Top 10 University Programs For Photography In The U.S.

Photo by Kayla Mendez

While it is true that you don’t need a degree to be a successful photographer that piece of paper no matter how expensive it may end up being, can’t hurt you. This list is for those of you would want to further your education in the art of photography and who want nothing but the best photography programs that schools across the United States offer. For any senior in high school reading this I still strongly recommend taking a gap year. It will be worth it and you can go into college if you choose, with a fresh outlook, and so much personal growth from your year off. Ok, back to the point.

Even though many have and will continue to be great photographers without degrees I thought that we should still outline where you could go for anyone that may want to be a part of these programs some day. There are both advantages and disadvantages of earning your degree…in anything really. The biggest disadvantage is the money. It’s stupidly expensive to put yourself through school. It’s also forcing you to focus on a set path for four years during a time in your life when most things should be uncertain so that you can find your way.

I guess what I’m saying is that college sometimes provides you with a security blanket that keeps you from figuring out who you are and what you want. Don’t let this sway your opinion college has many advantages as well. You learn in a setting with your peers and can be inspired by them each day. You build an extensive network that you should use after graduation. You have no excuse when it comes to creating work because that is pretty much your job and sole purpose during your time there. It’s also the perfect place to make mistakes because nothing is one the line just yet.

So I don’t want to keep you waiting any longer. Below are some of the top-ranked university programs in the States for those wishing to pursue careers in photography and video. They are in no particular order.

1. School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Located right in Chicago this school is ranking pretty high for their wonderful photography programs at both the undergraduate and graduate level. The highlight of their program is the senior seminar course which is a team-taught class in which seminars are focused on career development and degree preparation for the real world.

2. Yale University

This should come as no surprise. Yale is a highly versatile school and offers the best to its students. Yale is where you go if you want that graduate degree, in my opinion of course. Their undergrad degree is still amazing, but it is generic art. The in-depth experience comes from being enrolled in their two-year graduate program. Please be aware that Yale is highly competitive and expensive. A wonderful portfolio must be presented.

3. Rochester Institute of Technology

Located in New York, you wouldn’t believe that this school could be about the arts. Well, it is. The amount of concentrations they offer students is what makes their school so appealing. Some of the focuses are advertising photography, biomedical photographic communications, Fine Art photography, Photographic sciences, photojournalism, and many others. The amount of resources at this school makes many future artists dream to attend.

4. California Institute of the Arts (CalArts)

California Institute of the Arts is renowned internationally as a game-changer in the education of professional artists. Their diverse community, challenging curriculum, and cultural awareness make them one of the best in the nation at training artists who can be as authentic as possible in their work. They help students to stop fearing society and to create what moves them no matter what.

5. Rhode Island School of Design

With very small class sizes and an extensive network of artists, it’s no wonder than RISD is the place to be. Many alumni go on to have successful careers in NYC. It’s one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious colleges offering rigorous art programs to its students

6. University of Oregon

Located in Eugene students who attend this university will be exposed to a wide range of studio art. This really helps in a student’s ability to create the art they are passionate about right there while a student. You’ll be able to take workshops in photography, sculpting, jewelry & metal making, printmaking, and painting & drawing. The Pacific Northwest also isn’t a bad place scenery wise for landscape photographers

7. University of New Mexico

Situated within the New Mexican high desert, this university emphasizes its location as a reason to attend. The desert is space artists have been captivated by for centuries, the programs allow students to take advantage of unique paths of study inspired by this region and landscape. They also encourage cross-learning and hope that students pursue more than one interest.

8. Virginia Commonwealth University

Ranked 1st in the country as a public university art school you will have the privilege of graduating from an esteemed institution. You will have credibility as an artist and a working professional simply by attending this place. With eight accreditations this school in Virginia may be your dream come true.

9. Massachusetts College of Art and Design

With its legacy beginning in 1873, Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt), is public, independent, and one of the nation’s oldest art schools. Stressing diversity and inclusiveness, this school challenges students to transcend traditional boundaries. Art to them is a life-enhancing force. With them, you will make a difference.

10. College for Creative Studies

This is a small privately owned university in Detroit, Michigan. It may not be the first place you would expect to wind up, but you won’t regret it. The CCS provides students with a rigorous and innovative education that aligns well with industry requirements. In other words, you will be very prepared for the world that awaits you outside the college.  

Share us your thoughts in the comments below! Needing the inspiration to pursue a photography program? Check out our recent article HERE about photography careers you can pursue.