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San Francisco Photography Schools with Certificate Options

There are roughly 11 schools in and around San Francisco that have photography degree and/or certificate programs. To find out which one is right for you, read an overview of the program options and requirements at three of the colleges located within 45 miles of the city's center.

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Photography Programs in the San Francisco Area

The San Francisco Bay Area is home to several private and public schools offering programs in digital and traditional photography. Three community colleges in the area offer associate's degrees, certificates or both. Explore the focus areas and coursework in their programs, and then compare the schools using the table of stats. Some info on a few other area institutions is provided too.

  • City College of San Francisco offers associate's degree and certificate programs in photography at its campus, which is located roughly four miles from the downtown area.
  • The College of San Mateo, just south of the city, offers only an associate's degree program in the field. The campus is about 17 miles from central San Francisco.
  • Located 38 miles from downtown San Francisco, De Anza College in Cupertino offers professional photography certificate and associate's degree programs as well as an associate's degree in photographic arts.

Comparison of Schools

A number of factors usually come into play when deciding on where to attend college, and this table highlights several of them for the profiled institutions. Find out about school settings, costs, student retention rates and more below.

City College of San Francisco College of San Mateo De Anza College
School Type Two-year, public* Two-year, public* Two-year, public*
Total Enrollment (2017) 26,299* 9,263* 20,674*
Campus Setting Large city* Large suburb* Small city*
Tuition & Fees (2017-2018) $1,598 in-state
$9,010 out-of-state*
$1,400 in-state
$6,300 out-of-state*
$1,552 in-state
$8,752 out-of-state*
% of Beginning Students Receiving Some Form of Financial Aid (2016-2017) 59%* 33%* 44%*
Acceptance Rate (2017) Open admissions* Open admissions* Open admissions*
Retention Rate (2016-2017) 72% full-time* 70% full-time* 80% full-time*
Graduation Rate (For Students Beginning in Fall 2014) 32% overall* 39% overall* 62% overall*

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics College Navigator

City College of San Francisco

The CCSF Photography Department employs 15 full- and part-time instructors. In addition to the degree and certificate programs outlined below, CCSF's Continuing Education Department offers a handful of individual photography courses. Students can attend the department's public lecture series in photography for credit and can show their work through the department's Gallery Obscura.

Associate in Science in Photography

Students begin the first year of the photography curriculum with classes in design, photography and aesthetics, progressing through advanced courses in portraiture, advanced darkroom techniques, editorial photography and other subjects. Some classes are transferable to schools in the California State University and University of California systems.

Certificate of Accomplishment in Photography

Students not interested in a full degree program can pursue one of CCSF's 10 photography certificates. Most programs require a beginning photography and design fundamentals course in addition to specialized training. Programs are typically 15-17 credits in length, or roughly five courses. The list of certificates includes digital photography, portrait lighting, photography criticism and more.

College of San Mateo

Founded in 1922, the College of San Mateo is located in Silicon Valley, just south of San Francisco. The school provides credit and non-credit programs to nearly 10,000 students annually. The photography department's four instructors include two full-time professors who are professional photographers, one of whom is a Fulbright scholar.

Associate of Arts in Photography

This associate's degree program provides a foundation in photography, with courses in color photography, visual perception, black and white photography, experimental photography and digital photography. One of the core courses addressing beginning black and white photography satisfies general education requirements for the degree. This broad, foundational curriculum is appropriate for students wishing to transfer to a 4-year degree program in commercial and fine art or other areas.

De Anza College

Located on a 112-acre campus in Cupertino, De Anza College offers around 150 associate's degree and certificate programs. Daytime and evening courses in photography are available. De Anza's Euphrat Museum of Art hosts exhibits that include drawing, mixed media, sculpture, painting and photography works by students.

Associate of Arts in Photographic Arts

This degree program explores traditional and digital photography and integrates coursework in photographic history and visual language. In addition to classes in still photography, courses in drawing, design and fine art are required. Students also choose electives in areas such as commercial lighting, cinematic history, visual technology and more.

Associate of Arts in Professional Photography

The professional photography program at De Anza differs slightly from the photographic arts program. Virtually no fine arts courses outside of photography are required. The curriculum includes required training in commercial lighting and Adobe Photoshop, as well as select courses in business and mass communications. Electives are limited to advanced topics in photography skills and photography trends .

Professional Photography Certificate of Achievement

This 18-credit-hour certificate program is designed for students who wish to transfer to a degree program in photography or work in the industry. Students take all of the required core photography courses found in the professional photography associate's degree program and one elective course.

Other Schools

Two private, non-profit art schools in the area, the San Francisco Art Institute and California College of the Arts in Oakland, offer BFA programs in photography. Foothill College in Los Altos Hills and West Valley College in Saratoga also offer photography programs.

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