Why This Matters

  • COMMERCIAL PHOTOGRAPHY IS A $1.8 BILLION INDUSTRY

    As more companies look to tell their stories visually, the commercial photography business has grown steadily to become a nearly $2 billion dollar industry in the U.S.

  • EARN UP TO $40 PER HOUR

    While the average hourly wage for photographers is $19.85, the top 10% earn more than $41.76 per hour.

  • 18,900 NEW PHOTOGRAPHER JOBS PROJECTED OVER THE NEXT DECADE

    The industry is expected to grow 17% from 2020 to 2030, which is much faster than the projected growth rate for all occupations.

Our Research

This list focuses on the top college-level programs for photographers. It includes associate’s degree programs as well as BFAs and master’s degree programs. We looked for educational opportunities that combined the best training in the technical aspects of using photographic equipment and software combined with courses in creative expression, marketing and communication, video production, and even web design.

Photography programs are accredited by the regional agency that is active in the school’s local area. This includes organizations such as the Higher Learning Commission, Middle States Commission on Higher Education, and Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Periodic accreditation ensures students that they are getting cutting edge curriculum taught by professors with the terminal degree in their field as well as pertinent real-world knowledge.

We evaluated each program on the basis of flexibility, faculty, course strength, cost, and reputation. Then we calculated the Intelligent Score for each program on a scale from 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.

  • 63 hours to write this article
  • 180 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 246 education programs we compared

The Top 41 Photography Degree Programs

Best Photography Degree Programs
01
Intelligent Pick
University of Arizona
01
Best in the Northwest
Seattle University
01
Best Bachelor of Science Degree
Drexel University
01
Best Private Research University
S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University
01
Best Large University
Arizona State University
01
Best Faculty
UNM Art
01
Best BFA Degree
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
01
Most Affordable
Santa Barbara City College
01
Best in the Northeast
Rochester Institute Of Technology
01
Best in the Southeast
Savannah College of Art and Design
01
Best On-Campus Program
Rhode Island School of Design
01
Best in the West
California College Of The Arts
01
Best Photojournalism Focus
George Washington University
01
Best Public University
Massachusetts College Of Art And Design
01
Best Electronic Media Focus
University of Miami - Art and Art History
01
Longest-Running Program
Maryland Institute College Of Art
01
Best Online University
Southern New Hampshire University
01
Best Video Focus
School of Visual Arts
01
Best Public Research University
UCLA
01
Best Foundational Coursework
Virginia Commonwealth University
01
Best Mormon University
Brigham Young University
01
Best in the Midwest
Columbia College Chicago
01
Best Associate's Degree
Columbia College
01
Best Alumni Network
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
01
Best Internships
American University
01
Best MFA Degree
Bard College
01
Best Christian University
Biola University
01
Best Research Opportunities
College for Creative Studies
01
Best Ivy League Program
Cornell University
01
Best Visual Communication Design Focus
Kent State University
01
Best Student Resources
Loyola Marymount University
01
Best Studio-Intensive Program
The New School
01
Best Urban Campus
Pratt Institute
01
Best Interdisciplinary Curriculum
Temple University
01
Best Degree Completion Program
University Of Central Florida
01
Best Small University
University Of Dayton
01
Best Mid-Sized University
University of Illinois Chicago - School of Art and Art History
01
Best Technical Focus
University Of Southern California
01
Best Certificate Program
University of Washington
01
Best Bachelor of Arts Degree
Webster University
01
Best Two-Year College
Dakota College at Bottineau

What You Should Know About This Degree

Armed with a degree or certificate in photography, there are many avenues of employment you can explore. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for self-employed photographers will grow in the next decade. The need for event and portrait photographers remains steady.

Although the field of photojournalism has taken a hit as amateur photographers play a greater role, there are still many jobs in the media world for those who wish to work for journals, newspapers, magazines, and more. Drone photography has increasing applications for agriculture, real estate, and government use.

A photography diploma may also open the door to work as an art director, marketing specialist, or graphic designer. The creative skills learned in a photography program can translate to other arts-based occupations, from architect to fashion designer.

Photographic certifications are available from professional organizations. The non-profit Professional Photographers of America, for example, offers Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) and Certified Drone Photographer designations for interested professionals.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching photography programs:

  • Am I eligible for this program? Eligibility requirements vary from program to program, and depend on the level of education — associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s degree. In addition to filling out an application, most programs will require a portfolio of work. Some of the advanced programs may be geared toward professionals already working in the field, but even at the most basic level, admissions personnel will want to see what a student is capable of before offering a place in the incoming class.
  • How long does it take to complete this online degree? This, too, varies from program to program. If you are attending full time, an associate’s program will take approximately two years, while a bachelor’s degree may take up to four years. Master’s level programs range from one to two years for full-time study. If you take classes part time, of course, it will take longer.

When you are researching programs, note the focus of the material covered. If you are interested in photojournalism, for example, you may want a different mix of classes than someone who wishes to become an art photographer. An admissions counselor can help you determine if a program is a good fit for you.

A counselor can also help you hone in on potential financial aid offered by an institution. You may be eligible for scholarships, grants, or loans from your employer or professional organizations to which you belong.