2022 Best Online Photography Degrees

By OnlineU Staff | Updated 6/14/2022

Photography involves the artistic production and manipulation of images. An online photography degree prepares students to use their creativity, technical ability, and equipment to succeed in the industry. Photography professionals understand the role that lighting, composition, shape, shadow, negative space, and background play in their discipline. There is no specific accreditation agency for photography, but the Council for Higher Education Accreditation provides a list of accrediting agencies and accredited schools. Those interested in transferring credits or going on to pursue graduate studies should also pay close attention to accreditation status when researching an online photography degree. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that the photography industry will grow by 17% in the next decade, so once you have a degree from an accredited school, you can begin your career.

View our methodology for more details about our list or learn more about OnlineU.

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List Of Accredited Online Schools

School Online Enrollment Salary Score Median Starting Salary
Southern New Hampshire University Online 106,375 106,375 NA NA NA NA
Arizona State University 44,253 73 $27,343
Academy of Art University 4,209 93 $31,710
Lindenwood University 1,536 NA NA
Savannah College of Art and Design 1,096 40 $23,085
Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design 851 NA NA
Mount Saint Mary's University - CA 174 NA NA
The Art Institutes NA 35 $22,344

Academy of Art University

  • Salary Score: 93
  • Median Starting Salary: $31,710
  • Locations: San Francisco (CA)
  • Accreditation: WSCUC

The Academy of Art University (AAU) is a medium-sized, private institution that offers an online Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography. The program requires 132 credits, and students can complete it in four years with a full-time schedule. Students can choose to focus on commercial, editorial, fine art, or documentary courses. Some of these classes include Physics for Artists: Light, Sound, and Motion; Perspective Journalism; and Photography Principles and Techniques. Graduates go on to work at companies such as Williams Sonoma, Google, and Gap.

At AAU, students use Brightspace to access their coursework, which is fully online. At AAU, online students have access to all university resources.

Arizona State University

  • Salary Score: 73
  • Median Starting Salary: $27,343
  • Locations: Tempe (AZ) (and 4 others)
  • Accreditation: HLC

The Arizona State University (ASU) is a large, public institution. The university offers an online Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art with a Digital Photography concentration and focuses on artistic and creative expression. This degree program requires 120 credit hours, and students can finish it between three to four years with a full-time schedule. Some core classes for the Digital Photography concentration include History of Photography, Advanced Digital Photography, and Photography as the Constructed Image, along with a final capstone project. After graduating, students may work as film editors, photo lab specialists, and art professors.

At ASU, students use Blackboard to access their coursework, which is entirely online. ASU’s online students have access to all university resources.

Savannah College of Art and Design

  • Salary Score: 40
  • Median Starting Salary: $23,085
  • Locations: Savannah (GA)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is a medium-sized, private institution. SCAD offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Photography requiring 180 credit hours. This program teaches visual literacy, analog methods, and digital technology to prepare their graduates for careers as advertising photographers, gallery directors, and digital technicians. Some core classes in this program include Camera Exploration & Technique and Business Practices for Photography. This major can be completed in four years with a full-time schedule, including a project seminar and internship.

At SCAD, students use Blackboard to access their coursework, which is entirely online. Online students have access to all university resources.

The Art Institutes

  • Salary Score: 35
  • Median Starting Salary: $22,344
  • Locations: Nationwide
  • Accreditation: HLC

The Art Institutes (AI) is a system of eight private schools and online programs. Among their online programs, AI has an online Bachelor of Fine Arts in Digital Photography requiring 180 credit hours. AI uses professional technology to teach design, technique, and management skills. They offer classes like Principles of Photography, Digital Publishing, and Creative Concepts. The program takes three to four years with a full-time schedule, and it requires a language proficiency class. Graduates of this online program go on to work for studios, businesses, and artists.

At AI, students use Brightspace to access their coursework, which can be either fully online or delivered in a hybrid format. Online students have access to all university resources.

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Overview of Online Photography Degrees

Education in photography should not only involve the field itself, but also interdisciplinary classes such as business management, art history, communications and journalism, or literature. Photography classes are available in many settings outside of academia, but the majority of employers prefer to hire those who have earned official, formal college degrees in the subject. Liberal arts universities may offer education in the discipline, as do art schools that specialize exclusively in photography.

Online photography programs are available at the associate, bachelor's, and master's degree level. These programs are typically fine art degrees, which teach students the skills to take compelling photos of diverse subject matter. Students take classes in design, composition, lighting, visual culture, and art history. In studio classes, students shoot photos to hone their skills in particular photographic areas. Associate and bachelor's degree programs offer a broad education. Alongside the requirements of their major, students must take classes in liberal arts, math, science, and other subjects to get a well-rounded education. Master's degrees in photography require a thesis, a lengthy creative project that requires a year or more of work. Some photography programs also include courses in journalism, communications, photo-editing software, and new media.

Photography is a fast-growing and competitive industry. Creative individuals who love to document events, inform others, and capture human nature through images are likely well-suited for a career as a photographer. Many programs prepare students for entry-level careers in competitive, professional fields like advertising, production, news and media, publishing, and photo labs. Entry-level positions include photographer assistants, studio managers, production assistants, and digital retouchers. Photography graduates may also become fine art photographers, portrait and wedding photographers, or commercial photographers.

Online Bachelor's Degrees in Photography

Bachelor's programs in photography cover the visual communication and technical skills to produce compelling photos. Students are given a rigorous education, studying elements of photography and image manipulation where they have the opportunity to work with professional camera and lighting equipment. These programs take four years to complete and about 120 credit hours of coursework. Applicants need a high school diploma or GED. Some may also require the submission of an art or photography portfolio.

The first half of the bachelor's program will include general education requirements, such as math, history, and science. The second half of the program will be devoted to a core photography curriculum covering topics such as photographic foundational principles, black-and-white photography, history of photography, digital photography, and photographic composition. Students learn how to use various types of equipment and work with different types of editing software. Photography programs may come with a particular specialization or allow students to choose a focus area. Possible focuses include visual communication, commercial photography, scientific photography, art photography, or photographic journalism.

Bachelor's graduates can become photographers in a variety of professional settings, including commercial photographic services, newspaper publishing, television production, retail portrait studios, and colleges and universities. About 63 percent of photographers are self-employed. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts strong job competition for photography positions in the next few years, as many positions do not require any particular educational credential or training. Photographers who are skilled in more than one multimedia area, such as digital picture and film editing, are likely to have better job opportunities.

The Importance of an Accredited Photography Degree

Accreditation helps ensure that the school you choose to attend has been thoroughly evaluated by an independent organization and that it meets high academic standards. The US Department of Education (USDE) recognizes several independent accreditation agencies that set high standards of excellence for colleges and universities, many of which offer photography degree programs. The USDE and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation each provide a list of those accredited institutions.

Even though accreditation isn't usually a requirement to become a professional photographer or photographer's assistant, potential employers may prefer to hire people who have graduated from an accredited school, as it indicates that they have a solid foundation in the academic principles of photography. Additionally, if you plan to transfer to another school or continue your education by persuing further education later, the type of accreditation your school has earned (whether it be regional, national, or hybrid) can be of critical importance.

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