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Digital Photography Diploma and Degree Programs in CA

Research digital photography programs in California, which currently has nearly 50 colleges offering certificate and associate's degree programs. Read an overview of programs, tuition info and program options for ten of the largest schools and decide which program is right for you.

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Essential Information

Though California colleges don't offer diploma programs in photography, students can pursue certificate or two-year degree programs. There are about 50 colleges in the state that offer these photography programs, which include training in digital photography and provide graduates with entry-level training to work in various occupations within the field. Undergraduate programs generally facilitate the development of portfolios of work. Students may earn certificates or associate's degrees.

Below are ten of the largest colleges offering photography programs of two years or less in California.


Cerritos College

Cerritos College in Norwalk offers an associate's degree program in photography and several certificate, or 'verification of completion', programs in this field. The 60-unit Associate of Arts in Photography program includes major courses such as digital photography, photography history, portfolio development, portrait photography and Web design. The college offers certificate programs in digital photography, along with traditional black and white photography, fine art photography and occupational preparedness in photography. These programs vary from 9-15 units of coursework and prepare graduates for entry-level employment in the photography industry.

City College of San Francisco

Located in San Francisco, City College of San Francisco has one of the oldest photography programs in the country. In addition to an associate's degree program, the Photography Department offers a wide variety of certificate programs, including a program in digital photography. This 17-unit certificate program provides an introduction to photography and training in courses such as online photography, Photoshop, design and business practices. The associate's degree program trains students in the use of digital technologies and traditional photography techniques. Students have access to darkroom facilities, photography studios, a digital computer lab and exhibition space for student work.

De Anza College

Located in Cupertino, De Anza College offers programs that lead to Associate of Art degrees in photographic arts and professional photography. These degree programs train students in traditional and contemporary photography methods and emphasize personal expression through technical and creative expertise. The photographic arts program is directed toward students who want to study photography as an art form and includes courses that address the history and criticism of the medium as well as studio courses.

The professional photography program emphasizes commercial applications of photography and includes courses in digital photography, Photoshop and commercial lighting. The certificate program in professional photography provides students with an introduction to digital imaging, lighting and processing. Courses examine beginning and intermediate digital photography. This certificate program is transferable to a 2-year degree program. Photography courses are available during the day and evening.

Fresno City College

Fresno City College in Fresno offers five certificate programs and an associate's degree program in photography that train students in digital and analog techniques. Courses include editorial photography, commercial photography, lighting and creating photography books. Students also learn marketing techniques to promote their work in various markets. The college offers certificate programs in commercial photography, digital photography, fine art photography, professional photography and photojournalism.

Grossmont College

Located in El Cajon, Grossmont College offers an Associate of Arts in Studio Art: Photography program in which students learn the fundamentals of digital and analog photography as well as how to identify and analyze visual concepts and themes. Courses cover beginning through advanced photography, the history of photography and portfolio development. Facilities include a new digital arts building with state-of-the-art spaces and equipment, including traditional and digital darkrooms, studios and film processing rooms.

Orange Coast College

Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa offers certificate and degree programs in photography. The college's Certificate in Digital Technician program prepares students for photo assistant and digital technician occupations. Coursework includes commercial photography, digital image capture and Photoshop. The college's Certificate of Still Photography program provides training in a specialized area of photography. Following a year of foundational studies, students in this program select advanced courses in areas such as commercial, illustration, documentary and fashion photography. The college also offers an Associate of Science in Still Photography degree program, which involves taking general education courses.

Saddleback College

Saddleback College, located in Mission Viejo, offers an associate's degree program in photography. This 60-unit program focuses on technical and theoretical training and utilizes the latest software and hardware. Courses include three levels of digital photography, Photoshop and digital imaging. Photography classes are taught in an entirely digital format. The program provides students with Mac computers decked out with sophisticated imaging software. Throughout the program, students work primarily with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom software. Graduates can transfer to a 4-year program.

San Joaquin Delta College

Located in Stockton, San Joaquin Delta College offers a program leading to an Associate of Arts in Photography. This 60-credit program helps students develop aesthetic awareness, technical skills and critical abilities. Students take introductory- and intermediate-level photography courses as well as courses in digital photography and imaging. This Associate of Arts program is designed for transfer; students have opportunities to complete transfer curricula for California State University and other 4-year schools.

Santa Rosa Junior College

Santa Rosa Junior College in Santa Rosa offers a certificate program in photography through its art department. This art-based program focuses on developing an awareness of formal elements in art work, like shape, form, color, space and composition. Students learn to solve visual problems related to photography and to express themselves through their images.

This 30-unit program teaches students techniques such as flash printing, toning and fiber paper printing. Full-time students can complete the program in about 18 months. The school also offers a general associate's degree program in art with a photography course; the program is directed toward art students who wish to transfer to a 4-year art program.

Southwestern College

Located in Chula Vista, Southwestern College offers certificate and associate's degree programs in photography. The certificate program in professional photography requires 22-24 credits of coursework in areas that include digital photography, lighting, digital imaging and advertising photography. Students in the certificate and associate's degree programs can engage in a co-op education work experience in the visual arts.

The Associate of Arts in Photography and Digital Imaging program focuses on fine art and professional photography. Students learn to develop a personal style while learning current photography techniques and concepts. The program encourages interdisciplinary study through collaboration with programs that intersect with photography, like journalism, studio art, graphic design and cinema arts. Facilities include a new photography building with computer labs, digital printing and viewing equipment, darkrooms and fully furnished photography studios.

School Comparison: At a Glance

School Name School Type and Setting Photography Certificates and Degrees Offered Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (2015-2016)
Cerritos College 2-year; public; large suburb Verification of Completion in Digital Photography,
Fine Art Photography,
Occupational Preparedness in Photography,
or Traditional Black and White Photography,
Associate of Arts in Photography
$1,346 (in-state); $7,926 (out-of-state)*
City College of San Francisco 2-year; public; large city Certificate of Accomplishment in Digital Photography,
Associate of Science in Photography
$1,508 (in-state); $7,554 (out-of-state)*
De Anza College 2-year; public; small city Certificate of Achievement in Professional Photography,
Associate of Arts in Professional Photography,
Associate of Arts in Photography Arts
$1,542 (in-state); $8,382 (out-of-state)*
Fresno City College 2-year; public; large city Certificate of Achievement in Commercial Photography,
Digital Photography,
Fine Art Photography,
Photojournalism,
or Professional Photography,
Associate of Science in Professional Photography
$1,194 (in-state); $6,834 (out-of-state)*
Grossmont College 2-year; public; large suburb Associate of Arts in Studio Art: Photography $1,388 (in-state); $7,196 (out-of-state)*
Orange Coast College 2-year; public; midsize city Certificate of Achievement in Digital Technician,
Certificate of Achievement in Still Photography,
Associate of Science in Still Photography
$1,184 (in-state); $6,584 (out-of-state)*
Saddleback College 2-year; public; large suburb Associate of Arts in Photography $1,326 (in-state); $5,750 (out-of-state)*
San Joaquin Delta College 2-year; public; large city Associate of Arts in Photography $1,104 (in-state); $6,312 (out-of-state)*
Santa Rosa Junior College 2-year; public; midsize city Certificate of Achievement in Art: Photography $1,318 (in-state); $6,637 (out-of-state)*
Southwestern College 2-year; public; large suburb Certificate of Achievement in Professional Photography,
Associate of Arts in Photography and Digital Imaging
$1,336 (in-state); $5,452 (out-of-state)*

Source: *NCES College Navigator.

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