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How Long Do I Have to Go to School to Become a Photographer?

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Some people can become successful photographers without ever setting foot in a classroom. Others may pick up classes here and there to gain the knowledge they need. Others will study for up to four years to get a degree in photography or a related discipline. Your educational commitment depends largely on the type of photography you want to do.

The Basics

Portrait photographers don't usually need a formal education because employers merely want someone with a good eye and creativity, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. You may want to pick up some classes to gain a technical understanding of photography, but you won't need to earn a degree. It can also be beneficial to take courses covering image editing software. Lansing Community College notes that photographers are often expected to be familiar with digital editing.

Specialized Photography

An entry-level position in photojournalism or scientific photography usually requires a two- or four-year degree or diploma from a university, college or technical school. According to Lansing Community College, a two-year associate's degree may be all that's required to work as a photographic assistant, but a bachelor's degree can open up more opportunities. Some photographers may study another discipline related to the type of photography they do. For example, a scientific photographer might have a degree in chemistry or biology. While self-employed photographers don't need a formal education, the BLS advises that they can benefit from business courses like marketing and accounting.


M. Scilly is a writer and editor who writes for various online publications, specializing in business and management. He has a fondness for travel and photography. In his free time he enjoys marathon training.

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