Online Photography Degrees

Today, more than 50,000 Americans work as photographers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that this number will rise by 3% in the next decade, as photographers working in industries ranging from fashion and fine arts to portrait and school photography find enhanced employment opportunities. Whether you see yourself snapping photos in the field or editing images to look their best, there will be plenty of jobs available.

From a distance, it may seem like photographers lead endlessly fascinating lives, jetting across the country to photograph a wedding or around the world to capture a global event. While they do enjoy flexible hours and sometimes venture to exotic destinations for work, successful photographers are dedicated professionals with a strong work ethic.

A keen eye for composing pictures, no matter the subject, is crucial, as is the ability to make clients and subjects feel safe and comfortable. Traveling photographers must be able to function at the top of their game while battling jet lag, while wedding photographers need to cope with the pressure of capturing once-in-a-lifetime moments. If you think you’re fit for the challenge, read on to learn more about how an online photography degree can help advance your career.

Online Photography Degree Overview

Degree Avg Degree Cost Avg Loan Default Rate Time Commitment Early Career Pay Mid-Career Pay Unemployment Rate
Associate $17,555 23.33% 2 years N/A $43,714 9.1%
Bachelor's $22,564 14.49% 4 years $37,000 $37,000 7.8%
Master's $36,949 9.88% 2 years N/A $49,000 N/A
Whether you are new to the field, or looking to advance in your current career, you should weigh the costs and time of getting a new degree against its benefits. There is no one-size-fits-all degree. The best choice for you will depend on your current educational background, financial standing, employment history, and area of interest. For instance, those with no experience may want to consider an associate degree, due to its shorter time commitment and lower cost. If finances are tight for you, then you should prioritize the student loan debt and default categories, as you will want to choose a degree that offers you the best chance of improving your financial standing with minimal risk. If your employer or someone else is paying for your education, then you might want to consider the degree that will offer you the highest salary. All salary information is sourced from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and/or PayScale

Like many other jobs within creative fields, photographers are chosen far more often based on previous experience and their portfolio than their educational background. Still, photographers from all backgrounds could benefit from formal training, and certain online photography degrees and online photography courses can help you hone and expand your skills. Although an online degree may sound like a strange fit for this industry, a number of comprehensive, well-respected programs are now available.

As discussed previously, a photography degree isn’t an absolute requirement in the field; as such, higher levels of degrees don’t necessarily equate to better salaries. As the table above shows, associate degrees produce higher salaries than a bachelor’s degree in some cases. Master’s degree-holders do earn slightly higher salaries in the aggregate, possibly due to the fact that many eventually move into directorial or academic roles, jobs that typically pay better than freelance work.

Choosing Your Photography Careers

Average Photography Salaries

$45,069
$31,710

Photo Editors

Salary: $45,069
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
3% 58,900 High School Diploma or Equivalent N/A

Working in tandem with the creative team, photo editors work in a variety of creative environments. Those in larger organizations may only be in charge of retouching images, while those required to take on more responsibility in a small organization may also commission photoshoots and select images for publication. Photo editors should have an eye for appealing images and the patience to ensure that each picture is perfect before it leaves their desk. There are photography degrees online specifically for prospective editors.

Photographers

Salary: $31,710
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
3% 124,900 High School Diploma or Equivalent N/A

Photographers capture both the extraordinary and the mundane for posterity’s sake. Whether snapping once-in-a-lifetime images of a birth or documenting scenes in nature, photographers can find work in many different fields. Successful photographers are passionate and dedicated to their craft and they embrace a lifelong learning mentality. They also know a good shot when they see one and are able to develop their own style over time.

Online Photography Degrees

Associate

Associate-level online photography programs are vocational degrees, and they equip students with the essential skills needed to succeed in the industry. Whether looking to begin as a photographer’s assistant or branch out on your own immediately, you’ll know a thing or two about lighting design, editing processes, and the overall mechanics of common equipment.

Sample Courses
History of Photography, Foundations of Digital Imaging, Film & Digital Photography, Studio Lighting, Basics of Photoshop
Common Majors
Digital Photography, Portraiture, Lighting Design
Potential Jobs
Photography Assistant, Assistant Editor, Lighting Assistant
Average Income
$43,714
Employment Prospects
3% growth between 2014-2024

Bachelor’s

A bachelor’s degree is an excellent option for aspiring shutterbugs who want to understand the business side of the industry. By taking classes in marketing, accounting, financial management, and business planning, entrepreneurial photographers are better equipped to run their own companies or studios than graduates holding only an associate degree.

Sample Courses
Photography Lab, Contemporary Trends in Photography, Conceptual Photography, Visual Culture, Advanced Digital Imaging
Common Majors
Professional Photography, Art Photography, Digital Photography
Potential Jobs
Fashion Photographer, Wedding Photographer, Product Photographer
Average Income
$37,000
Employment Prospects
3% growth between 2014-2024

Master’s

Most aspiring photographers don’t need a master’s degree. For those who want to work as fine art directors or in an academic department, however, a master’s may prove useful. Covering nuanced theories and advanced topics in visual experiences, master’s programs typically require two to three years of full-time study.

Sample Courses
Theories of Photography, The Psychology of Images, Fine Arts Optics, Imaging Systems, Issues in Art History
Common Majors
Photography, Fine Arts, Digital Photography
Potential Jobs
Fine Arts Director, Professor of Photography, Head Photographer
Average Income
Use BLS data for income and employment prospects
Employment Prospects
3% growth between 2014 and 2024

Professional Requirements

Certified Professional Photographer

The Professional Photographers of America provide a Certified Professional Photographer program for anyone seeking recognition for excellence within the industry. While there are no online photography courses required, students can elect to take a three-day intensive review class before the exam. Candidates should ensure they are fully up-to-date on all technical aspects of their craft, as this is the main focus of the test. Once certified, photographers can add the CPP designation after their name and on any of their marketing materials.

Is it required?

No

How long will it take?

Varies