Professional Photography Associate Degree

Learn about an associate's degree in photography and the career paths it can lead to. Get program overviews, and see how you can benefit from this degree. Online learning opportunities are also discussed below. Schools offering Photography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Why Do I Need an Associate's Degree in Professional Photography?

A professional photography associate's degree program isn't just for someone who loves to take pictures and wants to learn how to take better ones; these degree programs are geared toward people who also want to make a living from photography. These programs focus on both the artistic and business side of photography, so that when the time comes, you can be prepared to go into business for yourself or contribute to the successful operation of your employer's business.

While creativity and experience are important for gaining employment as a photographer, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) emphasizes the importance of technical training. A college degree is typically required for employment as a photojournalist or in industrial and scientific photography, and many freelance and portrait photographers receive formal education.

Common Courses Digital processing, lighting techniques, design, portraiture, portfolio building
Other Requirements Internships may be available
Online Availability Online programs are rarely available
Possible Careers Freelance photographer, newspaper or magazine photographer, advertising agent, photography studio assistant
Median Annual Wage (May 2018)*$34,000
Job Decline (2016-2026)* 6%

*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Can I Expect From the Program?

Associate's degrees in professional photography typically consist of 60-90 college credits, depending on the school, and will likely take you two years to complete. These programs equip students with the technical, composition and business skills necessary for the profession. You can expect to learn through a combination of classroom lectures and laboratory instruction. Curricula may include classes in portraiture, product and commercial photography, flash equipment, digital processing and ambient lighting. You might also take courses in design, portfolio building, business writing and human relations.

During college, you may have the opportunity to complete an internship at a school-partnered photography studio or in the photo department of a commercial business or agency. Internships allow you hands-on experience in the field as well as the chance to accumulate work samples.

What Are the Online Learning Options?

Because of the hands-on learning required for associate's degrees in professional photography, online degree programs are rare. Those that do exist may be conducted through a combination of video demonstrations and live discussion rooms. You'll submit completed photography assignments by uploading them to the Web. Specialized software may be required. The Professional Photographers of America (PPA) is a non-profit organization that offers its members access to a variety of online professional development courses and webinars.

What Are the Career Opportunities?

According to the BLS, a college degree in photography may qualify you for entry-level work as an assistant at a portrait or commercial photography studio. You might also find employment with a newspaper, magazine or advertising agency. Government agencies also hire photographers. In addition, Internet versions of print publications or publications that exist solely online may be viable sources of employment.

The BLS states that employment for photographers was projected to decline by 6% from 2016-2026. Job growth may be hindered by the increase in availability and decrease in cost of digital equipment, which enables amateurs to do the jobs that professionals once fulfilled. In May 2018, the BLS determined the median annual wage for photographers to be $34,000. Because many freelancers purchase their own equipment and pay their own business expenses, salaried photographers typically earn more than freelancers.

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:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  • Southwestern College

    Campus Locations:

    • California: Chula Vista
  • Rochester Institute of Technology

    Campus Locations:

    • New York: Rochester
  • Oklahoma State University

    Campus Locations:

    • Oklahoma: Okmulgee
  • Pellissippi State Technical Community College

    Campus Locations:

    • Tennessee: Knoxville
  • West Valley College

    Campus Locations:

    • California: Saratoga
  • Washtenaw Community College

    Campus Locations:

    • Michigan: Ann Arbor
  • Ventura College

    Campus Locations:

    • California: Ventura
  • University of Maine at Augusta

    Campus Locations:

    • Maine: Augusta
  • Thomas Nelson Community College

    Campus Locations:

    • Virginia: Hampton
  • The Art Institute of Charlotte

    Campus Locations:

    • North Carolina: Charlotte