Top 23 Best Photography Colleges & Universities In The US

Best Photography Colleges & Universities In The US

A degree in photography can open doors to many rewarding career choices. Many colleges and universities across the United States offer degree programs. A lot of the degrees are 2 year and 4 year programs for Associate and Bachelors degrees, while some schools offer Masters and PhDs in photography.

Even though a degree in itself is valuable, completing your education at certain colleges or universities may give you advantages throughout your career, not merely in the job search phase of your photography career. Some schools simply give students a better education overall. 

So to begin your photography journey, here are 23 of the best photography colleges & universities in the US. Lets get started!

Top 23 Best Photography Colleges & Universities in the US

1. California Institute of the Arts

California Institute of the Arts
One of the premier art schools in the nation, California Institute of the Arts offers BFA (Bachelors Fine Arts) and MFA (Masters Fine Arts) in Art, Graphic Design, Photography and Media, and MFA in Art and Technology.

Incorporated in 1961, CalArts was the first degree institute in the USA specifically geared towards educating in the fields of visual and performing arts, In addition to photography, classes are available in Art, Critical Studies, Dance, Film/Video, Music, and Theater. You can even get a degree in Animation or Puppetry!

Walt Disney and his brother Roy were behind the creation of this school, so it’s no surprise that there is a wide range of subjects offered. Involvement in cross disciplines is actively encouraged, so a film degree may involve education in animation, music, or theater, as well as photographic specific education.

The connections made as students will continue to benefit graduates throughout their career. Lifelong connections will be forged with fellow students and with leaders in the various arts industries that a student will meet and collaborate with during the time spent obtaining a degree.

2. Rochester Institute of Technology

Rochester Institute of Technology
Rochester Institute of Technology, RIT, has several undergraduate (BFA) degrees available, as well as a post graduate (MFA) in Photography and Related Media. BFA degree studies include Advertising photography, Biomedical Photographic Communications, Journalism, and Photographic Imaging Technology, among several other majors and minors.

Graduates of RIT could end up working in major national and multi-national news centers, participating in studies in research hospitals, or on a design team of a major photographic manufacturer. 

The history of this institute dates all the way back to 1829, with the current name and academic focus starting in 1944. Many leaders in US industry had their start in the education received here. Current graduates enjoy a degree with a fine reputation and very effective career development assistance.

3. School of the Art Institute of Chicago

 School of the Art Institute of Chicago
SAIC, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, is one of the better schools to attend for preparation for a career in the arts. It can trace its roots back to 1866 and was accredited as a college in 1936. 

A large school, SAIC is fully accessible to students regardless of gender, ethnicity, or status. All you have to do is desire a degree and be eligible. This makes the school very friendly to a wide variety of demographics.

With graduate and undergraduate degrees offered in multiple disciplines, SAIC strives to provide a well rounded and truly beneficial education for art students to use in the real world of a career in the arts and entertainment industries.

4. Rhode Island School of Design

Rhode Island School of Design
Part of the larger Brown University campus, Rhode Island School of Design, RISD, is a private art school with both graduate and undergraduate degree programs in various arts including photography.

Founded in 1877, RISD has been consistently ranked as one of the top arts and design schools in the nation. With degrees offered in architectural design, illustration, photography, and jewelry and apparel design, there is a good opportunity to be completely educated in your chosen career path.

Students progress from basic classroom learning to exhibitions of their work in major shows.

5. University of California (Los Angeles)

University of California (Los Angeles)
Usually referred to as UCLA, the University of California at Los Angeles is a top school for just about any topic you could take as a major or a minor. The Photography department maintains that top ranking.

Established in 1919 as the southern branch of the older (1868) University of California public university, UCLA offers 337 degree programs for BFA and MFA. Photography and Digital Studies are just a couple of the programs that can prepare you for a long and rewarding career in the arts.

Much more than a technical program, an arts degree from UCLA will completely educate you in whatever discipline you have chosen.

6. University of New Mexico

University of New Mexico
Undergraduate, graduate, and post graduate degrees are awarded in a wide range of subjects, including photography. A public research university, UNM, University of New Mexico, was founded in 1889 and has remained a top university in the US for as long as it has existed.

