Photography is both an art and a science, and you need technical acumen and a trained eye to succeed in this crowded field. Post-secondary instruction can give you an advantage in securing a highly sought-after job. These five schools get high marks from U.S. News & World Report and the photography and video publication Resource Magazine.
Yale School of Art
U.S. News ranks the Yale School of Art’s program the best in the land. You get expert instruction in photography along with the prestige of an Ivy League degree from this New Haven, Connecticut, program. The university offers a highly selective, two-year graduate degree. You need a portfolio of 20 images or videos of your best work from the past three years, at least half of which must be no more than a year old, when you apply. The school offers courses in black-and-white photography, digital photography, contemporary photography and photography criticism.
Rochester Institute of Technology
The College of Imaging Arts and Sciences at the Rochester Institute of Technology ranked no lower than sixth among both magazines' lists of photography schools. The school offers undergraduate majors in advertising, biomedical or fine art photography; imaging and photographic technology; photojournalism; and visual media. Photojournalism students take annual trips to New York City and Washington. Top alumni employers include The New York Times, National Public Radio and The Associated Press, the school website says. The facilities include 35 darkrooms and 30 studios and labs, including one for scanning electron microscopy images. Students shoot with Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Pentax and Leica cameras and an assortment of lenses.
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
The photography program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago ranked second by U.S. News and third by Resource Magazine. Its undergraduates take advantage of mentoring from the school’s graduate students, who not only share techniques but also professional development skills. Part of that development comes from participating in a six-credit, team-taught senior seminar. Classes include color concepts, lighting fundamentals and photographic history. After introductory and intermediate work, students create their own projects and consult with instructors one on one. Students’ work illustrates the departmental catalog each year.
Maryland Institute College of Art
The photography program at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore was established more than a century ago, the school website says. It covers still and digital images, photography history and darkroom techniques. Class of 2007 alumnus Adam Golfer’s photographs of the West Bank were published in GQ magazine, and he’s shot freelance portraits, studio work and magazine images. Some classes include Deconstructing the Photograph, Environmentally Concerned Photography and Contemporary Color Landscape. The school forged a partnership in 2014 with Aperture Foundation, a major photography nonprofit based in New York.
California Institute of the Arts
Resource Magazine ranks the photography program at California Institute of the Arts the best of 2014 in the United States based on the encouragement of “debate and experimentation” among its students. You can pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts or a Master of Fine Arts in photography and media at this school in Valencia. It brings together faculty with a track record of experimenting with digital images, publishing, writing, painting and filmmaking. BFA photography students take independent studies in their second, third and fourth year. They must take a class on the history of photography and are encouraged to take Video History, Network Culture and Visual Semiotics.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Photographer
- U.S. News & World Report: Best Graduate Schools, Photography, 2012
- Resource Magazine: 15 Great College and University Photography Programs in the U.S., 2014
- Resource Magazine: About
- Yale School of Art: Photography, Admissions
- Rochester Institute of Technology: College of Imaging Arts and Sciences
- School of the Art Institute of Chicago: Photography, Undergraduate Overview
- Maryland Institute College of Art: Photography
- California Institute of the Arts: Photography and Media
- Dario Lo Presti/iStock/Getty Images