Photojournalism Graduate Degree Program Information

Graduate degree programs in photojournalism have students utilize artistic and technical skills that are required to compose, produce and process photographs and images. Photojournalism students gain professional skills in traditional journalism and news reporting, and may choose to specialize in visual communications or visual editing and management.

Essential Information

A graduate degree program for visual communication or visual editing and management are options for those interested in photojournalism careers. Most often these degrees are offered as a Master of Arts or a Master of Science. Visual communication programs are generally broad and cover a variety of subjects from publication design to ethics. Visual editing programs will provide coursework in photojournalism and related topics.

Master's in Photojournalism

Applicants to a master's degree program for photojournalism are required to have an undergraduate degree in a relevant background, such as journalism or mass communications, but some schools may admit students with several years of work experience and a comprehensive portfolio. University applications may also require transcripts, letters of recommendation, a personal statement and standardized test scores. Photojournalism graduate students naturally take courses in photo composition and how to use digital image processing, but they also study broadcasting and writing. Other classes include:

  • Photo editing
  • Media law and ethics
  • Multimedia publishing
  • Feature and magazine writing
  • Lighting
  • Information graphics

Master of Arts in Visual Communication

Graduate programs require candidates to have a bachelor's in a related field and a minimum grade point average of 3.0, though evidence of significant professional experience may substitute for these requirements. Letters of recommendation, a personal statement and a portfolio of the applicant's work are also usually requested. The programs generally take two years including a summer semester.

Students with a photojournalism background may find that a graduate program in visual communication is well-suited for their interests. Although graduate degree programs in visual communication tend to be broadly focused, many offer concentrations in photojournalism. Other potential concentration areas include informational graphic design, picture editing or publication design. Many programs require students to take courses in media law and ethics. A graduate thesis may be necessary for graduation. Class topics address:

  • Photography communication
  • Desktop publishing
  • Photo illustration
  • Web design
  • Editorial photography
  • Advanced picture editing

Master's Degree in Visual Editing and Management

This degree program builds on prior experience for working photojournalists, or on a photo-intensive undergraduate degree program in journalism for transitioning students. Students are trained to design maximum-impact illustrated packages for publication using a combination of photos, graphics and text. Like other graduate programs in photojournalism, visual editing and management degree programs usually require candidates to possess a bachelor's degree in journalism, photojournalism or mass communication and favor students with professional experience. Applicants must submit a portfolio, essays, letters of recommendation, official college transcripts and standardized test scores.

Program curriculum for visual editing and management programs generally takes 1-2 years to complete and covers the elements of effective publication design. Other topics include the role of the media in society and publication management, as well as:

  • Philosophy of journalism
  • Electronic photojournalism
  • Newspaper photo desk management
  • Strategic design and visuals
  • Picture stories and essays

Popular Career Options

Graduates of master's degree programs in photojournalism may find work as photographers or videographers for news outlets. They may also hold positions in the media or in private practice such as:

  • Print reporter
  • Layout designer
  • Paginator
  • Graphics designer
  • Photo editor

Graduates of master's degree programs in visual communication--especially those students who focused on photojournalism--frequently find work as news photographers and editors. Other possible roles are:

  • Documentary photographer
  • Commercial photographer
  • Illustrator
  • Photo editor
  • Publication designer
  • Visual media manager

Graduates of master's degree programs in visual editing and management may occupy many of the same positions as their photojournalism and visual communication counterparts. These roles include:

  • Photo desk editor
  • Design coordinator
  • Layout manager
  • Graphics designer

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

In May 2014 the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the mean salary for photographers was $40,280 ( However, overall job growth for photographers is expected to increase only 3% between 2014 and 2024, which is much slower than the national average. Furthermore, it is projected that, due to the decline in the newspaper industry, demand for news photographers will decline 41% during that time frame, according to BLS data.

Students who are interested in mastering the field of photojournalism can obtain a graduate degree in different areas. Each degree can lead to a different occupation.

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