Whereas it may take you four years to complete a bachelor's degree, it will most likely take two years of full-time study to complete an associate degree, making this option popular with people wanting to change careers or just start their careers sooner. You need 60 semester credits of college courses to complete your associate degree, and an increasing number of institutions, including brick and mortar, and online schools, offer associate degrees in photography.

What You Will Study

For an associate degree in photography, much of your learning will take place outside the classroom with assignments that you complete and bring into class for critique and review by your peers and professors. You can usually expect to learn both digital and film photography, including the basics of a darkroom, unless your degree is limited to digital photography. You will also learn the basics of programs such as Adobe Photoshop so that upon graduation you will have photo editing skills. Most degree coursework also includes the history of photography, and students learn about key artists who have made an impact on the field, such as Cindy Sherman, Irving Penn and Ansel Adams.

The Art Institute

The Art Institutes are a network of educational institutions that focus solely on the arts. They can be found in almost two dozen states and offer associate degrees in photography. At The Art Institutes, you will focus on color management, location and studio photography, digital photography, the business of photography and other classes that will develop your skills in the field of photography. To apply to The Art Institutes, begin by choosing the location in which you would like to study from the drop-down list on the Art Institutes' home page and request an informational packet from the school. Other noteworthy schools are the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, California Institute of the Arts and Rochester Institute of Technology.

Associate Degree from a Community College or a University

Some students may choose a community college for its lower costs and more flexible course schedules. To find out if your community college offers an associate degree in photography, visit the school's website or admissions office. In addition to community colleges, several private and state colleges or universities offer associate degrees in addition to their more typical bachelor's degree offerings. For example, Oklahoma State University offers an associate degree in media arts, which includes coursework in digital photography as well as web design to prepare graduates for entry-level jobs in the field. Kaplan University in Dayton, Ohio, offers an associate degree in Photographic Technology, with three areas of focus: commercial photography, portrait photography or general applied photography. Also, the International Academy of Design and Technology, and Harrington College of Design, both in Chicago, offer associate degrees in digital photography.

Earning an Associate Degree Online

Colleges and universities are now offering associate degrees online at a higher frequency, which allows flexibility with scheduling so that students who are working or have a full-time schedule outside of school can still pursue their studies. For example, at the Academy of Art University, students can earn an associate degree from the School of Photography and complete their course work entirely online. Other universities may have online course options in addition to courses offered on campus. To learn about a school's course offerings, speak to an admissions officer to go over your specific questions and requests.