PhD in Photography: Overview of Photography Doctoral Programs

Doctoral photography programs are not common, but those that exist are often geared toward professional artists who are interested in improving their work while also completing a dissertation.

Essential Information

A Ph.D. program in photography can train students to become commercial photographers or historians. This also can be beneficial for graduate students or working photographers who are interested in becoming university-level photography professors or researchers in the medium. A dissertation is usually required to complete the program, which can be either a written examination of photography, a new installation or public project or both.

Ph.D. in Photography

Before applying to a Ph.D. program in photography, students should first earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts and/or Master of Fine Arts from an accredited university. Typically, they also must submit a portfolio of previous work, a statement of purpose, a dissertation prospectus, and GRE scores. Doctoral candidates may need to show a photography or art portfolio.

Students who enroll in a Ph.D. program of this kind often spend classroom hours studying the theories behind art critiques and practices, as well as research methodologies in the visual arts field. Ph.D. program in photography often allows the student to work closely with a faculty member who can help shape his or her academic career, and Ph.D. programs in the studio arts are often highly individualized and tailored to a particular student's artistic interests. Some courses that might be similar for the majority of Ph.D. students include:

  • Advanced art practice and research
  • Contemporary looks at critical issues
  • Public space and art
  • Graduate studies in art history
  • Confronting the object
  • Theories of contemporary art and new art history perspective

Popular Career Options

A Ph.D. program in photography can prepare artists for several creative, academic, and professional career opportunities. Some of these might include:

  • Professional studio photographer
  • Art critic, historian or director
  • Photography professor
  • Commercial photographer
  • Public art program director

While there are not a great number of Ph.D. photography degree programs, those that do exist are intended to give students a thoroughly detailed understanding of photographic techniques and processes. Those who obtain a Ph.D. degree have a variety of career options in the field of photography.

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