A career in photography allows you to embrace your creativity while designing projects and capturing life's most important moments. An online associate degree in photography provides an overview of the essential professional skills, industry-specific tools and techniques, and basic principles of art and design you need to launch a successful career.
This guide explores a few top online programs you can consider. It also outlines common courses, admission requirements, and career paths, helping you find the program that best matches your goals.
What Are the Best Photography Programs of 2020? Here Are Our Top Three:
|1||Southern New Hampshire University||Manchester, NH|
|2||Columbus State Community College||Columbus, OH|
|3||Dakota College at Bottineau||Bottineau, ND|
Students who earn an associate in photography develop the foundational skills needed to launch a career. You may pursue a variety of jobs, either working for yourself or for advertising agencies, magazines, and/or media companies.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) photographers earn a median salary of $36,280 per year. While some photographers may work full time for businesses, others find short-term employment through freelancing opportunities.
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2020 Best Accredited Online Associate in Photography Programs
Southern New Hampshire University
|Manchester, NH||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 54%||
This 60-credit digital photography program includes general education coursework in business and writing, alongside the basics of design theory, digital image processing, and post-production editing. Students who earn this degree can apply their associate credits towards SNHU's online bachelor's in digital photography.
The program requires students to subscribe to the Adobe Creative Cloud suite and supply their own DSLR camera, tripod, and lighting kit. SNHU holds regional accreditation from the New England Commission of Higher Education.
Columbus State Community College
|Columbus, OH||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 23%||
Established in 1963 as a technical college, CSCC meets the needs of nontraditional students by offering a catalog of online classes and programs, including an associate in photography.
Students pursuing their associate of applied science in digital photography complete 62-66 credits, which typically takes four semesters. Course topics include composition, studio and environmental portraiture, and business photography. The program culminates with a portfolio development project where students showcase their digital marketing and branding skills.
Various courses require students to provide their own SLR and DSLR cameras, along with a tripod, lighting kit, and other pieces of equipment. CSCC holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.
Dakota College at Bottineau
|Bottineau, ND||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 22%||
Founded in 1906 as a forestry school, DCB currently boasts an intimate 12-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio. The college also offers a variety of online programs, including an online associate in photography.
The 60-credit associate of applied science in photography takes two years to complete and teaches students the skills needed to start their own commercial photography studio. Course topics within the major include conceptual photography, principles of lighting, and documentary photography. Learners also complete a culminating practicum.
The program also gives students the opportunity to join an annual study abroad photo trip. DCB holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.
Online Associate in Photography Program Overview
Students who earn an online associate degree in photography learn to use industry-specific tools, software, and techniques to produce photographs. The curriculum varies by program, but common courses include digital photography, principles of lighting, the business of photography, basic design and color theory, and digital portfolio management.
Programs prepare students to establish themselves as entrepreneurs by taking photographs for events or working with advertisers to create brand logos. In addition to gaining photography skills, students learn about essential business principles so they may establish their own business and lawfully manage contracts and licensing agreements with future clients or employers.
Aspiring photographers do not necessarily need to pursue a postsecondary degree, but some employers may prefer candidates with one. You may also consider pursuing certification to specialize your skill set. This may increase your competitive advantage and earning potential. Before investing in further education, determine which options will help you reach your career goals.
Common Associate in Photography Degree Courses
- Digital Photography
This class introduces students to the history and practice of producing analog and digital photographs. Coursework may focus on using Adobe Photoshop, teaching students the basic principles of composition, subject choice, and presentation methods. Assignments teach students digital camera techniques to capture, process, and print photographs.
- Principles of Lighting
Students explore the role light plays in taking and producing photographs. The curriculum considers how light creates moods and emotions. Assignments allow students to explore techniques using flash or studio lights to generate portrait, editorial, and fine art photographs.
- Business of Photography
This course introduces students to common business practices in photography and covers legal, promotional, and entrepreneurial aspects of working in the field. Students also learn industry best practices for working with clients or agencies, such as developing contracts, licensing, setting price structures, managing overhead costs, and using model or property release forms.
- Basic Design and Color Theory
Students learn about the basic elements and principles of design, including balance, emphasis, proportion, and rhythm. The curriculum also introduces students to common industry-specific design systems and computer graphics tools. Assignments allow students to experiment with various tools and design techniques to create a variety of projects.
- Digital Portfolio Development
This course guides students in the production of a photography book or web-based portfolio. The curriculum typically focuses on the important role portfolios play in a photographer's career for self-promotion to potential future clients and employers. A portfolio may also prepare students to pursue a higher degree in design — most programs require students to submit samples of their work.
Online Associate in Photography Admission Requirements
Graduation Attestation Form
Students must typically possess at least a high school diploma if they want to pursue an online associate degree in photography. Many schools require applicants to submit a high school graduation attestation form along with their application. Prospective students who do not have a diploma can provide proof of a GED certificate.
Associate programs may require students to submit ACT or SAT test scores with their application. Some programs may waive this requirement if an applicant has a certain GPA or qualifying work experience, or if they can pass a college placement test.
Equipment and Software
Online students must typically use their own photography equipment to complete course assignments. Students should check with a program advisor to make sure they possess everything they need to complete all requirements. Also, not all programs provide access to software, such as Adobe, so students may need to purchase this on their own.
The application process typically requires students to submit official transcripts from previously attended schools. Transcripts confirm students possess the foundational courses they need to excel in college-level coursework. If students do not possess all course requirements, then they may need to take prerequisite courses or pass a skills test before enrolling.
Some schools may require applicants to meet with an advisor, either in person or on the phone. This meeting allows students to ask questions, receive a degree plan, and obtain information about financial aid. During this meeting, students should ask about tools, tutoring resources, and technology requirements to ensure they can complete all program requirements.
Online Associate in Photography Career Paths
Earning an online associate degree in photography qualifies you for entry-level positions in the field, such as production assistant, digital photo technician, photo editor, lighting technician, and photographer. You may specialize your career by working in an area like portrait, aerial, news, scientific, commercial, or fine arts photography.
Working in the field of photography does not typically require further certification, but adding credentials may increase your earning potential. For example, you can consider earning a certified professional photographer, certified forensic photographer, or registered biological photographer credential. Some positions, such as graphic designer and studio manager, may require a higher degree, but this varies by employer.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Is a degree in photography worth it?
Launching a successful career in photography typically requires raw talent and a natural eye. Earning a degree allows you to explore and experiment with techniques to take your skills to the next level. It may also open up more opportunities in areas like graphic design and advertising.
- Is photography a good career?
Photography can be a rewarding career, allowing you to create your own schedule and demonstrate full creative control over your projects. However, it is a competitive field, and the BLS estimates that photography jobs will decrease by 6% between 2018 and 2028.
- Do most photographers have a degree?
Working as a photographer does not require a degree. However, pursuing a postsecondary education allows you to hone your skills and effectively use common tools and techniques to bring your creative vision to life through photography. A degree may also increase your earning potential.
- How long does a degree in photography take?
The curriculum of an online associate degree in photography typically features 60 credits and takes about two years to complete. A few factors may impact a program's length, including whether you take courses on a full-time or part-time basis.
- How much do photographers make?
According to the BLS, photographers earn a median hourly wage of $17.44, with top earners making more than $38.00 per hour. Factors impacting pay include a worker's experience, skills, and position (e.g., working as a freelancer or for an employer).
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Additional Reading and Resources
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