Is a Photography Degree Worth It?

photography degree

Key Takeaways

  • A photography degree can provide valuable skills and credentials for pursuing a career in the creative industry.
  • Online photography programs offer flexibility, while campus-based programs provide hands-on learning experiences.
  • Consider factors such as cost, flexibility, and program quality when choosing between campus-based and online photography degrees.


When we’re asked, “Is a photography degree worth it?” we say that a photography degree can provide valuable skills and credentials for pursuing a career in the creative industry. Then, we also get questions about choosing between online and on-campus photography degree programs, particularly as both formats are readily available. 


Online photography programs offer flexibility, while campus-based programs provide hands-on learning experiences. Be sure to consider factors such as cost, flexibility, and program quality when choosing between campus-based and online photography degrees, too. An online photography degree lets you study from anywhere, which means you can travel while studying. This gives you the opportunity to practice photography in a variety of locations around the world. You may even be able to use some of your financial aid for this.

Featured Programs

Professional photographers use their technical expertise in photographic equipment, technologies and techniques, as well as their composition and creative skills in the production and preservation of images. Their work requires the use of a wide range of traditional film cameras and digital cameras, even drones with integrated cameras, and their accessories. 

Professional photographers earned $53,380 in mean annual wage (May 2023). But like many creative jobs, there are highest-paying photographer jobs that pay well above the median annual wage, including freelance photographers, photogrammetrists, and wedding photographers. 

Many degree programs also provide the best photography degree success stories that inspire aspiring photographers. Furthermore, consider Annie Leibovitz and Cindy Sherman who are among the highest-paid photographers with formal training in photography. If their success is anything to go by, then we must say that, indeed, earning a photography degree is worth it.

With your photography degree, you will find a well-paying job in numerous industries, including the fashion industry, commercial art studios, and broadcasting corporations. You can also become an entrepreneur and establish your own photography business. Many professional photographers also teach photography classes.

Relevance of Photography Degrees in the Creative Industry

When you’re planning on entering and succeeding in the creative industry, the benefits of photography degree programs and your completion of a selected program become even more apparent, and here are the reasons why. 

  • Technical skills are of crucial importance among professional photographers because of the ever-changing, high-tech equipment, devices, and software used.
  • Creative vision can be nurtured and developed under the guidance of your professors and in collaboration with your peers. You will develop your unique style in photography, from colors to compositions, which will make you stand out.
  • Portfolio development will be among your goals, and your portfolio will showcase your creativity, distinctive style, and technical abilities to prospective employers and clients.
  • Gain industry knowledge through courses in the theories, principles and practices of modern photography, which prospective employers also look for. You will gain fundamental knowledge of business administration, which is a must when you want to succeed as a business owner. 

The bottom line: Earning a photography degree demonstrates your credibility as a photographer and your commitment to continuous learning that, in turn, contributes to your image of reliability and relevance in the competitive industry. 

What are the different kinds of photography degree programs that aspiring photographers can look into?

  • Associate degree programs provide an introduction to the basics of photography. 
  • Bachelor’s degree programs offer comprehensive coverage of the more advanced theories, principles and practices of photography. 
  • Master’s degree programs provide extensive training and education in the more technical and specialized aspects of photography. 

We suggest starting with an associate degree program if you want to test the waters. 

Purpose of the Article 

We will discuss the benefits of earning a degree in photography, as well as making the best choice between on-campus and online degree programs. We want to emphasize that there’s no right or wrong choice – it’s your choice based on what you think is the best for you, considering your needs and wants. 

Campus-based Photography Degree Programs

Benefits of Traditional Campus-based Programs for Photography

The enduring popularity of campus-based photography programs is attributed to their numerous benefits. 

Easier access to on-campus facilities, services and resources 

With easy access to on-campus facilities, such as studios, dark rooms, and editing rooms, you’re more able to comply with your academic requirements. You can save on the costs of buying and renting specialized equipment, too. 

More hands-on learning opportunities 

Along with your peers, you can enjoy more experiential learning experiences under the guidance of your professors. These include workshops, seminars and group projects. 

More structured curriculum 

Being able to learn along with your peers results in a clear progression through your coursework. You’re also more likely to keep up with the academic requirements, receive immediate feedback, and interact with your professors. 

Challenges Associated with Campus-based Photography Programs

But there are challenges that you must consider, too. 

  • The cost of earning an on-campus degree can be higher due to the transportation and on-campus living expenses. 
  • The limited flexibility due to the structured curriculum may be inconvenient for working professionals. There’s also the need to relocate if you live out of state or far from the campus. 

Online Photography Degree Programs

Advantages of Online Programs for Photography Degrees

There are also several benefits of online photography education that you should consider. 

Flexible schedule 

Students benefit from the learn anytime, anywhere model of asynchronous courses, meaning you can learn at your own pace and schedule. Even synchronous courses benefit working professionals. 


Online programs are accessible regardless of your geographical location. Networking opportunities and community engagement are offered, too, thanks to online communication technologies. 

Cost efficiency 

Many online programs offer lower tuition and fees, too, since online students don’t use the on-campus facilities. 

Considerations for Selecting a Reputable Online Photography Program

But online photography degree programs have their challenges, too. 

  • There are limited hands-on learning opportunities, such as making camera adjustments, which can be a handicap. Add the technical issues, such as a slow Internet connection, and it can be more challenging.
  • The professors can be limited, too, in their ability to deliver a well-rounded education because of the limited in-person interactions.
  • There’s less structure in the classroom, meaning you must practice self-motivation more. 

Comparing Campus-based vs. Online Photography Degree Programs

In this comparison of online vs campus photography degree programs, we considered three of the major issues – affordability, flexibility and quality. 

Cost Considerations

In a photography degree cost comparison, on-campus and online programs are equal. While on-campus programs usually have higher costs of attendance (tuition, fees, and other related on-campus expenses), online programs can require significant investments in photography equipment. 

Flexibility Comparison 

Campus-based programs have a fixed schedule, resulting in less flexibility, but the face-to-face interactions offset it. Online programs offer more flexibility in scheduling and in location but fewer in-person interactions can be an issue. 

We suggest looking for flexible photography degree programs that combine online courses with on-campus activities, such as workshops and seminars. 

Quality of Education Comparison 

Students in campus-based programs have easy access to its facilities, resources and services, enjoy more face-to-face interactions with peers and professors, and thrive in the collaborative environment. The quality of online photography degrees keeps up, if not exceeds, their on-campus counterparts because of the use of virtual simulations, multimedia resources, and interactive assignments. Students also have access to diverse learning resources. 

But when the on-campus and online programs offered by the same college share the same curriculum, rigorous academic standards, and professors, then their overall quality is the same. Check out Savannah College of Art and Design for this purpose. 


Recap of Key Points 

As an answer to the question, “Is an online photography degree worth it?” our answer is still a resounding “Yes.” We can also say the same for earning an on-campus photography degree. 

We must emphasize that a regionally accredited institution must offer the photography degree program. Accreditation is a guarantee of academic quality that prospective employers will recognize. 

Encouragement for Readers 

When considering a photography degree program, you should always consider your specific needs and wants. What are your personal interests and career goals? What is your current financial situation and your potential financial aid eligibility? What are your current schedule, lifestyle and preferences that can affect your choice between on-campus and online programs?