Schools with Camera Operation Degrees and Courses: How to Choose

The camera is central to many degree programs, including programs in photography and electronic media. Students learn how to use cameras (either still or video) to produce digital and color photography, portraits and documentary film, among other types of visual media.

How to Select a Camera Operation Degree Program

Photography Programs

Entry-level students interested in photography as a profession can choose from associate's or bachelor's degree programs. Individuals may locate the programs at both 2-year and 4-year colleges through their fine arts and photography departments.

Summary of Important Considerations

  • Degree possibilities
  • Concentration options
  • Practical opportunities and exercises

Degree Possibilities

Photography programs lasting two years, which can lead to an Associate of Arts (A.A.) or Associate of Science (A.S.), tend to focus on preparing students for a career. An Associate of Applied Science (AAS) program permits students to take more practical courses in photography and fulfill fewer liberal arts requirements than an A.A. or A.S. program. Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Fine Arts programs, which both require four years of study, offer more classes discussing photography's history and cultural implications.

Concentration Options

Students may want to consider whether a program will let them specialize in a certain field, such as architectural, landscape or nature photography. If they're interested in documentary photography and photojournalism, as well as advertising and commercial work, they can look for schools that provide classes and internships in these areas. Many schools let students work in specific technologies like non-silver processes and digital printing.

Practical Opportunities and Exercises

Both 2-year and 4-year programs may offer internships, where students work for agencies or shadow employed photographers. In many photography programs, students develop a portfolio that can represent their work to a potential employer. They also work in a collaborative environment where they critique one another's photographs and learn film editing processes. Schools may provide camera equipment or require students to purchase their own.

Film Programs

An electronic media, film production or communications program is another option for students interested in camera operation. These are most commonly offered at the associate degree level through the production, film or communications departments of 2-year and 4-year colleges.

Summary of Important Considerations

  • Degree options
  • Professional practice

Degree Options

Students have the option of earning a Certificate of Completion or Certificate of Achievement in Electronic Media Production, which requires fewer courses than an associate's degree and usually takes only one year. However, most electronic media, film and TV production degree programs are at the associate's level; a bachelor's degree program is likely to have a broader focus and may award students a degree in a field such as historical film studies and communication.

Professional Practice

These programs focus on the photographer's role in TV and film production. They are likely to be pre-professional and require an internship. Students could shoot a completed film for a final project or work on the set of a television show.

Camera Operation Degree Program Overviews

Associate's Degree in Photography

These programs fast-track students through different aspects of photography, preparing them to build portfolios and make industry contacts. Students spend most of their time in classes directly related to taking photographs, but may also study relevant art topics. The coursework can include:

  • Portraiture
  • Digital imaging
  • Photojournalism
  • Color theory

Bachelor's Degree in Photography

In a 4-year program, students supplement interactive critique sessions and internships with classes on specific types of photography. Graduates of a bachelor's degree program often go on to pursue a Master of Fine Arts in Photography. Undergraduate students can take courses in:

  • Photo design
  • Art history
  • Experimental photography

Associate's Degree in Film Production

Students in this program learn conventions of film and theater firsthand. Often, they practice hands-on camera operation by shooting their own films or working in a movie studio during the two years of these programs. Classes offered in the curriculum include:

  • Sound and lighting
  • Post-production
  • Film editing
  • Stagecraft
  • Film history

Associate's Degree in Television Production

Students focus their camera knowledge on shooting and editing for television. Broadcast production and studio TV production are emphasized in the coursework. Students may work as interns for different TV stations in preparation for a career in TV and electronic media. In addition to training in camera operation, students learn to manipulate the film they produce through the use of effects and graphics. Students can complete courses in:

  • Sound
  • Camera lighting
  • Post-production editing
  • Digital video effects

Top 10 Schools with Camera Operation Degrees

College/UniversityInstitution type
Marlboro College4 year, Private
Odessa College2-year, Public
John Hopkins University4-year, Private
St. John's University4-year, Private
University of Cincinnati4-year, Public
Texas A&M4-year, Public
Wilmington University4-year, Public
Western New Mexico University4-year, Public
El Camino University4-year, Public
West Valley College4-year, Public

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