Guide to Become a Photographer

If you are looking for a fast, convenient way to earn a Photography degree, online degrees from accredited schools offer flexibility and fast-paced curriculum without sacrificing quality in education. Below are some design schools you can find out more on.

DeVry University

DeVry University: For students seeking careers as a photographer, DeVry University offers several design programs that can be applied to Photography jobs and even give you a more expansive skill set to craft your art. DeVry has almost 90 campuses in the US and a strong online division so you do not have to live close to a school in order to pursue your education.
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International Acedemy of Design and Technology

International Acedemy of Design and Technology: The International Academy of Design and Technology is a prestigious, accredited school specializing in education for creative and talented individuals. The online programs were designed so that working professionals, students with busy schedules, and ever those who take care of their children from home can attend classes without making a sacrifice.
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What Types of Photography Degrees Exist and What are They Called?

Because a photographer can range from one who specializes in family portraits to one who covers worldwide news, the types of photography degrees also range in diversity. Below are just some of the few you can choose from.

  1. Associate of Arts in Photography (A.A. Photography)
  2. Associate of Arts in Digital Photography (A.A.S. Dig. Photography)
  3. Bachelor in Photojournalism (B.A. or B.S. in Photojournalism)
  4. Bachelor of Arts in Photography (B.A. Photography)
  5. Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography (B.F.A. Photography)
  6. Bachelor of Science in Photography (B.S. Photography)
  7. Master of Arts in Photography (M.A. Photography)
  8. Master of Fine Arts in Photography (M.F.A. Photography)
  9. Doctor of Design (PhD. Design)
  10. Doctor of New Media (PhD. New Media)

The difference between degrees usually depends on the schools offering them, but there are ways they are not alike. For example, the difference between a photography degree in the arts and sciences or applied sciences is that the core classes will be made up more of arts and literature or math and sciences, depending on which you choose. There are also subtle differences between a degree in the arts and fine arts. The fine arts tends to focus on the more classical aspects of the artistic side of photography.

There are also graduate degrees in photography. Because these degrees tend to involve two to four years of studies after a bachelor’s degree has been earned, they can focus heavily on all aspects of design, art, media, or whichever topic you intend to focus on in your pursuit to become a photographer.

Are There Online Photography Degree Rankings?

The short answer is “no”. There is not one single accrediting body for photographers, but a photography degree should still be chosen carefully. An accredited school that has been approved by the Department of Education is a good first stop to getting a widely acknowledged degree in any subject, including photography. Click here to begin a search of the U.S. Department of Education’s database by school, accrediting institution, and even by state.

The National Association of Schools of Art and Design is a legitimate accrediting body and lists many schools that have passed the test. It is a good choice for students looking at any art degree, including photography. A quick search shows dozens of schools across the nation that offer both online and in person degrees in loads of areas. The site also has standards, publications, and even an FAQ for prospective students to read online.

Although not an official accrediting agency, the Professional Photographers of America is still worth a look. With many members working at all levels of photography, they can give you loads of tips for becoming a photographer. They also have affiliate schools that typically provide photographers with up to date education. They also offer school spotlights, a contact directory, education guide, and much more.

How Can I Transfer School Credits for a Photography Degree?

If you are a high school student, there just might be classes you can take now that will transfer to a college or university. Many juniors and seniors who meet academic requirements can sign up for advanced classes that can actually count towards a college degree so speak with a counselor before choosing your classes for the year.

If you already have some college credits, they may be transferable to another college and can significantly cut the time and cost of becoming a photographer. Basic courses such as math, science, history, and others can be transferred from one institution to another, especially if they are accredited by the same agency. However, transfer credits between agencies, such as national vs. regionally accredited, may not be allowed.

The best way to see if your credits will transfer to a college degree is to speak with your colleges or high school counselor. They can tell you which schools will accept your credits so you can narrow your choices. If transfer credit is allowed between the certain regional, national, or other accrediting agency, there still may be rules.