The huge arts department provides facilities for digital imaging studies as well as film photography and motion picture. A holistic approach to education allows for personal growth in whatever career is desired.

7. University of Southern California

University of Southern California
University of Southern California, USC, is a private university established in 1880 in Los Angeles, California.

From undergraduate to postdoctoral degrees, USC provides a top tier education in a wide variety of fields. Computer sciences, arts, including photography and cinema, as well as law and medicine are all found as this university.

Studying photography at USC can lead you in many directions, all aided by career placement services and association with industry leaders in the various fields.

8. New York University

New York University
One of the larger schools in the US, New York University, NYU, was founded in 1831 and has campuses in several international sites besides New York City.

With degrees ranging from undergrad to post grad, virtually any professional subject can be taught here. The photography options include cinema, digital, and analog imaging, as well as art theory and design.

9. School of Visual Art

School of Visual Art
A fantastic mentor program helps set this school apart from other institutions. Current industry and arts leaders are involved in assisting with the curriculum and beyond.

Since 1947, SVU, School of Visual Art, has offered degree programs in disciplines of the arts such as photography and design. MFA and BFA degrees are available in fields ranging from animation and cartooning, to computer arts, and film and cinema.

10. Yale School of Fine Art

Yale School of Fine Art
The first professional school of fine arts in the USA, Yale School of Fine Art was established in 1869 as part of the larger Yale University, established 1701.

Masters of Fine Arts is the only degree offered by this very exclusive school. Very few graduate students are enrolled yearly, making this one of the more prestigious MFAs available. Students seeking a Yale BFA will need to apply to Yale University directly, as the Yale SFA has no undergraduate programs.

The MFA photography program is regularly ranked as either the top or near the top programs in the USA each year.

11. California College of the Arts

California College of the Arts
Another fine California art school, CCA, California College of the Arts, is in the San Francisco Bay Area and offers a BFA program in photography. 

In operation since 1907, CCA has campuses in San Francisco and Oakland. Courses are taught in art, design, architecture, and writing. BFA is the degree available, which can enable a graduate to continue to a MFA or doctorate at another institution.

A mentor program gives students hands on experience in their chosen field, as well as relationships that go well beyond the university level. This school is designed to turn students into professionals.

12. Columbia College

Columbia College
Columbia College Chicago has offered arts education since 1890 and has degree programs in several disciplines. 

Both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees are available in photography, and several exciting extra programs to give graduates a jump start into their desired careers. Masters students are invited to international shows, both as attendants and as exhibitors.

13. University of Pennsylvania

 University of Pennsylvania
An Ivy League school with many different degree disciplines available, Penn has been a premier school in the USA since Benjamin Franklin founded it in 1740.

Undergrad, grad, and postgrad programs exist in fields ranging from law and medicine to liberal and fine arts. Cinema, computer imaging, and photography are taught by some of the finest educators in their fields.

14. Columbia College Hollywood

Columbia College Hollywood
If you want a degree in film and video studies, what better place than a Hollywood school to get it! Since 1952, students could get Associates and Bachelors degrees in Cinema, TV, Visual Effects, and Interactive Media. You can even study online.

Many notable directors, producers, and cinematographers have graduated from Columbia. A full studio and a state of the art theater enable students to realize their visualization. A valuable education for real world success is available for aspiring film makers.

15. Arizona State University

Arizona State University
The photography program in the ASU Herberger Institute School of Art has been consistently ranked in the top ten schools for photography. Graduate and postgraduate degrees are offered in a diverse range of fields including photography, intermedia, fashion, and art education, among others.

Arizona State University, ASU, has been operating as public research university since 1885. With literally hundreds of choices for degrees, majors, and minors, cross disciplinary studies are actively encouraged. This can result in a very well rounded education, regardless of what professional field a student may wish to pursue.

16. Maryland Institute College of Art

 Maryland Institute College of Art
Originally founded in 1826, Maryland Institute College of Art, MICA, is one of the oldest art schools in the US.

