Masters Degree Programs in Professional Photography

Students interested in photography careers can obtain all the necessary skills in a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Professional Photography program. Learn more about this program and the career outlook for photographers.

Essential Information

Professional photography MFA programs provide students with the opportunity to build upon their already acquired undergraduate photography skills. In addition to studying art history and printmaking, students attend art galleries and study the work of other photographers. Potential specializations in this degree program include digital photography, advertising photography, portraiture, commercial photography, and media.

Master of Fine Arts in Professional Photography

A bachelor's degree, preferably in photography, is required for admission to all photography MFA programs. Along with their undergraduate transcripts, students must submit a portfolio of their professional work. This photography portfolio should demonstrate an applicant's skill and familiarity with various styles. In some cases, a school may require GMAT or GRE examination scores.

The classes in this program are made up of a mix of art history and photography application courses. Many courses involve photography critiques from professors and classmates. Toward the end of the program, students must participate in a final thesis exhibition that demonstrates their best work. A list of potential courses are:

  • Photography studio work
  • Visual art history
  • Travel photography
  • Photography independent study
  • Advanced printmaking

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

Most photographers specialize in a specific industry, like news or fashion, and often perform freelance work on a full-time or part-time basis. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( reported that photographers should see a 3% employment increase between 2014 and 2024.

Photographers should face keen competition for jobs because employers tend to contract work out to freelancers, and there is great interest in salaried positions. In May 2015, the BLS reported that the median hourly wage for photographers was $15.24, making the median annual salary $31,710 for professional photographers.

Continuing Education Information

Students interested in continuing their photography education normally enroll in art history doctoral programs. Graduates of a doctoral program typically obtain educational positions. There are no specific certifications or licenses a photographer needs in order to work.

Photographers wishing to develop their technique or prepare for a doctoral program have the option of earning a Master of Fine Arts. This program allows students to receive feedback from peers and develop an exhibit of their work.

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