It’s not unusual for a student to question the need for a formal online photography degree program, especially considering the vast number of amateur photographers who have carved out a living for themselves without the benefit of a degree. There is no denying that a formal education isn’t for everyone and that it’s possible to succeed in the field without one, but a photography degree opens up other doors beyond only being a photographer. The field of photography is filled with opportunities on the business and marketing side of photography as well as opportunities in the media world, especially as it becomes more digitally advanced.
So much of photography and photo editing has already moved onto a computer, so it is only natural that a photography education can also be adequately taught online and may even expose students to online tools that aren’t readily available at a traditional university. The online photography degree program will not only teach you the nuances of photo-taking and photo editing, but it will also offer some insight into photography history and ground you in the basic principles of what makes a good photo. This way, when you graduate, your options are plentiful within the field.
If you are interested in becoming a photographer, you should probably expect to be self-employed or work as a freelancer as the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that many media outlets will continue to scale back on their salaried photography staff. You will be able to set your own hours but it may be harder to find consistent work given the saturation of the market.
If you are looking for work outside of the traditional photographer role there may be more diverse opportunities available. Multimedia has become an important part of business plans at any level and an online photography degree program has the necessary education already baked into the curriculum.
Most photographers don’t enter the field to get rich though, they do it because they have an outlet to express their creativity, they get a strong sense of pride from the work they create, and they get those things while also getting paid to do what most people consider a fun hobby.
Choosing an Online Photography Degree Program
The very first thing you should always consider with online photography degree programs is whether or not the program is accredited. Non-accredited photography schools do exist and some of them even have worthwhile programs, but ensuring that the program is accredited means you can keep your post-graduation options open and potentially even go back to graduate school as well. In an industry as popular and crowded as photography, you want to make sure you aren’t excluding yourself from possibilities if you can avoid it.
Another thing to consider when choosing an online photography degree program is just how well the program actually understands photography. The best schools don’t just offer a general online photography degree; they offer specified degrees in subjects like photojournalism, digital photography, and portrait photography.
They also understand that photography is not just about taking pictures. These programs should obviously offer professional instruction on photographic principles, but they should also be offering a strong foundation in business and marketing strategy, as well as a basic foundation in visual design and art history.
Finally, you will want to make sure the programs you are considering have an extensive and documented track record of successfully preparing and placing graduating students for an in the job market. Photography can be an especially difficult profession to break into, and many times in order to find that worthwhile job you will need to leverage your connections and resources and also get a little bit of good luck. One of the best resources at your disposal is your school and its employees. Ostensibly, they have connections in the industry and their graduates have made a name for themselves. If that is the case, it may open more doors or at least give you an advantage or a level of comfort when you graduate.
Online Photography Course Types
There is no doctoral degree in photography but there are master’s, bachelor’s, and associate’s degrees offered at many of the bigger and better online photography degree programs across the country. The associate’s degree at most programs will offer basic technical skills and photography techniques as well as an introduction to visual design. Most programs are designed to ensure that their graduates with associate’s degrees are technically and fundamentally sound photographers who may not have the same in-depth expertise that someone with a more advanced degree might have, but still has a solid foundation of knowledge and education to more than adequately prepare them for a career in the field.
The Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees are both more intensive and specialized, in part because there will be a lot more lab work and more in-depth and nuanced information about certain types of photography. Some programs will require or encourage their bachelor’s and master’s degree students to specialize in a certain area of the field and once they have mastered the basic concepts of the curriculum, they move into a more detailed and specialized education arc that will teach them in-depth skills that are relevant to their specific career choice. These programs will be more comprehensive and will include advanced design and photography training while also maintaining the base of fundamental and technically sound photography skills.
Most photojournalists, scientific photographers, and research photographers are required to have at least a bachelor’s degree and many businesses looking for multimedia editors and managers will have be looking for candidates with formal training and education so while a degree won’t necessarily make or break your photography career, it can give some people the advantage they need.
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Your creativity is a big part of who you are and where you’re going. To take it, and your future, as far as you want, you need an education that’s focused on developing your talents and putting you on the path toward the creative career that stirs your imagination. A collaborative education at The Art Institute of Atlanta-Decatur, a branch of The Art Institute of Atlanta, is all about the work, the students who create it, and the instructors who guide them.
The first step is to explore these areas of study, and think about where you fit in an industry that runs on ideas.