have been to school to learn proper techniques, the power of the lens, how to use the camera as an extension of the writer or director. These artists have studied in the classroom, with teachers who have the experience and from the works of award winning cinematographers.

Cinematographers operate cameras primarily for films, but also for video and broadcast productions. The following chart provides an overview of the education, job outlook and average salary in this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Film, broadcast production, communication, photography
Key Responsibilities Operate cameras for film, video or television; capture shots specified by the director
Job Growth (2014-2024) 11% for all camera operators for TV, film and video*
Average Salary (2015) $59,360 for all camera operators for TV, film and video*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Jobs Could I Pursue as a Cinematography Major?

As a cinematographer, you'll work as a camera operator in the entertainment industry. While most cinematographers work on motion pictures, some work in television, commercials or corporate videos. It will be your responsibility to ensure that the camera captures the images the director is seeking. This will require strong communication skills and the ability to interpret artistic direction. In addition, you'll need to have a strong understanding of lighting, lens use and color.

You may be required to work with a variety of camera set-ups. For example, some shots employ stationary, mounted cameras, while others use cameras mounted on cranes or tracks. In other situations, you may use hand-held cameras or stabilizers, to which cameras are mounted by harness to your shoulders. Stabilizers allow you to move at ground-level with the action while maintaining a focused shot. Additionally, you may work with traditional film-based camera or more modern digital cameras.

What Might I Earn?

You can find the latest salary information for cinematographers on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) website, included with the overall data for camera operators working in film, television and video production (www.bls.gov). As of May 2015, the BLS reported an average hourly wage of $28.54, which corresponds to an annual average salary of $59,360.

You'll find the most job opportunities in cinematography in California, where 5,110 camera operators were employed in 2015. New York had the second most, followed by Texas, Florida, and Illinois. New York was the highest paying state, with an annual mean wage of $87,280 as of May 2015.

What Types of Bachelor's Degree Programs Are Available?

If you're looking to earn a bachelor's degree, consider pursuing a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Fine Arts degree that includes coursework in cinematography. The most common programs are those in film or film and television production, which are often found at art-focused schools or at the theater and film departments of universities. In some cases, you'll be able to major in film while completing a minor in cinematography, though you'll typically study cinematography to some extent regardless of your minor options.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Alternative careers could keep you behind the camera by working as a broadcast and sound technicians running booms or other sound equipment. Editing, animation, direction or production are all excellent related fields. You could put together film, video or digital works. If you have an artistic flair you could work in animation art or possibly cartooning. Directors work with cameramen behind the camera and with the talent in front. Producers take care of sets, hiring experts like makeup artists or special effects wizards. All of these careers start with bachelor degrees.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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