Bachelors and Masters degrees are available in film making, illustration, design, and art education, as well as photography.

Though a relatively small school, compared to others, many notable leaders in art, photography, and film makers received degrees from MICA. Subjects covered are diverse and useful. Besides basic photography, black and white, analog film, lighting, and special processes are explored. A very useful education for transitioning into the world of photography as a business endeavor.

17. Massachusetts College of Art and Design

Massachusetts College of Art and Design
Massachusetts College of Art and Design, MassArt, is the only publicly funded free-standing art school in the United States, most stand alone art schools being privately funded.  MassArt was also the first art college in the US to offer an artistic degree program.

Originally set up in 1876, MassArt has MFA and BFA programs in photography, animation, film and video, painting, interrelated media, and illustration, as well as several other studies.

Student desiring to specialize in one specific photographic field, such as landscape, portraiture, or documentary can find courses geared specifically to those areas.

18. University of Arizona

University of Arizona
Part of the large University of Arizona, the art school is set up to provide training and degrees (BFA and MFA) in several different art disciplines.

Available degrees are in areas such as 3D & Extended Media, Art History, Art & Visual Culture Education, Illustration, Design, and Photography.

The University of Arizona is a public research university, chartered in 1885 in Tucson while Arizona was still a territory. 

It offers bachelors, masters, doctoral, and professional degrees in science, law, medicine, and various liberal arts including photography. The photography studies are often ranked in the top ten of US colleges.

19. Wesleyan University

Wesleyan University
With over 900 courses offered in 45 majors with a student to teacher ration of 8:1, Wesleyan is a fine school to earn a BFA in photography.

Established in 1831 as a Methodist college, it was named after John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. Wesleyan is currently a secular private school, not associated with any religion.

In addition to photography, film studies and theater are also taught. Bachelors degrees are the only degree offered. Students wishing to continue on to Masters or doctoral degrees can transfer in to any major college or university.

20. Loyola Marymount University

 Loyola Marymount University
Part of the Jesuit community of colleges in the US, LMU was founded in 1917 and is one of the largest Roman Catholic universities offering degrees, students can receive a well rounded education in various arts subjects.

Film and television, law, and various sciences are among the fields you can earn a BFA, MFA, or PhD in at Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles, California.

21. Vassar College

 Vassar College
Vassar College was established in 1861 as the first school in the US where women could earn a degree. It has been coeducational since 1969 and is a great school to study arts, science, or politics. 

Awarding undergraduate degrees only, there are over 1000 different courses to attend for an interdisciplinary education. Rated very high every year, Vassar is one of the best values for veterans, male and female.

22. Emory University

 Emory University
Near Atlanta, Georgia, Emory was founded in 1831 as a Methodist Episcopal school. Emory is primarily known as a fine medical school, but it also has degree programs for BFA and MFA in various arts, including photography and performance arts.

A medium sized private school, Emory runs a large network of healthcare networks and teaching hospitals throughout the region.

Emory University is a great school for veterans, minorities, and foreign students, even offering degree programs for refugees of political and economic strife. The multi cultural perspective this allows an art student to experience will transition well to whatever professional field they go on to.

23. University of Miami

University of Miami
Where am I? Miami! “The U” is one of the largest colleges in the US and offer a full range of undergrad, grad, and postgrad degrees in disciplines ranging from law, medicine, scholastics, and the arts.

Privately funded and nonsectarian, UM has been in south Florida since established in 1925. 

The business school associated with the university gives career counseling and job placement services to graduates from the various degree programs. At the heart of a vibrant, multi-cultural city, UM gives Arts student a superb education for achieving a rewarding career.

In order to work at certain large corporations, a degree will be required to even begin the application process. Generally, an employer wants the degree to match the job description for which you are applying. However, this isn’t always the case. Some employers will accept any degree, as long as you also have job experience that relates to the position.

While the Bachelors or Associates degrees can get you in the door for various types of photographic jobs, in order to be a teacher or professor in the field of photography, you will generally need a Masters degree or perhaps even a PhD.