Complete Guide to an Online Photography Degree

By OnlineU Staff | Updated 3/25/2021
Quick Facts
Accreditation: Institutional
Average Tuition: $23,966
Alumni Salary: $26,410

Photography involves the artistic production and manipulation of images. An online photography degree prepares students to work at a high level in the photography industry. In order to be a successful photographer, a great deal of creativity must be combined with a strong technical ability and good equipment. Photography professionals understand the role that lighting, composition, shape, shadow, negative space, and background, among other considerations, play in their discipline.

While there isn't a specific programmatic accreditation agency for photography, there are agencies that award institutional accreditation for schools and distance learning institutions offering photography degrees. These institutions ensure quality standards are met. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation provides a list of accrediting agencies and accredited schools. Those interested in transfering credits or going on to pursue graduate studies should also pay close attention to accreditation status when researching an online photography degree.

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Most Popular Accredited Online Schools for Photography Bachelor's Degrees

Visitors to our site are most interested in these schools
Rank School Annual Tuition Recommend Rate
# 1 #1 Southern New Hampshire University Online $9,600 62% (415 reviews)
272 Programs, 1 Bachelor's in Photography (view all)
272 Programs, 1 Bachelor's in Photography
  • BA Digital Photography
# 2 #2 Arizona State University $24,413 68% (104 reviews)
253 Programs, 1 Bachelor's in Photography (view all)
253 Programs, 1 Bachelor's in Photography
  • BFA in Art - Digital Photography
# 3 #3 Calvary University $11,164 Add Review
102 Programs, 1 Bachelor's in Photography (view all)
102 Programs, 1 Bachelor's in Photography
  • Professional Directed Studies: Photography (Bachelor's)
# 4 #4 Mount Saint Mary's University - CA $42,792 0% (1 review)
28 Programs, 1 Bachelor's in Photography (view all)
28 Programs, 1 Bachelor's in Photography
  • Bachelor of Arts in Film and Media - Professional Photogr...
# 5 #5 Savannah College of Art and Design $38,075 Add Review
30 Programs, 1 Bachelor's in Photography (view all)
30 Programs, 1 Bachelor's in Photography
  • Bachelor of Arts in Photography
# 6 #6 Academy of Art University $23,412 29% (38 reviews)
158 Programs, 1 Bachelor's in Photography (view all)
158 Programs, 1 Bachelor's in Photography
  • BFA in Photography
# 7 #7 The Art Institutes $18,382 21% (14 reviews)
10 Programs, 1 Bachelor's in Photography (view all)
10 Programs, 1 Bachelor's in Photography
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts in Digital Photography
# 8 #8 Lindenwood University $18,100 Add Review
96 Programs, 1 Bachelor's in Photography (view all)
96 Programs, 1 Bachelor's in Photography
  • BFA in Art and Design - Photography
# 9 #9 Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design $19,670 0% (1 review)
20 Programs, 1 Bachelor's in Photography (view all)
20 Programs, 1 Bachelor's in Photography
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography

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.

This website offers school details to prospective students as an informational resource. The appearance of a school listing on this website should not be interpreted as an endorsement of the school by this site.