Is a Photography Degree Right for You?

Photography is an exciting and popular career choice. Aspiring photographers love the prospect of doing what they love and having a creative outlet through their work. However, a successful career in photography takes talent and dedication. The field can be quite competitive, and some find it challenging to make a living wage in photography. Job growth for photographers in general is about saverage for other occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, an online bachelor’s degree in photography may improve your job prospects.

Advice for Earning Your Photography Degree Online

As with all fine art disciplines, an online format for a bachelor’s degree in photography can present some challenges. However, some online degree programs are available. Before pursuing an online degree, makes sure the institution of your choice is regionally accredited to award degrees at the bachelor’s degree level. The best online degree programs will also have critique sessions with classmates and professors. While a virtual critique can be different than an in-person studio critique, this step is very important to your development as a photographer.

Required Courses

Online bachelor’s degree programs in photography include a range of studio art and art history classes, as well as some general education coursework. You can expect to become proficient in digital photography as well as dark room techniques. However, most programs will focus on digital photography skills, equipment, and technology. You may even be required to take studio classes in other art media, including painting, sculpture, or drawing to develop your artistic eye.

Common Career Paths

An online bachelor’s degree in photography will definitely hone your photography skills. However, there are multiple career paths for photography students. Here are three of the most common:

  • Wedding Photographer

    Wedding photography is one of the most popular job tracks for photography majors. Wedding photography has a clearly defined market. Most wedding photographers are also entrepreneurs, with the flexibility to set their own rates and schedules. Many aspiring wedding photographers also enjoy the ability to market their unique style as a way to set themselves apart in the market.

    However, as with all business ventures, wedding photography can be very competitive, especially in large cities where there are many other professionals. Even in smaller communities, many brides hire wedding photographers from nearby urban areas. This is where your bachelor’s degree in photography comes in handy. With the practical skills and instruction you receive in a college classroom, along with lots of hard work and practice, you can develop your artistic and technical abilities as a wedding photographer. Wages for wedding photographers can vary significantly as well. Based on hourly wage statistics for all photographers reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the mean hourly wage for photographers is $19.41.

  • Photo Editor

    A photo editor position is a slight deviation from the standard photography career path. As a photo editor, you use software, such as Photoshop, to enhance and improve photos for sale or publication. Many photo editors work for magazines or photographers and work with existing photos to improve their quality.

    A bachelor’s degree in photography is a great way to develop the skills and expertise you need to become a photo editor. Courses in art history, studio, and critiques will develop your artistic eye and technical courses in software and digital publishing and photography will develop your knowledge of common application used in photo editing. Not to mention, jobs in photo editing can be relatively scarce and somewhat competitive. However, the connections you build in a photography bachelor’s program can help you get your foot in the door for an exciting career like this.

  • Art Director

    If you are considering a degree in photography, a career as an art director could be a long-term goal. Art directors usually work in publishing, particularly for magazines, as well as film and television to design the visual style of the final product. They may also work in product or packaging design or marketing and public relations. Art directors manage teams of people and usually need at least three to five years of experience in related arts fields to be eligible for the position. The artistic talent and eye for aesthetics that you develop in a fine art degree like photography is highly useful in an art direction position.

    Job growth for art directors is growing slower than average for other professions. The career is expected to grow by 9% between 2010 and 2020, according to the BLS. However, it can be a lucrative field in the right circumstances. The BLSreports that the highest-paid art directors earn approximately $163,430 per year while the lowest-paid art directors earn approximately $42,840 per year. Based on these figures, the average art director can expect to earn approximately $103,135 per year. However, please note that these figures are not guaranteed and merely a range of reported salaries. Your actual salary as an art director will depend on your experience, the employer, the market, and your local cost of living.

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