Wildlife Photography School and Training Program Information

Undergraduate and graduate programs exist to train aspiring and experienced photographers in the art of nature and wildlife imaging. Students may choose to focus on digital photography or combine technology with traditional film.

Photography training is commonly available through certificate and associate degree programs offered by 2-year community colleges. Bachelor's and master's degree programs in photography can also be found in 4-year schools' visual or fine arts departments.

Photography Schools

The following public and private institutions offer degree programs in the field:

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Undergraduate Tuition (2015-2016)
School of Visual Arts New York, NY 4-year, Private Bachelor's $35,000
School of the Art Institute of Chicago Chicago, IL 4-year, Private Bachelor's, Master's $43,960
Rhode Island School of Design Providence, RI 4-year, Private Bachelor's, Master's $45,840
California Institute of the Arts Valencia, CA 4-year, Private Bachelor's, Master's $43,986
University of New Mexico Albuquerque, NM 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's $7,071 (In-state) $21,302 (Out-of-state)
Rochester Institute of Technology Rochester, NY 4-year, Private Bachelor's, Master's $37,124
University of California - Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's $12,763 (In-state) $37,471 (Out-of-state)
California College of Arts San Francisco, CA 4-year, Private Bachelor's $43,708
Columbia College - Chicago Chicago, IL 4-year, Private Bachelor's, Master's $24,344

Sources: *School sites and National Center for Education Statistics

School Selection Criteria

Here are some considerations for potential wildlife photography students searching for the right program:

  • Prior to deciding on a school, prospective wildlife photographers should decide on a career goal and look for a program that offers the curriculum they will need. With the advancement of technology, students may desire a program that focuses on digital imaging and graphics manipulation, while others may prefer to learn traditional film photography. Some schools also offer a broad curriculum, teaching the art of photography along with topics in business, multimedia and journalism.
  • Look for schools that offer internships and other opportunities to gain hands-on experience.
  • Experienced photographers may find schools that offer grants and fellowship opportunities based on academic history or professional accomplishments, and many art foundations offer scholarship funding as well.
  • Students may want to consider a program's reputation and search for a school that is well-known for the program and has a high rate of graduates working in the field.

Certificate Programs

Certificate programs often provide students with a background in photography without the obligation of general education courses. Typically a 2-year program, a certificate in photography might be valuable to a prospective wildlife photographer with previous education in a related field that simply needs to grasp the technical and compositional aspects of wildlife photography. Certificate programs typically only teach digital photography.

Associate Degrees

Associate degree programs combine core professional courses with electives in wildlife and nature photography. Students of these 2-year programs may choose a broad education in several photographic disciplines, such as wedding, portrait, exhibition and evidentiary photography, or they may select courses that focus on a single area.

Bachelor's Degrees

Bachelor's degree majors in the broad subject of photography allow students to explore the artistic aspects of the profession. Similar options, such as photojournalism, provide additional training with other mediums, such as video and audio productions. Students of a photojournalism program concentrate on communications and media, while those in a photography major focus on composition, lighting and digital imaging.

Both Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degrees are available in many of the same majors, and may include concentrations in nature or wildlife photography. Typically, B.A. programs combine liberal arts education with photography courses, preparing students for entry into the profession or advancement into graduate studies. Often a terminal degree, a BFA program generally includes fewer general education courses, dedicating the majority of the curriculum to professional studies.

Master's Degrees

A master's degree in photography may be completed in two years and offers more flexibility in choosing wildlife photography as a specialty than an undergraduate program. Master's programs include a thesis project and additional independent study for portfolio development. Students may use their studio courses as a venue for perfecting their style and technique in the field of wildlife photography.

Undergraduate and graduate degree programs in photography are available at several public and private schools that may also offer training for wildlife photography, either through a concentration or electives. Students looking into these programs should consider their career goals and schools that offer plenty of hands-on experience.


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