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Digital Photography Schools in Chicago with Program Overviews

The Chicago area has at least eight schools that offer digital photography programs. Learn about the admission info and program requirements for three schools no more than two miles from downtown and make an informed education decision.

Chicago Schools with Digital Photography Courses

Chicago provides numerous options for individuals looking to study digital photography, usually through degree programs in general photography. This article looks at three schools within 10 minutes of the city center. It also includes a table of facts about the schools, such as enrollment, tuition, acceptance rates and graduation rates. There is also some information about a few other schools in the area that offer photography instruction.

  • Less than two miles from downtown, theUniversity of Illinois at Chicago offers a bachelor's and master's degree in photography.
  • Students can earn a minor, bachelor's or a master's degree in photography at Columbia College Chicago, which is about a mile from the heart of downtown.
  • Another downtown school, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago offers bachelor's and master's programs in photography.

Comparison of Schools

There are many factors an individual should consider when choosing a college. This table presents information on several important aspects in a format that makes it simple to compare these three institutions.

University of Illinois at Chicago Columbia College Chicago School of the Art Institute of Chicago
School Type Public, 4-year Private, non-profit, 4-year Private, non-profit, 4-year
Total Enrollment (2017) 30,539* 7,312* 3,648*
Campus Setting Large city Large city Large city
Undergraduate Tuition and Fees (2017-2018) $13,704 in-state, $26,560 out-of-state* $26,474* $49,610*
% of First-Year Students Receiving Some Form of Aid (2016-2017) 84%* 88%* 88%*
Acceptance Rate (2017) 77%* N/A - Open admissions 70%*
Retention Rate (2016-2017) 80% full-time students, 42% part-time students* 66% full-time students, 18% part-times students* 81% full-time students*
Graduation Rate (students who began studies Fall 2011) 57%* 44%* 66%*

Source: *NCES College Navigator

University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC)

UIC is comprised of 15 colleges and schools. Students can find programs related to architecture, art, design, art history, theatre and music in the College of Architecture and the Arts. Within this college is the School of Art and Design where the photography programs are housed.

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art with a Concentration in Photography

Students begin their 129-credit program with classes that help build a basic art foundation, such as drawing, graphic design, sculpture, filmmaking, painting and digital photography. Courses in the photography concentration can include analog photography, topics in photography and lighting studio. In the final year, students complete a studio art critique and a studio art thesis.

Master of Fine Arts in Photography

Although applicants must have bachelor's degrees to be considered for this program, the major can be in any field. Additionally, a 12-image portfolio must be submitted, along with the other admission requirements. Students complete 64 credits, which include 12 credits of electives. A public exhibition of each student's work is required at the program's end.

Columbia College Chicago (CCC)

CCC offers majors and programs in a variety of art, communication and design fields. Programs fall into three schools: the School of Fine and Performing Arts, the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the School of Media Arts. The Photography Department is part of the School of Fine and Performing Arts. This department employs 10 full-time faculty members who are working professional photographers and artists.

Minor in Photography

Students in any major can earn an 18-credit minor in photography. Classes include three fundamental photography courses and two courses covering lighting and photography history. Students can select an elective, such as photojournalism, darkroom practices or documentary photography.

Bachelor of Arts in Photography

The coursework incorporates liberal studies with photography concepts, and a concentration in commercial photography, fine arts photography, fashion photography or general photography is available. Some of the lower level classes include image strategies, the social practice of photography and a foundational studio course. The 120-credit curriculum also includes three foundational photography classes, a lighting course and two photography history courses.

Master of Fine Arts in Photography

A bachelor's degree with a sufficient GPA and a 20-image portfolio are some of the requirements when applying to this 60-credit program. Some of the classes students take include photography theory, historical issues in photography and still/moving images. An elective is also chosen and can include a special project or internship.

School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC)

All students seeking a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from this school can expect to major in studio and choose to focus their studies on an art medium or multiple media. Students seeking to learn about digital photography would take classes through the Department of Photography. SAIC also offers individual courses and workshops in digital photography to non-students through its continuing studies program.

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio - Photography

Applicants must submit portfolios as part of the admission process. Once admitted, students must satisfy the studio curriculum requirements, including research studio courses and a seminar. Studio photography courses examine photography equipment, post-production processes, color photography, monochrome photography, lighting and composition. Students also take art history classes.

Master of Fine Arts in Studio Photography

Applicants need bachelor's degrees and portfolios to be considered for this master's program, among other requirements. Students can expect to participate in four graduate critiques, several studio courses, art history courses and a thesis exhibition. This program must be completed within four years.

Other Schools

Chicago offers multiple other schools where students can learn about digital photography. At North Park University and Northeast Illinois University, students can enroll in bachelor's programs in art and learn about a broad mix of art media, including photography. At Loyola University, students can major or minor in photography to learn digital photography skills. Chicago State University has art and design bachelor's programs where students can concentrate in nteractive media and take digital photography classes. Lastly, the art and design program at Saint Xavier University includes several digital photography electives.


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