Photography Schools

Table of Contents

Best Photography Schools

Pictures are worth a thousand words, but that doesn’t mean the pictures you take will automatically generate enough money to make a living. It takes true dedication, skill, creativity, and business sense to succeed in this competitive field. While there is no one path to success as a photographer, some formal education can help you get started and propel your career forward.

Photography school is an under-the-radar path to a unique career that can help you make a living doing something you’re passionate about. If you want to pursue photography as a profession, photography schools can offer everything from traditional and digital photography courses to photojournalism, food photography, and other niche specializations.

What Is Photography School?

Photography school is an educational environment where students learn the technical, conceptual, and artistic aspects of photography. At the college or university level, a photography school is rarely a specific type of college, rather it is likely to be a department or smaller academic unit within a liberal arts college or institution of the Arts.

Non-degree-granting photography programs at community colleges and trade schools are also available to those just entering the profession. Unlike a college or university, trade schools for photography typically focus on intensive technical training in a short period of time and offer certificates or diplomas rather than degrees.

School Rankings

The 10 Best Photography Schools in the U.S.

This year, our annual ranking of the best photography schools was assembled through an analysis of public and private data from over 250 qualifying photography programs in the U.S. Our experts ranked the best schools based on a number of important factors, including academic excellence, affordability, reputation in the industry, and long-term graduate success.

Best Colleges
School of the Art Institute of Chicago

111 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603

California Institute of the Arts

24700 McBean Parkway, Valencia, California 91355

Yale University School of Art

1156 Chapel St, New Haven, CT 06511

Rochester Institute of Technology

One Lomb Memorial Dr, Rochester, NY 14623

Parsons School of Design

66 West 12th Street, New York, NY 10011

Rhode Island School of Design

20 Washington Place, Providence, RI 02903-2784

Savannah College of Art and Design

516 Drayton St, Savannah, GA 31401

Columbia College of Chicago

600 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60605

University of Arizona

The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721

Bard College

30 Campus Rd, Annandale-On-Hudson, NY 12504


Online Photography Schools

Online photography schools are a great option for those who prefer to take flexible, online classes or need to accommodate their busy schedule with a school that does not have fixed class times. Many students who earn an online photography degree are working adults and part-time students looking to gain the knowledge and skills necessary for a satisfying career in Photography.

Online photography programs offer the same high-quality education as programs taken on campus, but with the added benefit of allowing students to work at their own pace under flexible class schedules. Those who seek out online photography schools are typically serious about growing their knowledge in photography but do not have the time or desire to attend a physical school.

How to Choose a Photography Program

Now that you have an idea of the best photography schools in the country, you’ll want to narrow down your search. But how do you know which school is right for you? Should you apply to the first school at the top of our list and work your way down? Or is it better to find out more about each school first, and then decide on the best fit?

The answer may vary from person to person, but one thing is certain: when it comes to finding a photography program that will fulfill all of your needs and help you achieve your goals, there’s no substitute for doing your research. Our photography school rankings are a great place to start, but the final decision is up to you.

Here are some of the most important factors to consider when searching for the best photography program:

Academic Reputation

When you’re looking for a school that will set you on the right path and provides you with real-world knowledge and experience, it’s important to find a photography program with an established reputation. There are many factors that go into rating a school’s academic prestige; some of these include the school’s entrance requirements, the average GPA of its students, the historical success of a school’s graduates, and student reviews.

Quality of Faculty and Facilities

One of the most direct ways to measure a photography program’s quality is by considering the caliber and number of distinguished faculty members, and the quality of the school’s facilities. In order to attract top-level faculty and staff, photography schools must develop a solid reputation for excellence – but even more importantly, they must also offer an environment conducive to helping students achieve their individual potential.

Long-Term Graduate Success

Perhaps more important than a school’s short-term success, as measured by average GPAs and entrance-requirement statistics, is its graduates’ long-term success – that is, how prepared students are for life after graduation. This can be a difficult factor to measure, but one way to assess a program’s ability to prepare students for the real world is by looking at the types of jobs their students go on to pursue.

For example, is it common for graduates to find employment in the field of their choice after graduation? Are they able to command a competitive salary upon graduating from the program? Do most graduates of the program successfully pursue their own career paths, or do they immediately fall into a pattern of performing unskilled labor? These are all important questions to ask yourself when determining which photography program will best prepare you for your future.

Cost and Affordability

One of the most important factors in choosing a photography program is your budget. You’ll want to ensure that you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck, which means assessing the total cost of attendance and comparing it to potential earnings in the field. After all, a high-quality program that’s out of your price range may not be worth your while when it comes to helping you achieve your long-term goals.

It’s important to note that the school’s published cost of attendance is only the beginning; it doesn’t take into account extra expenses such as housing, food, transportation, books, and supplies. In order to make a well-rounded comparison of each school’s total price tag, be sure to take these extra expenses into account.

Inclusive and Welcoming Environment

The best photography schools are not just well equipped but have built a reputation for being welcoming to all students, regardless of their background or area of study. The most successful schools for photography treat underrepresented groups with respect and include people from all walks of life.


An important factor to take into account when choosing a photography program is the location of the school. You’ll want to consider everything from nearby student housing options to the city’s culture. Is the city in which you’d like to attend a school known for its photography industry? Do students in the program typically work with local businesses, organizations, or galleries during their fieldwork?

The best photography programs are ones that offer a range of diverse experiences and learning opportunities. Attending a photography program in a city with a thriving culture of photography can be an immensely valuable experience.

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