Best Photography Schools and Colleges in the United States

Jul 20, 2018

Read about degree programs in photography, a field of study that focuses on capturing images that record an event or tell a story. Get to know the rankings and program distinctions of the best schools for photography in the U.S.

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94% college-bound high school students
…said it was important to communicate with colleges during the search process. (Source: Noel-Levitz 2012 trend study)

Aspiring Photographers

Aspiring photographers can find many nationally-ranked schools that offer undergraduate and graduate programs in this field. These schools help students develop the skills and techniques needed for their future careers in photography.

School Overviews

Some of the nation's top colleges and universities have programs in photography. Washington University, Bowling Green State University, and the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor are nationally-ranked schools with opportunities for students to study photography. Programs at all three schools provide an exploration of a range of photography techniques and are all highly ranked by U.S. News & World Report.

Washington University in St. Louis

Washington University in St. Louis, MO, is a 4-year, private school. In 2016, U.S. News & World Report ranked Washington University 19th overall among the best national universities. The Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts at Washington University offers an undergraduate art program, which includes a major in digital imaging and photography. Students in this photography program learn about the history, techniques, and critical perspective of modern photography through exposure to large-format studio photography, classic nonsilver, digital photography, and documentary photography techniques. Photography students working toward their Bachelor of Fine Arts spend their junior year pursuing intensive studio work.

University of Michigan in Ann Arbor

The University of Michigan - Ann Arbor is a 4-year, public school that was ranked as tied for 27th place overall among national universities by U.S. News & World Report in 2016. Photography courses are offered at the University of Michigan through the Residential College (RC), which is part of the College of Literature, Science and Arts. This liberal arts program allows RC students to learn and live in the same space. RC offers several studio art programs, including a photography studio, which leads to a degree in fine arts. Students enrolled in the RC photography studio learn digital and traditional photographic processes, including processing and developing black and white, holographic, and color images.

Bowling Green State University

Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, OH, was tied as the 103rd top public school on U.S. News & World Report's 2016 list. The school offers a bachelor's degree in visual communications technology with a photography specialization, as well as a degree in digital arts with a specialization in imaging. Work for visual communications technology students is available through the Cooperative Education Program, allowing for networking opportunities and hands-on experience in the field. Coursework focuses on darkroom techniques, print image preparation, camera handling, and digital imaging techniques. The School of Art offers several scholarships in varying amounts for which photography students can apply.

Top Photography Schools in the U.S.

Here are some other top schools and colleges that offer photography programs:

College/University Name Location Distinction
Brigham Young University Provo, UT Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography students pursue professional studies in areas like photojournalism, advertising, graphic design, and entrepreneurship in addition to their hands-on training in photography; a Bachelor of Arts program is also offered in photography
Drexel University Philadelphia, PA Photography students participate in six-month co-op experiences in businesses related to their professional aspirations
New York University New York, NY Master of Fine Arts in Photography students do their work in private studios, and they have weekly private studio time with faculty, critics, and industry professionals
Ohio University Athens, OH College of Communication offers a program in commercial photography with emphases in photojournalism, commercial photography, and interactive or publication information design
Syracuse University Syracuse, NY Art photography students have a large range of study abroad opportunities in locations like Australia, Ireland, Italy, Chile, England, China, Egypt, and Namibia
University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign Champaign, IL Has Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts programs in photography
University of Iowa Iowa City, IA Offers Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts programs in photography; students learn techniques in black and white darkroom, digital photography, large format photography, and HD video capture and sound
University of Oregon Eugene, OR Department of Art students can study abroad in places like Italy and China, and spring break study in New York is also available

When comparing top schools for photography programs, students can consider a school's rankings, scholarships, study abroad opportunities, and program emphases. Students may also look into programs that offer work experiences and hands-on training in photography to gain career experience.

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