Photography degree programs explore both the theoretical and artistic side of the medium. Learn about undergraduate and graduate degrees, topics of study, employment options and average salary information.
What Types of Photography Majors Are Available to Me?
If you're interested in a photography major, you might pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) or a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Photography. A BFA is generally considered the more rigorous, professionally focused degree; in this program, your main focus will be on photography courses. A B.A. usually offers a less robust core of photography courses, and is more applicable if you intend to pursue a double major or minor in another field. Most schools with photography majors offer only campus-based programs, though you can find online programs at some for-profit schools.
|Degree Types||Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Fine Arts|
|Common Courses||Black and white photography, art history, fine art, photojournalism, digital photography|
|Learning Environment||Traditional classroom and fully online programs are available|
|Possible Work Environments||Fashion, weddings, museums, journalism, entrepreneur|
|Advanced Degree Options||Master of Fine Arts|
|Median Annual Salary (May 2018)*||$34,000 (for Photographers)|
|Job Decline (2016-2026)*||6% (for Photographers)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
What Will I Study?
Throughout your program, you'll learn about the field of photography with regards to its history, artistic principles and current trends. Your coursework will help you explore lighting and editing techniques. You'll also study many forms of photography; these include black and white, digital and color photography. In some programs, you can specialize your studies in an area of professional or personal interest, such as photojournalism or fine art.
While you'll spend much of your time in the classroom, listening to lectures and studying photography, you'll also spend significant time outside of the classroom. In the field, you'll gain practical experience using different types of cameras and composing photographs. You'll also work in a traditional dark room, where you'll practice developing film. In a computer lab, you'll work with digital photo editing software. At the end of the program, you may be asked to compile a portfolio of your photography, which may be part of an exhibition of student work.
How Do Online Programs Work?
If you pursue a photography major online, you'll take similar courses to those you'd find in a campus-based program. You'll study the same aspects of photography, though you can complete your coursework on your own schedule and from the convenience of wherever you have high-speed Internet access. A key difference with online programs is that you'll need to own or borrow all of the equipment necessary for your study. This includes not only digital and film-based cameras, but lighting equipment and editing software as well.
What Can I Do with This Degree?
As a graduate with a photography major, you can work as an artist, selling your photographs and developing exhibitions of your work for museums and galleries. If your interest is in news and sports, you can become a photojournalist or news photographer. You may also find work as a fashion photographer, wedding photographer, portrait photographer or scientific photographer.
In many of these career fields, you may be self-employed, operating your own business or acting as an independent contractor. Alternatively, you may be employed by an organization, such as a magazine, which maintains multiple photographers on its staff. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more than 49,560 photographers were employed in 2018 (www.bls.gov). Though your annual earnings will vary significantly based on the type of work you do, the average earnings in the field for a salaried photographer was $34,000 in May 2018, per the BLS.
What Graduate Options Can I Pursue?
The most common graduate program in photography is a Master of Fine Arts (MFA), but a Master of Arts in Photography is also available. The MFA is typically considered a terminal degree and it allows you to teach photography at many colleges and universities. An MFA is also useful is you're interested in further refining your craft and experimenting with the art of photography. Outside of teaching careers, though, an MFA is typically not required for employment as a photographer.