Online Degree Programs for Photography

Given the plethora of books and online resources devoted to photography and the ease at which someone could buy a camera and practice on his or her own, a degree in photography may seem like a waste of money. But according to the National Press Photographers Association, formal training can provide several advantages over the self-taught route. These advantages include challenging courses that get more advanced over time, access to instructors, and a community of like-minded students with which to work and share ideas.

Online photography degree programs can provide you with in-depth knowledge about camera functions, lighting, equipment, composition, software programs, and the most up-to-date practices and technology. You may also have access to an instructor who can provide feedback and constructive criticism while you build your portfolio. Academic programs may also focus on scholarly research into the field. There are different types of photography that these programs provide training in, including photojournalism, advertising, scientific, fashion, wedding, and fine art photography. Which area you want to go into may influence what type of programs you should apply to, what degree level you want to obtain, and what the best online degree programs are for you, such as accelerated online degree programs or hybrid online-on-campus programs. Regardless of the type of program you enroll in we recommend applying to accredited online degree programs.

Online Associate Degree Programs for Photography

Associate online college degree programs are welcoming toward beginners in photography, so if you don’t have any experience and want to get a feel for the discipline this would be a good starting point. In an associate degree program you may learn the basic parts of a camera (film and/or digital); different techniques; the principles of color, light, and design; and how to effectively use different lenses. You may also learn how to use different photo editing software, such as Adobe Photoshop. In addition to covering the creative and technical side of photography, many associate degree programs, such as the Art Institute of Pittsburgh’s Associate of Science in Photography degree program, also develop students’ business and marketing skills. This can be especially helpful for those who go on to running their own business or working as freelancers.

Online Bachelor’s Degree Programs for Photography

Similar to the associate degree programs, online bachelor degree programs are good for beginners looking to develop their photography skills. Students may study fundamental camera functions and techniques, such as composition and lighting, a variety of professional camera and lighting equipment. Courses may also delve into different styles of photography, such as portrait, magazine, or studio photography, and provide training in image manipulation through software such as Photoshop. Non-technical classes relevant to the field may also include photo criticism, business, and marketing.. Depending on the program, students may be required to participate in an internship which may provide them with the chance to put their training to practice. For example, Art Institute of Pittsburgh’s online Bachelor of Science in Photography curriculum includes a three-credit internship once they’ve completed a majority of the program.

Online Master’s Degree Programs for Photography

Online masters degree programs are designed for students who have prior photographic training who are looking to refine their practice. Through a master’s program students can master photography fundamentals while learning the latest digital techniques. They may also develop their personal style and gravitate toward a particular area of photography, such as documentary, advertising, fashion, or fine art. In addition to technical classes, master’s degree programs may also include research-heavy courses that study the history of photography, art theory, and criticism.

Online Doctoral Degree Programs for Photography

A master’s is typically considered the terminal degree for the arts, including photography, though Ph.D. programs do exist. These programs aren’t so much focused on the practice of photography but the study of art history, theory, and criticism. The Ph.D. program at University of California – San Diego, for instance, examines art through historical, cultural, social, intellectual, and theoretical frameworks, with a concentration available in media studies (meaning photography, as well as film, video, and digital media). Those interested in scholarly research or teaching at a college or university may be interested in pursuing a doctoral degree.

Online Degree Programs in Photography in the Work Place

Your photography career may depend on your experience, interests, and degree. You may find entry-level work as a photographer’s assistant, production assistant, or digital retoucher at places such as news outlets, photo labs, publishing houses, and advertising agencies. Once you’ve gained more experience and developed your portfolio some more, you may have more opportunities behind the lens, working as a fine arts photographer, showing your work in galleries, a fashion photographer, shooting runway shows, or as a photojournalist, traveling to wherever the news outlet needs you. Once you’ve gained even more experience and been in the field for some time you may turn to teaching future photographers in the latest techniques and software. Chances are likely, though, that you’ll be running your own photography business; according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the majority (63%) of photographers were self-employed in 2010. Areas that should have the strongest growth are self-employed photographers, wedding and portrait photographers, and commercial photographers, while employment of news photographers for print publications is expected to decline, according to the BLS.

The mean annual salary for photographers in May 2011 was, according to the BLS. Keep in mind that your own salary will depend on your experience, employer, field, and location. The top-paying states for photographers are the District of Columbia, Connecticut, and New York, with an annual mean wage of $64,350, $59,470, and $51,240, respectively, according to the BLS. The states with the highest levels of employment are California, New York, and Texas.