Become a Photography Instructor: Education and Career Roadmap

Aug 14, 2018

Learn how to become a photography instructor. Research the job description and the education and licensing requirements, and find out how to start a career as a photography instructor.

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  • 0:01 Career Info
  • 1:05 Get Undergraduate Degree
  • 1:34 Develop a Portfolio
  • 1:59 Choose a Career Path
  • 2:39 Get License or Certification
  • 3:13 Continue Education

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Career Info

Degree Level Bachelor's degree; master's degree or doctorate depending on position
Degree Field Fine Arts or Photography
Licensure/Certification State-specific licensing required for some teaching positions
Key Skills Instructional, organizational, and photography skills; patience; use of data entry, Microsoft Access and Excel, graphics, and photo imaging software
Salary $65,340 (2015 median annual wage for post secondary art teachers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O Net Online

Photography instructors teach students to produce quality photographs through the proper use of equipment and film development techniques. Positions are available in all types of educational environments, from community centers to colleges, and some professional photographers teach in order to supplement their photography careers. Working as an instructor can allow for free time to pursue one's artistic goals; however, photography instructors may have to spend a good deal of time staying up-to-date on advancements in the field, sitting on planning committees and working with students.

These professionals should have instructional and organization skills, patience, and knowledge of photography, photo imaging software, and data entry software. In 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that postsecondary teachers focusing in the fields of art, music, and drama earned a median annual salary of $65,340.

Get Undergraduate Degree

Photography is an artistic and technical discipline that requires knowledge of equipment, development methods, and digital retouching, along with creativity. Earning an undergraduate degree in photography gives potential instructors familiarity with the technical knowledge they teach to students. Although a degree is not always required to be a photography instructor, candidates must prove their professional knowledge, and holding an undergraduate degree is one way to do so.

Develop a Portfolio

Many photography instructors pursue professional photography careers in addition to teaching. Photography instructors must be able to present a polished body of work that highlights their skills. Building a professional portfolio helps instructors demonstrate their ability to future clients, academic employers, and students. Photographers can also create web pages to showcase their work.

Choose a Career Path

Photography instructors may teach at self-enrichment programs in community centers, in elementary or secondary schools as art teachers, or in postsecondary schools as professors. A bachelor's degree is sufficient for most of these positions, but in order to teach in a postsecondary capacity, an instructor needs a graduate-level degree. Schools may offer Master of Fine Arts or Master of Arts in Photography programs, which prepare the student to teach and exhibit.

Instructors can find established photographers to be their mentors, or they can offer classes or photography services to the public to gain experience.

Get License or Certification

Photography instructors in elementary and secondary schools are required to be licensed in the state in which they teach, while self-enrichment and postsecondary teachers are generally not required to be licensed. Some photographers also become certified by the Professional Photographic Certification Commission. This certification is designed to demonstrate dedication to the profession and competency in basic photography skills. Candidates for certification are required to complete an exam and present work for review.

Continue Education

The BLS predicts a stagnant job market for professional photographers between 2014 and 2024. This is largely due to the advancement of digital cameras, which have opened up the field to amateur photographers. Keeping abreast of the current technology, including computer editing software, will allow an instructor to create a more enticing and relevant syllabus.

To recap, individuals who want to teach photography skills to others should complete at least a bachelor's degree program, though a master's or even a doctorate might be required to teach at the postsecondary level.

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