Associates Degrees in Photography

We should start with a detailed description of an associate degree and also how this degree level fits into the area of photography study.

In general terms, associates degrees in photography place emphasis on basic principles and techniques, capturing and presenting images using film or digital processes, and preparing for a career in the industry.

An associate degree in digital photography might include lighting basics, photojournalism experience, training in the use of Photoshop software, as well as business practices.

Areas of interest in associate programs include use of camera and accessories, film developing, lighting and use of light, composition, printing from film, color, photography history and use of digital cameras and computers to archive and edit images.


In many situations this degree opens doors to immediate employment, especially in journalism and freelance photography, or as an assistant to an established photographer. So it's important to give some thought to whether you need a degree for the type of work you're interested in.

If you feel you have a good eye for images that should be captured film or with digital equipment, you have a good start. But it is also important to believe that you can capture images and create finished images that will satisfy your clients (or your boss). Combine this with a solid basis in camera technology and you should be on your way.

As you consider starting toward an associate's degree in photography, look around in your community and in an area within 50 miles of your home. You may find there are already a number of working photographers who have more experience than you. This is the time to ask if a degree will give you the extra boost you need to get started.

Some schools carry strong reputations in the photography field. Certificates and degrees from these schools could be your best bet when it comes time to secure a position.

Campus or Online?

There are benefits to completing your photography study online, including:

  • self-paced study

  • reduced cost as compared to traditional campus setting

  • customized or personalized courses may be available

  • study is based on projects rather than extensive book study.

Of these benefits, cost may be the most significant. You don't have to devote several years to study and attending traditional classes. Yet you can build a strong technical background and get hands-on experience in various types of photography while spending only a few hundred dollars.

There are many options for getting a degree without going to a university campus.

Important for Associates Degrees in Photography

In fact, most schools offer an Associate of Arts degree as their main program. This might require two years or less for completion.

These programs usually provide basic study of photography history and technical subjects. If you are serious about enhancing your photography skills with an online course you will need good digital equipment, including a quality computer system. Online associate degree programs are a perfect path to a degree for those who want to start their career in a short period of time.

If you have a quality associate degree program at a community college or private photography institute nearby, you might want to look into their program. A two-year degree may be the key credential that can help you find your first photography job! Of course, you will be attending classes and doing your darkroom/computer lab work on campus in most of these programs.

This is a definite plus for those who can't really "dig into" a home-based, online course because they lack the facilities to do the finish work.

If you want to study in the United States, look to such established photography schools as:

  • The Illinois Institute of Art

  • Brooks Institute of Photography

  • Ohio Institute of Photography and Technology

  • and the International Center of Photography in New York

If you're interested in studying in Europe, you may want to try the Digital Photography School in Paris or the Photography and Digital Imaging Studio in Dublin, to give just two examples.

Generally speaking, an associates degree in photography is a wonderful addition to the resume, even if you already have significant experience in the field.

Whether you believe it or not, degrees open doors.

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