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Cinematography Majors and Undergraduate Degree Programs

Students interested in cinematography can enroll in associate's or bachelor's degree programs that are field-centered. Learn how to get into these programs, what you will learn and what the career options are in this field.

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Essential Information

Associate's and bachelor's degree programs in cinematography are available with opportunities for internship experiences. Both types of programs have extensive hands-on components. Some associate's degree programs are more technically oriented, while others focus on the artistic side. Prerequisites for undergraduate level programs include a high school diploma and SAT/ACT scores. Some programs also require a portfolio of prior work.


Associate Degree in Cinematography

At the 2-year undergraduate degree level, students can earn an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Film and Video Technology with a concentration in cinematography or an Associate of Arts (A.A.) in Cinema Arts. A cinematography A.A.S. program is more technical in nature, while an A.A. program focuses more intently on cinematic elements of film. In both programs, students learn fundamentals of film history, as well as techniques in editing and production. Some common course topics include:

  • Camera equipment and uses
  • Filming documentary footage
  • Sound production
  • Special effects production
  • Fundamentals of acting

Bachelor's Degree in Cinematography

Individuals wishing to major in cinematography can earn a Bachelor of Arts or Fine Arts in Film with a concentration in cinematography. Combining their knowledge of film history and modern cinematic elements, cinematography majors learn to use industry tools and techniques to convey emotions to the viewing audience. They also develop creative and critical-thinking skills. Some common course topics include:

  • Foundations in film
  • Technology in cinematography
  • Business elements in film
  • Visual art and cinema
  • Elements of post-production

Popular Career Options

Graduates of a bachelor's degree program in cinematography can work in motion picture, television and radio production as:

  • Producers
  • Directors
  • Film editors
  • Camera operators
  • Lighting specialists

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

Graduates of a 2-year undergraduate program in cinematography can work as camera operators. From 2014 to 2024, employment of television, video and cinematic camera operators was expected to rise only 2%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). The BLS also noted that, in 2015, these professionals earned a median annual wage of $49,080.

Continuing Education Information

Cinematographers who would like to continue their education can find a wide range of master's degree, graduate certificate and Ph.D. programs in areas such as film and television production, film directing, digital cinema and critical studies. Professionals also can strive for membership in the American Society of Cinematographers, which extends membership to photography directors who have distinguished themselves in the film industry.

In addition to course work, associate's and bachelor's degree programs in cinematography offer hands-on learning and internship opportunities. Graduates from the programs can get jobs in a variety of positions in the film industry, including as camera operators.

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