What Education Do You Need to Become a Photographer?

Degrees in photography typically help to develop the technical and artistic talents of photographers. Find out about the curricula of these programs, and learn about career options, job growth and salary info for photography graduates.

Essential Information

While an eye for detail is necessary for a career in photography, many positions also require photographers to hold at least a bachelor's degree in photography. Colleges and universities also offer graduate degree programs in photography geared toward students looking to advance their skills or teach at the college level.

Required Education None required, though many choose to earn their bachelor's degrees
Other Requirements Additional skill-sets, such as digital photo editing, are becoming increasingly necessary
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022) 4%*
Average Salary (2013) $37,190*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Photographer Education Requirements

While some photographers lead successful careers with only experience and skill, many photographers pursue formal career training through undergraduate degree programs. This is especially true for those in specialties such as industrial photography, photojournalism or scientific photography. Even photographers specializing in freelance and portrait photography often gain technical expertise through college degree programs.

Bachelor's Degree

Undergraduate degree programs in photography and related fields may be available at art schools, colleges and universities. Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography programs generally focus on hands-on instruction in the technical and creative aspects of the visual art. Courses may include photography techniques, studio lighting, color theory, graphic design, digital photography and artwork critique.

Upper-division courses may include studio classes in which students use advanced techniques including lighting and digital photography. These courses typically allow students to experiment with their photographic skills. Many photography degree programs culminate in a senior project. These projects help students to build their portfolios and transition to a career as a professional photographer.

Master's Degree

Photographers interested in further developing their skills and advancing their careers may consider earning master's degrees. Some colleges and universities offer Master of Fine Arts in Photography programs, which typically take 2-3 years to complete. Studio courses and independent study are the backbone of such degree programs. Students utilize their advanced knowledge of photography to complete various projects while pushing the boundaries of their creative abilities.

Students generally develop their own curricula according to areas of interest and complete visual and written thesis projects based on their graduate studies. Thesis projects may be displayed in university exhibitions. Completion of master's degree programs in photography may qualify graduates for teaching positions at community colleges and some 4-year colleges. Some programs prepare students for careers in postsecondary education by incorporating teaching courses.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

As of May 2013, the annual average salary for photographers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), was $37,190. Overall, employment of photographers, both full-time and self-employed, from 2012-2022 is expected to increase by 4%. According to the BLS, while job prospects for portrait and commercial photographers will continue to increase, newspaper photographer positions are predicted to decrease by 36%.

Related to Education Needed to Be a Photographer

Search Degrees, Careers, or Schools