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Best Online Bachelor's in Photography Degrees

A degree in photography can help individuals develop a portfolio and learn the technical and artistic skills necessary for a photography career. The content below details the online degree offerings for photography programs, as well as career possibilities and growth outlook for the field.

Online Colleges Offering Photography Degrees (Ranking List)

Online Photography Degree Overview

Photography degree programs are not generally available online, though there are some available. These programs can focus on traditional photography and/or digital photography. They are designed to prepare students for a future career as photographers, or as a stepping stone to pursue other jobs in art or design fields.

Online Associate Degrees in Photography

An online associate degree in photography can typically be completed in two years completely online. By cultivating both the artistic and business sides of the occupation, these programs aim to prepare students to succeed in a career as an independent freelance photographer. Many are also designed to work as transfer degrees as students continue their studies at the bachelor's level. Common coursework might cover the business of photography, fundamentals of lighting, design and color theory, and the history of photography.

Online Bachelor's Degrees in Photography

There are several photography programs across the country that can be done either completely online or as a hybrid. Both traditional and digital photography programs include foundational courses in art such as design, composition, and lighting. Online offerings can typically require around 120 credit hours. Some of the online bachelor's degrees offered in photography include:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Digital Photography
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art with a concentration in digital photography
  • Bachelor of Arts in Visual Communication with a concentration in photography
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art and Design with an emphasis in digital photography

Online Master's Degrees in Photography

Similar to on-campus programs, these online programs can be completed in two years, and are designed for students with a bachelor's degree in photography. A Master of Arts and a Master of Fine Arts in Photography are common degree types at this level. Most of these programs are hybrid, offering online courses with a required internship, lab experience, or culminating experience. Master's degree graduates in this field might pursue careers at media companies, news outlets, or 2-year colleges as professors.

Online Doctoral Degrees in Photography

While similar subject matter such as art history and art education is available at the Ph.D. level, photography is not typically offered as a full doctoral degree program. In the field of art, the doctoral degree level is intended for individuals who wish to teach in postsecondary institutions and/or to pursue research. Students with undergraduate/master's degrees in photography may have the background to potentially qualify for a doctoral degree program in the visual arts realm. These programs are usually not available fully online; most have in-person requirements like residencies and campus visits.

Online Certificates in Photography

Online programs offering a certificate in both digital and traditional photography can be done on either a full time or part time basis. Depending on the rigor of a student's schedule, programs like these can be completed in as few as four months, or as long as a year and a half. Most of these certificate programs require around five or six highly focused courses to be completed either completely online, or in a hybrid format.

Photography Specializations/Concentrations

While photography is sometimes offered as an emphasis within a bachelors degree program, a bachelors degree in photography or digital photography also offer their own concentrations. These might include:

  • Commercial photography: This concentration encompasses various types of photography such as still-life, portrait, advertising, and architecture to be utilized in various businesses or publications.
  • Documentary/photojournalism photography: Students learn to capture images that tell a story or inform audiences. These photographs are regularly published in journalistic publications like newspapers and magazines.
  • Fine art photography: This emphasis explores photography as an art form/medium, as well as a means of communication of an artist's ideas.

Curriculum/Coursework for a Photography Degree

A bachelor's in photography degree requires a certain number of course credits in general education studies in addition to degree-specific courses. Some courses common in photography degree programs are:

  • Digital photography: The focus of this course is on how to use a digital camera, photographic concepts, and basic digital image editing techniques.
  • History of art: These courses vary in terms of focus; some may cover European art, others American, and others may only cover a certain span of time such as ancient or Renaissance art.
  • History of photography: This subject covers the innovation and development of photography as an artistic medium.
  • Business of photography: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more than half of all photographers are self-employed, so some degree programs offer courses about the business side of photography, such as marketing and accounting.
  • Photo editing: Students learn how to use common photo editing programs such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.

How Long Does it Take to Get an Online Bachelor's in Photography?

Students can expect to complete an online Bachelor's in Photography degree in about four years if they're going full-time. This may change if a student has already completed general education requirements or an associate degree, and is transferring those credits to complete the degree program. Schools typically require a certain amount of program credits to be completed with the institution offering the degree, which means there are limits as to how many credits can be transferred. Taking summer classes or accelerated coursework can also help students finish a bachelor's degree faster.

Accreditation for Online Bachelor's in Photography Degrees

The goal of accrediting organizations is to maintain quality standards and guidelines for educational institutions and programs. Accreditation is offered at the national and regional levels, and is additionally offered for various types of programs. An example of a national accrediting agency is the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC), which offers accreditation for distance learning programs available at educational institutions within the United States. An example of a program-specific accrediting agency is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). The NASAD upholds national standards for art and design undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

A degree from an accredited school/program can be beneficial to students: federal financial aid is only available to students who attend an accredited program.

Photography Licensure & Certification

Licensure for photography is typically not needed, however, some jurisdictions require photography businesses to obtain a professional and/or business license. Some institutions offer a professional photographer certification. This type of certification is not a requirement but it can be helpful in demonstrating proficiency in the field to employers or clients.

One of the most popular and recognized certifications in this field is the Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) credential, which is offered by the Professional Photographers of America (PPA). Candidates for certification must announce their intention to be certified, pay a fee, take a certification exam and submit examples of their photography.

Photography Career Information

A degree in photography often leads to a career as a photographer. Individuals can also branch out to similar jobs within the same field of art and design. The job of photographer itself has diverse possibilities, namely in the types of photography that are available. Specific types of photography include:

  • Portrait
  • Commercial/Industrial
  • Aerial/Drone
  • Scientific
  • News/Photojournalism
  • Advertising
  • Documentary
  • Studio
  • Fine Arts
  • Architecture
  • Editorial
  • Fashion

All of these types of photographer jobs are combined together under the job title 'Photographer' in the chart below.

Job TitleMedian PayJob Outlook (2019-29)
Film & Video Editor/Camera Operator$59,81018% (high above average growth)
Photographer$36,280-4% (decline)
Art Director$94,220-2% (decline)
Multimedia Artist/Animator$75,2704% (average growth)
Graphic Designer$52,110-4% (decline)

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

How to Become a Photographer

The path to a job as a photographer may be different for each person depending on the type of photography job being sought. Certain types of photographers (such as portrait) may not require a postsecondary degree, though others (such as photojournalism and scientific) will most likely need to have a bachelor's degree in photography and/or the field related to the desired industry. Entrepreneurial and freelance photographers may find a degree with classes in business and marketing helpful in building a photography business.

How to Become an Art Director

The position of art director typically requires several years of experience in an artistic field. Art directors may have previously worked as a graphic artist or photographer, and most likely hold a Bachelor of Arts or Fine Arts degree. Some individuals seeking the job may earn a masters degree in addition to their bachelor's degree, work experience, and portfolio. Skills such as creativity and innovation, as well as strong leadership abilities, are important qualities for an art director since a large part of their job involves developing new ideas and leading a team of artists.

Financial Aid and Scholarship Information for Photography Degrees

Students are encouraged to fill out a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to determine if he or she is eligible for financial aid like federal grants, which do not need to be repaid.

Another option is a fixed-interest-rate loan. Subsidized loans must be paid back after the student leaves college. With unsubsidized loans, students are required to start making payments immediately. Another option for students is to apply to grants and/or scholarships that are offered either through their school, or through a business/organization. Examples of these include the Children of Fallen Heroes Scholarship, Phi Theta Kappa Transfer Scholarship, Online and Continuing Education Scholarship, and Veterans Scholarship. Most scholarships are need- or merit-based, and many require a minimum GPA, an essay and/or letters of recommendation.