Although postsecondary training is not required to begin a career as a photographer, a master's degree in photography will lead to more opportunities in this competitive field. Some careers those with a master's degree in photography may consider include working as a commercial photographer, portrait photographer, or postsecondary photography teacher.
In general, there's no specific level of education required to become a professional photographer. However, completing a master's degree program in photography could help aspiring photographers develop the technical proficiency and creativity they need to succeed in the field. These programs also can introduce students to new aesthetics and technology, build their communication skills and teach them to perform research related to the photographic arts.
|Career Titles||Photography Professor||Commercial Photography||Fine Arts Photographer||News Photographer||Portrait Photographer||Scientific Photographer|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||11% (postsecondary art, drama and music teachers)||3% (all photographers)||3% (all photographers)||3% (all photographers)||3% (all photographers)||3% (all photographers)|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$65,340 (postsecondary art, drama and music teachers)||$31,710 (all photographers)||$31,710 (all photographers)||$31,710 (all photographers)||$31,710 (all photographers)||$31,710 (all photographers)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Many MFA in Photography graduates go on to work in postsecondary education. However, some graduates choose careers as working artists and exhibitors, and others enter the corporate world. The latter might find advanced positions in commercial or industrial, news, portrait or scientific photography.
With a master's degree in photography, graduates generally can work as adjunct or part-time professors at colleges or universities. Additionally, some schools might offer MFA graduates full-time, tenure-track positions. Professorships usually require some level of previous teaching experience.
Commercial or Industrial Photographer
These photographers take pictures of artifacts, buildings, landscapes and equipment. Graduates of MFA programs typically have strong skills in lighting, production and various methods of printing that might benefit them in this career.
Fine Arts Photographer
Fine arts photographers, who sell or exhibit their photos as artwork, might choose to complete a master's program to gain awareness of the business side of fine arts photography, as well as to learn more about aesthetics. An MFA program also might help aspiring fine arts photographers to develop a creative portfolio of work.
News photographers, also known as photojournalists, photograph individuals or events that are considered newsworthy. Master's in photography recipients often have completed an internship and built an extensive portfolio that can help them enter the industry as a freelancer or staff member at a newspaper or magazine.
Portrait photographers, who might work for commercial photography studios or operate their own businesses, take pictures of individuals or groups of people, such as families, students or sports teams. A graduate of an MFA in Photography program should have the business and communication skills needed in this field, as well as the ability to use position, lighting and location effectively.
Those interested in scientific photography might pursue a master's degree in photography to learn advanced technical skills, as well as new digital methods. These professionals use specialized imaging techniques, such as time-lapse photography, to photograph scientific experiments and phenomena.
Career Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates 3% growth in job opportunities for all photographers in the years 2014-2024, which is slower than average. The BLS reported that photographers earned $31,710 as a median annual wage in May 2015.
The 3% job growth rate the BLS predicts for all photographers from 2014-2024 is much slower than average when compared to all occupations, which means that those interested in pursuing a career in photography can expect a lot of competition for openings in this field. A master's degree in photography may be an advantage to those pursuing a career as a photographer, and may also prepare graduates to teach photography.