Photojournalism Degrees: Majors, Master's & Online Course Info

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Bachelor's and master's degrees in photojournalism can lead to print, multimedia, online or freelance careers. Find out about requirements, courses and career options, and what you can do with your degree.
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Studying Photojournalism: Degrees at a Glance

Contemporary photojournalism may involve still or moving images as well as audio. In a bachelor's or master's program, you'll learn to use traditional and new visual media and audio elements to tell a story. Today's documentary filmmakers, multimedia professionals and still photography photojournalists use electronic cameras and computers to produce their work. Journalism schools typically offer these degree programs.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that from 2010-2020, opportunities for reporters and correspondents would decrease by eight percent due to consolidations of media outlets and decreased readership and viewership for print and visual broadcast media. Opportunities for photographers of all types were expected to grow 13% over the same period. Prospective photojournalists facing a competitive market might consider developing a broad base of media skills at a school accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (ACEJMC).

Bachelor's Master's
Who is this degree for? Individuals learning to visually record newsworthy events and people to produce content for print and new media journalism Candidates wanting to increase their mastery of photojournalism technology for still photography, social media and multimedia
Common Career Paths (with approximate annual wage) - Photographer ($54,000 - with 2-4 years of experience)*
- Videographer ($57,000)*
- Film and video editor ($67,000)**
- Photo editor ($62,000 - with 2-4 years of experience)*
- Multimedia artist and animator ($68,000)**
- Freelance photojournalist (salary unavailable)
Time to Completion 4 years, full-time 1-2 years, full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Usually around 120 credits
- Internship
- Portfolio project
- Capstone
- Approximately 30-40 credits
- Internship
- Thesis
- Portfolio
Prerequisites High school diploma or GED Bachelor's degree
Online Availability Rare Rare

Sources: * (November 2012 median salary statistics), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 mean wage figures).

Bachelor's Degree Programs Covering Photojournalism

Few schools offer a photojournalism major; however, undergraduate concentrations in photojournalism may be available in a journalism or communication program, as well as a fine arts option. Digital media programs can also offer some photojournalism courses.

You'll likely study journalism fundamentals and the history of photojournalism. Programs may address design and technical skills needed for a variety of visual formats. These might include still photography, multimedia and electronic publishing, social media and video with sound. Schools may offer training in business aspects of freelancing. You could have options to specialize in a sub-field, like news or sports photography. Some programs offer the opportunity to complete a senior project or develop a professional portfolio of your work to show to prospective employers and clients. Internships might also be available.

Pros and Cons


  • Programs could train you in multiple types of visual media
  • The structure of an academic program may help you develop a quality portfolio
  • You could have the freedom to specialize in any sub-field that interests you
  • Careers related to photojournalism may require a degree


  • Competition for available positions may be stiff
  • Photojournalists may work in difficult or dangerous conditions
  • Your equipment will need to be updated often to meet technological changes
  • Talent and experience may be more beneficial than a photojournalism degree

Courses and Requirements

Undergraduate programs usually require common core courses in English, communication and physical and social sciences. You may take basic photojournalism courses, followed by elective options in your major or in a business subject like accounting or marketing. Basic undergraduate equipment might include a small or medium-format SLR camera and light meter, along with a computer with photo editing and illustration programs.

You might take these courses like these in a photojournalism program:

  • News reporting and writing
  • History and aesthetics of photography
  • Documentary productions
  • Picture story and photographic essay
  • Visual editing in new media
  • Multimedia design
  • Electronic photojournalism

Online Course Options

Online majors in photojournalism are rare to non-existent, but online journalism studies and digital media degree programs are offered that include some photojournalism training. Individual courses may be available. These could be convenient if you have concurrent commitments. You'll meet the same requirements in a virtual course, but assignments and lessons will be delivered via the Internet. The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) offers online education and self-training resources for aspiring professionals. Online bachelor's degree programs in photography are also available.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

Your portfolio, internship experience and contacts could get you noticed. In this competitive field, you might want the broadest skill base possible, demonstrating not only still photography and video talent but also expertise in photo editing and other computer programs commonly used in the industry. A membership in NPPA and your school's student chapter could provide access to scholarships, portfolio critiques, mentoring and networking opportunities. Schools might offer unique travel and internship programs, either overseas or in media or political centers like Washington, D.C.

Master's Degree Programs Covering Photojournalism

Exceptional talent and a quality portfolio might get you admitted to a competitive program in photojournalism and documentary photography. You'll probably be encouraged to develop a broad skill set, incorporating both still photography and multimedia. Graduate photojournalists master journalism basics and current technologies. You may need to develop your writing skills to write captions, edit photo stories and produce multimedia projects.

In a graduate program, you may have opportunities to explore a specialty of your choice in depth or develop your skills in criticism. You'll complete or add to your existing professional photo portfolio. Some schools might require a research thesis.

Pros and Cons


  • Advanced training may help the quality of your work and your portfolio stand out
  • Interaction with the professional community and use of campus resources may be an advantage as you refine your skills
  • Teaching may be a career option with this degree


  • Time and opportunity cost of this degree might be high, relative to pay
  • Freelancers may not have reliable income
  • Professional quality cameras, multimedia equipment, hardware and software could be expensive to buy and keep current

Courses and Requirements

Graduate programs can offer students with some experience the opportunity to move directly into advanced workshops in their craft. You'll probably be expected to develop more skills than a traditional still photographer. Programs may require time in the field as well as time in computer, audio and multimedia laboratories. Your school could require a portfolio, thesis or both.

You might take graduate courses like these:

  • Advanced visual design
  • Visual journalism
  • News photography
  • Multimedia for photojournalists
  • The journalist as freelancer
  • Digital photography fundamentals
  • Documentary video

Online Courses

Advanced remote instruction is provided by NPPA, but fully online master's programs specific to photojournalism may be rare to non-existent. Schools do offer various journalism, visual communication and multimedia graduate courses. You may be able to find a school with some virtual courses, or an online graduate digital media program that includes photojournalism courses. You can also find fully online programs in related areas, such as photography.

Standing Out with This Degree

Besides developing and refining a portfolio that demonstrates your skills, you can probably expect to do more research in a graduate program than you did as an undergraduate. Using resources like photography centers, photo collections and specialized libraries might help you become a well-rounded professional. Institutes could offer lecture and seminar series that bring noteworthy professionals to campus. Advanced internship options may be available. Some schools host galleries and student magazines that could help you promote your work.

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