Photography Curricula

There is an increasingly wide variety of ways in which photography is being taught and utilized in contemporary school systems. These ways may be classed as follows:


This is usually a two-year program, offered in many community or technical colleges or in trade or vocational schools. Colleges may offer a two-year associate degree or a one-year certificate. Vocational schools will more likely offer some type of certificate that takes a year or less to complete. Typically these programs emphasize the technical aspects of photography, with the purpose of giving the student sufficient job-entry skills to begin making his or her living in the field of commercial, industrial, medical, or portrait photography.

Fine Arts

These programs are generally in either art schools or four-year colleges or universities. The curriculum focuses on the use of photography as an expressive medium, much as drawing, painting, sculpture, dance, or music. In a purely fine arts—oriented program, there is no intent of preparing the student to enter the world of commercial photography, as the primary emphasis is on aesthetics, self-expression, history of the medium, and the relationship of photography to other expressive media.


Some college, university, and art school programs are large enough to offer a two-track curriculum, with one track leading into commercial applications of photography, and the other track leading in a fine arts direction. Such a program requires a faculty with a very broad background of training and professional experience, which is not frequently found in any one school.

Liberal Arts

This is not usually a full-major program, but rather a series of courses that offer the student a photographic experience without attempting to prepare him or her for a career in photography.

Specialty Programs

Many schools at both the secondary and postsecondary levels have specialty courses in photography designed to fill needs in specific professional areas such as journalism, science, and medicine. These programs, of course, require faculties with very specialized and often extensive training and experience in the specific discipline.

Ancillary Programs

There is a growing awareness on the part of many professional dis-ciplines—from psychotherapy to anthropology—of the necessity of acquiring knowledge of photography. These courses or programs, therefore, are designed for the individual who already has a profes sional background but who wants to add photographic skills. The teacher in such a program generally needs at least a working knowledge not only of photography, but also of the related professions.

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