A passing or even above average grade in the class may be required in order to transfer. For example, a university may ask for a “B” (3.0) average or better to transfer but most usually ask for a minimum “C” (2.0) grade in the course you wish to transfer. The maximum number of transfer credits is usually half of what the degree requires. For example, if going for a Bachelor of Photography that requires 120 credit hours, 60 transfer credits is usually the maximum allowed with all or most of the specialty classes being required at the school offering the degree.

What Sorts of Careers Can I Get With a Photography Degree?

Being a photographer involves much more than pointing and shooting a camera. Lighting, placement, editing, design, a good eye, and much more are asked and there are loads of different areas of employment.

  1. Freelance Photographer
    This type of photographer is in business for themselves. They solicit clients, work at their own pace, and set their own price.
  2. Commercial Photographer: Working full time for a studio or other photography company, this is more of a nine to five position that offers steady pay and work.
  3. Photography Designer: Working to create works of graphic art, this professional both takes images and works them into brochures, websites, and other forms publication.
  4. Specialty Photographer: These photographers specialize in an area in need of expert photographers such as fashion, food, weddings, and many others.
  5. Photojournalist: With employers ranging from newspapers, media outlets, or even freelance work, they cover breaking stories and can often travel with reporters to get a story.
  6. Forensic Photographer: Better known as the “crime scene photographer,” they take images of the scene of a crime to give law enforcement officials a snapshot of the area directly after the crime took place. They may also be called to testify in court.
  7. Photography Director: If a company specializes in photography or has a photography department, the director oversees other photographers, make sure deadlines are met, and supervises the overall process.

And these are just some of the careers available in photography. If a career jumps out at you, see if a school offers specialties or concentrations in that area. For example, a quick search of the Brooks Institute shows four different photography majors including advertising, commercial, photo media, and portraiture.

If you don’t know which you should specialize in, don’t panic. A general degree in photography can teach you loads or help point you in the right direction. If looking to switch degrees, especially within the same school, a lateral move can be possible if not incredibly simple.

How to Become a Photographer?

Even if looking to go into business for yourself, or freelance, a degree is an important part of becoming a photographer. Many full time employers look for at least a bachelor’s degree in photography or related area before hiring someone on a permanent basis. Other entry level positions may only require an associate’s degree or certification in a specific area of photography.

One of the most important aspects of becoming a photographer is the portfolio. This is more or less a showcase of photos that you have taken that are laid out in a detailed and well thought out manner. A quality case in which to display them is also a must have and should not be skimped on. If getting a degree in photography, many schools will assist and even require you to have a decent portfolio before graduating.

A handout, or sort of pamphlet, of your photos is also something to consider in your quest to become a photographer. This involves putting together and publishing a small collection of your photos onto paper. These can be distributed to perspective employers to review with colleagues, remind them of your work, and pass along to others who may be in need of a photographer. This sort of brochure is often called a “lookbook” and can pay for itself if it helps you land just one job.

No matter what your career goals are, experience is a crucial factor when moving up the photography ladder. This can be done with on the job training, an internship, or even volunteering your services to a well-known photographer just to have on your resume. This type of experience is also helpful when looking to apply for a photography field that has many applicants but few positions. If freelancing, doing a professional job to create word-of-mouth clients is one of the most important things you can do. Keeping an online portfolio of your work, business cards with a standout image, and other innovative ideas can help even more.

What is the Average Salary of a Photographer?

The average salary of a photographer varies on the field in which they choose to enter. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median yearly pay for photographers was $29,440 in May of 2008. Full time, or salaried, photographers earned more, with the highest ten percent taking in $62,430 in average annual pay. Because freelance photographers often have to purchase their own cameras, lighting, editing, and other equipment, salary is effected and can take a while to recoup.

