Education Requirements for a Photographer

Aug 06, 2019

If you like taking pictures, a career as a photographer may be for you. Photographers are often self-employed and can work in many fields including news, fine arts, commercial, and scientific. What education is needed to become a photographer? College education options for this profession include individual courses or undergraduate degrees in photography.

Essential Information

Photographers primarily capture images with professional cameras, and they're often responsible for editing these images using specialized software. These professionals can work in several different industries, and many are self-employed. While photography classes are available at many two-year institutions, a bachelor's degree in photography provides the most comprehensive training for someone serious about this profession.

Required Education High school diploma or equivalent, though many photographers complete relevant postsecondary coursework or hold a degree
Projected Job Growth (2016-2026)* 6% decline
Median Salary (2018)* $34,000

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Photographer Education Requirements

The extent of the education you need to be a photographer may depend largely on your goals in the field. Good technical abilities, knowledge of equipment and vocational training, or an associate's degree might suffice for some positions at the outset of a career. A Bachelor of Arts in Photography provides more options for a career and for advancement. Bachelor's degrees typically include art, business, marketing, and other courses to round out your education. A polished portfolio, which is often a requirement for graduation, is another benefit of a bachelor's degree program.

Photographers can work in many different fields, so choosing a photography specialization while enrolled in school helps hone and develop unique photography techniques. Some specialization options include news photographer or photojournalist, fine arts photographer, commercial photographer, and scientific photographer. News photographers take pictures of newsworthy events while fine arts photographers sell photographs as art. Commercial photographers use pictures in various media formats while scientific photographers take photographs used for scientific procedures.


A significant part of gaining education for a career in photography is learning about the required equipment. Without proper equipment, photographers cannot perform their work duties. While employers and some schools provide access to photography equipment, photographers typically obtain their own equipment to practice and familiarize themselves with the tools of this field. Cameras come in many different types, so researching cameras and tools beforehand is important committing to a purchase. Two formats are available for cameras: film or digital. Additional tools like tripods, lenses, filters, and computer programs can assist with taking pictures.

Classes and Internships

Photography courses cover technical aspects of handling cameras and taking photographs. Subjects covered in this coursework include applicable photograph techniques, photography history, and photography theory. Specific areas of study for photographers are available such as advertising and commercial photography, wedding and portraiture photography, editorial and corporate photography, visual journalism, fine art photography, or fashion photography.

Obtaining practical work experience while enrolled in school also helps photographers prepare for this field. In addition to internships and related summer jobs, school newspapers, magazines, newsletters, yearbooks, and clubs can provide opportunities to have photographs published or displayed.

Career Details

After finishing school with a good educational foundation, photographers can enter into the workforce and continue learning from employers and other professionals. Starting as an assistant to a professional photographer allows one to pick up skills and tricks and develop work skills. Photographers can create electronic portfolios and maintain a website to show off work samples to the world, potentially catching the eyes of employers.

Requirements for photographers vary by field and industry. Some may require only a high school diploma or equivalent, others may require additional training or an associate's or bachelor's degree. Photographers often start their careers as interns, assistants, or related positions gaining experience as they learn their trade.

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