How Much Training Is Necessary for a Career in Photography?

If you're interested in becoming a professional photographer, you might be surprised to find that you don't need a photography degree to start your career. However, formal photography training could help you make the most of your abilities. Schools offering Photography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, notes that a college degree in photography usually is required for those seeking salaried positions in the field. This includes jobs in photojournalism or industrial or scientific photography. However, most photographers are self-employed and may be able to rely on talent and experience, in lieu of a formal degree.

Important Facts about this Occupation

Median Pay (2014)$30,490
Job Outlook (2014-2024)3% growth in employment (slower than average)
Key SkillsArtistic ability, business savvy, computer skills, customer service skills, ability to pay attention to details, ability to work with other people
Similar OccupationsFashion Designers, Desktop Publishers, Film and Video Editors, Camera Operators, Graphic Designers, Printing Workers

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Formal Education

Bachelor's and associate's degree and certificate programs in photography are widely available throughout the United States. Students in these programs study such topics as color and black-and-white techniques, computer imaging, studio lighting, and portraiture. They also can gain valuable experience through photography internships. Graduate programs in photography are available, but are less prevalent than undergraduate programs.


Becoming a photographer requires more than the ability to take good pictures. From securing copyrights to licensing photographs to others, the business side of photography is as important as the creative side. A formal education in photography can help beginning photographers learn what happens after their pictures are taken. Photography students also learn to effectively promote themselves, edit their work using programs such as Adobe Photoshop, and create winning portfolios.


Photography professionals seeking a competitive edge may pursue certification from the Professional Photographers of America ( To earn the title of certified professional photographer (CPP), one must pass a technical exam and have his or her work reviewed by a panel of photographers. In the five-year interval leading to recertification, CPPs must amass continuing education credits and submit additional images for critique.

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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