A quick search of Payscale showed the average annual salaries of those with a Bachelor of Arts in Photography. General photographers made between $22,957 and $41,000 for 2010. Other photographers, such as commercial came in higher. Their annual average salary ranged from $36,604 to $65,000. If pursuing a career as a fashion photographer, the news is even better. Median annual pay ranges from $39,305 to $101,736.

If you have an advanced degree or years of relevant experience, a job as a photography director can pay very well. Another look at Payscale shows the average annual salary of a photography director to be anywhere from $49,621 to $96,683. These sorts of photographers are also eligible for bonuses for jobs well done and deadlines met from $2,000 to $19,774 per year.

Of course, average annual salary also varies by the type of employer who hires you. For example, a forensic photographer can work for anyone from the F.B.I. to a local law enforcement agency. While federal agents can have a starting annual salary of $50,000, a local forensic photographer can make less. Currently, the Houston Airport System is hiring forensic photographers who are in charge of taking images, processing them, and requires at least an associate’s photography degree. The median yearly pay ranges from $23,764 to $47,892. If you are the type of crime scene photographer who testifies at trial, you can earn up to and beyond five figures for each piece of testimony.

Photography Scholarships and Grants

Any student beginning post-secondary, or a collegiate, education is given the right to see what kind of funding is available to assist with tuition, books, and even photography equipment. Below we have gathered some essential links to scholarships, grants, and more for photography students.

  1. FAFSA: The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is the standard for all accredited schools, including photography. The government form will tell you how much federal financial aid you qualify for and is asked to be filled out by most schools. Visit the site to get more help on completing it.
  2. Photography Scholarships: Because scholarships for photography, art, and all other students changes on a yearly basis, it is important to keep up with these changes and apply for as many as possible. A site like Fastweb keeps its site up to date with the latest and you can apply online.
  3. Professional Photography Scholarship: This scholarship is hosted by the Vermont Professional Photographers Association. It is awarded to members and is for study at any school approved by the executive committee.
  4. Photojournalism Scholarships: The Visual Student has a list of scholarships for those interested in the journalistic side of photography. They even have a PDF application available to download.
  5. Story Teller Photography Scholarship: An interesting choice, prospective students are awarded this scholarship by entering and winning an eight photo contest that tells a story through a lens. The Art Institutes School will earn a tuition scholarship to the winner(s).
  6. The Ian Perry Scholarship: He was a photojournalist who died while on assignment and inspired this photography scholarship in his name. Each year, an international photographic competition for young photographers who are either attending a full-time photographic course or are under 24 is held and the winner gets funds to be used for education.
  7. Financial Aid Video: This useful video from the Brooks Institute has the answers to tons of many common questions. They include qualifications, dependency status, options, and much more. The answers to these questions apply towards many different schools, not just the Brooks Institute.
  8. Local Financial Aid Office: Just about every school has one, so be sure and take advantage of a school’s financial aid office. They have resources on what you qualify for, forms, tips for completion, and more. Best of all, you do not have to be currently enrolled in a school to see what kinds of financial aid you qualify for.

And these are just some of the photography scholarships and grants available. When searching for a scholarship, use broad terms. The practice of photography can fall under a category such as art, design, journalism, or other area of study not designated solely as photography.

No matter what your career choice, be sure and complete your FAFSA application each year, as any grants or scholarships awarded will have to be reapplied for. Also, be sure to check with your high school or college counselor often, as they usually are the first to know of any new scholarships, grants, or other type of funding.

Another way photography students fund their education is through student loans. If looking into this, be sure and research the many different types of loans available. Criteria should include no payments until graduation, a low interest rate, and few or no upfront fees. Unlike a scholarship or grant, student loans do have to be paid back and should be figured into any budget.

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Become a Photographer is the only nonprofit site dedicated to providing students with information on how to become a photographer. To meet that goal, we provide answers to students most frequently asked questions, as well as maintain the only complete database of colleges or schools that offer accredited photography degrees in the US. If you have any questions about the content you read here, or want to suggest additions to this site, please contact us.

Full Guide to Accredited Schools with Photography Degrees