With over 1,200 programs for photography degrees in 700 post-secondary institutions across the US, the key is to find the right one which suits your interests and lifestyle.1 Prospective photography students have the option of pursuing a two-year Associate’s or a four-year Bachelor’s degree. Depending on the school, these programs take place online, on-campus, or a a combination of the two, known as the hybrid model.
Associate’s Degree: An Associate’s degree is a two-year post-secondary program. Associate’s degree programs are available at community colleges, junior colleges, technical colleges as well as some universities. Because the program’s curriculum is less comprehensive than a four-year Bachelor’s degree program, therefore, its purpose is to provide students with basic technical and academic knowledge, which can also be transferred towards a Bachelor’s degree.
With regards to the area of photography, an Associate’s degree program consists of courses that will provide basic technical skills, photography techniques as well as an introduction to visual design.2 Graduates from a two-year program will obtain a solid technical foundation in photography and are generally qualified for entry level positions such as photography assistant, digital re-toucher, production assistant or an independent photographer.3 In some cases, graduates are able to apply their education towards obtaining a Bachelor’s degree, depending on the school’s admission requirements.
Bachelor’s Degree: A Bachelor’s degree is a four-year post-secondary program with a curriculum that is more comprehensive and specialized compared to an Associate’s degree program. Most universities offer a photography program under the faculty of fine arts. Students will not only have the opportunity to learn the principles of photography, technical camera skills and digital camera skills in class and laboratory settings, but they may also be required to take classes in other disciplines to develop creative and objective skills to help prepare them for careers across various industries.
According to the Photography Degree website, a Bachelor’s degree can expand graduates’ career options especially if they are thinking of pursuing a career as a photojournalist, an aerial photographer or an industrial photographer.4 Furthermore, a Bachelor’s degree would be beneficial for students who plan on furthering their education in photography, as it is a requirement for admission to a Master’s degree program in most instances.
Online vs. On-campus Programs: Readily available access to the internet has increased the popularity of online programs. Advantages of enrolling in an online program include the flexibility of learning at one’s own pace (some of the classes are pre-recorded and students can access the recording at any time) and the ability to enroll in an out-of-state school without having to relocate. In addition, tuition for online programs is generally less compared to that for on-campus programs. Online programs are also gaining greater credibility, as major institutions offer online classes as part of their distance education program.
With respect to a photography program, online programs don’t always offer the same resources as an on-campus program. For example, if the program is completely online, students may not have access to courses requiring hands-on lab work or opportunities to develop a rapport with their instructors, teaching assistants and their peers (as the first step to developing their professional network while in school). Furthermore, online programs generally do not offer cooperative learning or internship opportunities that are available at some on-campus programs.
Continuing Education: Because photography is a field, which constantly evolves due to emergence of new techniques and technology, education and training does not stop the moment students complete their program. As a result, continuing education is key for professional photographers who want to stay on top of the industry and maintain competitive advantage. Students, like their professional counterparts, should consider joining a professional association to keep up with the news, events and courses taking place within the industry.
The decision to enroll in a post-secondary program is an important (if not, life changing) one for a high school student. Whether you choose to take an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree online or on campus, make sure you do thorough research to ensure that the program fits your interests, lifestyle and budget.
- Photography Degree. Guide to Photography Programs.
- The Art Career Project. Online Photography Schools.
3. Photography Degrees. The Best Online Photography Degree Programs.
4 Photography Degree. Guide to Photography Programs.