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Associate Programs
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Photographic Technology Associate Degree

Discover what you'll learn in an associate's degree program in photographic technology. Learn average salaries and employment outlook for photographers as well as career options.

Why Should I Pursue a Photography Technology Associate's Degree?

Experience may ultimately be the best teacher, but in order to be successful in the field of photography, it may not be enough. While being creative and having a strong imagination are a good start, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employers are looking for people who have a good technical understanding of photography.

The most straightforward way for you to gain technical knowledge is through a formal degree program. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) lists over 100 community colleges and post-secondary technical schools that offer programs that can lead to an appropriate associate's degree.

Common Courses Photography techniques, digital photo imaging, lighting techniques, commercial photography, portraiture
Other Requirements Internships or work-study programs may be available
Possible Careers Freelance photographer, photography assistant, newspaper or magazine photographer
Median Salary (2020)$41,280 (Photographers)
Career Outlook (2019-2029) 4% decline (Photographers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Can I Look Forward to in a Program?

It generally takes about two years to complete a program consisting of 64-70 credits. Depending on the school, you can earn an Associate of Applied Science degree in photographic technology or photography. You generally receive instruction in traditional photographic technology as well as digital photographic technology.

Typical courses you might encounter include black and white and color photography techniques, darkroom techniques, studio technology, digital photo imaging, photography lighting, portraiture, photojournalism and commercial photography. Most core courses entail a good deal of practical lab work.

Through the use of electives, you may be able to specialize in a specific area such as portraiture, nature photography and scientific or industrial photography. In addition, you may have the opportunity to complete an internship or work-study program at a school-partnered, independent facility.

Because of the large amount of lab work required, online programs in photography technology are extremely rare. You may have to complete lab sections in a live setting. There may be specialized software or hardware requirements, by which you attend labs via the Internet.

What Are Some Options Once I Graduate?

Once you graduate, you may decide to set up shop as a freelance photographer. As such, you may spend a great deal of time marketing your services to a prospective clientele. You may contact a stock-photo agency and license the use of your photographs to them. Another career track you might take is to secure a position as an assistant to an established freelance photographer. You may also apply for an entry-level photography position with a news agency, magazine, processing laboratory, school or business.

Conversely, you might decide to further your education before you enter the workforce. Many schools have articulation agreements with one or more 4-year institutions. Some or all of the credits you earn in your associate's degree program may transfer toward a bachelor's degree program.

There are no legal requirements for you to be licensed or certified as a photographer. However, certification may increase your marketability and testify to your competence. Organizations such as the Professional Photographers of America offer certification designations. You can earn certification by sitting for an examination administered this organization.

What About Employment and Wage Projections?

The BLS has projected that employment opportunities for photographers will decrease by 4% from 2019-2029. The increase may be partially explained by the growing demand for portraiture as the population expands. In addition, with the Internet being used more for marketing purposes, there may be more of a demand for professional quality photography for websites.

In 2020, the BLS determined the median wage for photographers as $41,280.