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What to Ask Before Deciding on a Photography School

Consider these questions to find the best program for your goals.
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Comparing Degrees and Programs

Although there are many places to earn a degree in photography, it would be a mistake to think that all photography schools are the same.

Location, degree options, cost and reputation are all things that can make the difference between a fulfilling school experience and a costly venture. With that in mind, it's important to consider what you really want before choosing a photography program.

You'll need to take several factors into account in order to make the best decision. Answering the following questions is a good place to start:

What kind of photography degree is most interesting to you?

There are all kinds of photographers doing all kinds of photography. Some schools just offer a general program and you can develop a specialty, but others actually offer specialized tracks with instructors and programs selected for that specialty—whether you choose to study photojournalism, commercial photography, digital media or any other specialty. If you already know what you're interested in, check to make sure that the schools you are considering offer the photography courses you'll need.

What are your career goals?

Do you want to start your own photography business? If so, look for a photography degree program with more studio or business course options. Are you interested in working for somebody else? You might want to find a program with a good internship and placement program. Do you want to pursue an advanced degree? Consider a bachelor's program. Are you interested in teaching? Look into programs with an art education component.

Are you willing to relocate to attend school?

If you don't want to move, then you've successfully narrowed your search to local community colleges and universities. Or you might consider looking into schools that offer online photography programs. If you are willing to move to get your photography degree, you may want to consider schools in major cities where there are more job and internship opportunities.

Who are the faculty?

Find out if the professors are people you'd be excited to learn from. If they're working professionals, research the kind of work they've done or currently do. Find out if instructors are mostly full time or part time and what the typical student-faculty ratio is. This will give you some idea of how much time, attention and access you have.

How much time are you willing to devote to your education?

Do you want to get through school as quickly as possible? A certificate, diploma or associate's photography degree program will have you out in the working world in one to two years. A bachelor's program will last four years, but you'll also graduate with some liberal arts credits under your belt, which enables you to pursue a graduate degree down the road.

Is the school accredited?

Accreditation is a good indication that a school meets high educational standards. But accreditation is only one indicator. Non-accredited photography schools may have strong programs as well. However, if you think you might want to attend a graduate program down the road, attending an accredited institution may be the best way to go. Accredited graduate institutions may not accept all of your undergraduate credits from non-accredited schools. It's also worth noting that attending an accredited school may give you more access to financial aid. So think about your future goals, and plan accordingly.

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Photography Degree & Career Guide