Becoming a successful photographer is easier said than done. While there is always a select few who seem to effortlessly master the medium, for most of us it requires dedication, work and education. But with a variety of photography programs across the U.S., choosing the one that’s right for you can be tedious. And with such high tuition costs—not to mention rising student loan rates—it’s probably best to get it right the first time. So, we’ve narrowed it down to t15 college and university photography programs in the U.S that we felt stood out to help you better make your choice.
15. Virginia Commonwealth University
Students in this program are taught technical and artistic skills to begin their careers as professional artists, multimedia specialists and editorial or commercial photographers. With a fairly wide range of concentration areas, this program places a great deal of emphasis on individual artistic expression. The university offers BFA and MFA degrees, while the graduate program was ranked 4th among public programs for photography and film by U.S. News & World Report.
14. Massachusetts College of Art and Design
In this BFA program, students explore the photography medium as a fine art with an emphasis on personal vision, technical excellence and experimentation. Beginning with black and white film—which is similar to most other schools—focus later shifts to extended projects and portfolio development. There are also electives available for specific themes such as landscape, documentary, portraiture and more.
13. University of Arizona
The UVA bachelors program allows students to pursue a K-12 teacher certification along with their photography degree, offering courses in traditional black and white darkroom techniques, digital and other image-forming technologies, color processes, large-scale photography, video and performance.
12. Maryland Institute College of Art
MICA’s BFA photography program explores a variety of disciplines from black and white digital printing, to non-traditional processes and studio lighting techniques. But it’s highly competitive, as each spring seniors compete for the Meyer Photography Traveling Scholarship which gives a senior photography major the opportunity to travel in the United States or abroad for a photographic project.
11. Arizona State University
Despite its frat-bro reputation, the BFA photography program at ASU is considered one of the finest institutions in the country, and its graduate photography program has been ranked in the top twenty in the country by U.S. News and World Report since 2002.
10. Columbia College (IL)
The Columbia College undergraduate photography program is one of the largest and most competitive in the nation. But with facilities that include a digital imaging lab with more than 200 workstations, darkrooms along with over 150 enlarging stations, highly sophisticated scanning equipment and more, it’s easy to see why.
9. California College of the Arts
For undergraduates, this program is broken down into three parts: the framing of students’ artistic worldview, instruction and critique from real-world visionaries and developing a photography career. Students are encouraged to participate in internships with Bay Area photography studios, art galleries and magazines.
8. University of California(Los Angeles)
Photography history and narrative studies are strongly emphasized in the UCLA undergraduate photo program, along with a focus on installation and video art in conjunction with photography.
7.Yale School of Fine Art
This highly selective MFA program admits only nine students per year, while students are subject to a critique panel for a final review each term. This program also focuses on a broad definition of photography as a lens based medium.
6. School of Visual Art
With cutting-edge facilities that are open until 4 a.m., SVA is known as the best choice for students looking to earn a BFA in photography in New York City. Not to mention, students in their senior year are paired with mentors that are invited from NYC’s abundant art scene, while some of their recent graduates are currently represented by Julie Saul, Yossi Milo, Yancey Richardson and Daniel Cooney.
5. University of New Mexico
This program offers an interdisciplinary approach to photography including video, film, sound, performance and installation. While “self-discipline is crucial and standards of achievement are high,” according to the college’s site, facilities include digital classrooms, computer labs and state-of-the-art darkrooms for film processing and silver-based printing. Advanced students also have access to lighting equipment, medium format and view cameras,and DSLRs. In both BFA and MFA programs emphasis is placed on the student’s personal growth through aesthetic and intellectual development.
4. Rhode Island School of Design
The RISD BFA program explores the social, cultural and historical aspects in regards to the cultural continuum of photography. A big portion of the program is learning how to “read an image,” and by junior year students are taught digital printing, web projects and video, finishing the program with exhibits at on-campus galleries. “Within this exploration, photography is examined both as language and as craft,” reads the college’s site.
3. School of the Art Institute of Chicago
The SAIC program offers both graduate and undergraduate courses, along with a faculty filled with distinguished and practicing artists. In its senior seminar class for undergrads, students focus on professional development—an area that many other schools lack—and are paired with graduate students for collaborations.
2. Rochester Institute of Technology
Unlike most undergraduate photography programs that offer a more general photo education, RIT offers a variety of different photography majors in specific areas of study. This includes advertising photography, fine art photography, photojournalism and even biomedical photographic communications.
1. California Institute of the Arts
This highly progressive program educates students to become independent artists where courses are built to challenge the conventional notions of artistic practice, in addition to the bringing the position of representation in contemporary culture to question. Since nothing is ever stable in photography’s relation to the rest of the art world, the program encourages debate and experimentation. The college offers both BFA and MFA programs.
Interested in studying abroad? Check out our recommendations for the 15 Best International Schools For Photography!