Colleges with Photography Majors and Undergraduate Degree Programs

Various undergraduate programs are available to students who want to learn more about photography or become professional photographers. Programs differ in specific curriculum requirements, program length and options for extracurricular opportunities, such as internships.

How to Choose a Photography Program

Photography programs can be found at colleges of art and design, community colleges and universities.

Summary of Important Considerations

  • Degree levels
  • Program focus
  • Mentoring and practical experience opportunities

Degree Levels

Photography programs are offered at three different undergraduate levels through certificate, associate's and bachelor's programs. Which degree a student pursues will depend on his or her career goals. Certificate programs are often intended for hobbyists or individuals who want to supplement their professional work with new skills. An associate's degree program can qualify a student for entry-level photography and photography assistant positions. A bachelor's degree program can prepare students to become photographers and can also prepare them to pursue graduate-level studies, which could qualify them for teaching positions at the university level.

Program Focus

Students may want to consider the differences between programs that lead to a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) and those that lead to a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.). A BFA program will typically have more of an emphasis on studio and design courses, while a B.A. program will include more liberal arts courses. A B.A. program could allow time to take courses in other areas of study, such as business, which could help photographers who are interested in running or owning an organization. A BFA may allow more time for students to develop their craft and may be more appropriate for individuals planning to continue on to the graduate level.

Mentoring and Practical Experience Opportunities

Regardless of degree level, developing a mentorship relationship with a faculty member can be a beneficial part of one's education, so a student may want to look for programs that have faculty members whose work the student admires. Students may also want to consider programs that maintain connections with professional individuals and organizations that students can intern with. Programs that supply cutting-edge software and equipment and offer individual studio spaces may be appealing.

Photography Program Overviews

Certificate in Photography

Certificate programs typically take two semesters to complete for full-time students. Some programs are offered for part-time students and take four semesters to complete. Coursework covers:

  • Photography techniques
  • Darkroom procedures
  • Digital editing

Some certificate programs include internship or practicum opportunities.

Associate's Degree in Photography

Associate's degree programs take two years of full-time study to complete. Students are required to complete general education requirements in addition to photography coursework. Graduates can often transfer their credits to a bachelor's degree program if they desire to do so. Coursework includes topics such as:

  • Digital editing
  • Landscape photography
  • Black and white photography

Students usually complete an internship or final portfolio project.

Bachelor's Degree in Photography

A B.A. or BFA program typically takes four years to complete. Students take foundational courses in drawing, color theory and painting and learn the basics of photography during the first year. Students then study various techniques of both analog and digital photography, including:

  • Image composition
  • Lighting
  • Film processing

Students develop their skills in studio-based classes and complete a senior thesis or exhibition by the end of the program. Courses in art history and theory are also required, and some programs have more extensive liberal arts requirements. A portfolio of work is usually required for entry.

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