Do I Need A Degree To Be A Photographer?

IOP are often asked “Do I need a degree to be a photographer” and the short answer is no. Many professional photographers who are renowned in their respective fields do not have a degree in photography or any other creative subject.

A degree may help you and of course, 3-4 years of full-time study in any subject should make you better at it, but fundamentally, photography is an art form and you are judged by the quality of your portfolio and not by the letters after your name. 

Here are some pros and cons to taking a photography degree.



It’s always positive to meet and socialise with those in the industry that you potentially want to work in and University offers a way to do this. There are exhibitions you can get involved in, networking opportunities and contacts you may meet that will all help to further your career.

Degree Certificate:

Your pass certificate seems like irrevocable proof of your photography competence and is the ultimate goal for many photographers. Having that degree framed on the wall can sometimes seem more important than the process of learning itself.

Job Potential:

Will you have a better chance of getting a job with a degree over another person who does not have one? Possibly, but there are so many factors and you have to weigh up the cost of getting the degree which can come in at more than £9,000 per year as an average.

Tutor Support:

Depending on the quality of the course, you should have accessible Tutors that will help you with more challenging concepts.



There is no doubt that studying at any University is an extremely costly business. With the average student leaving with over £40,000 of debt, you have to consider at what point you will have made this investment worthwhile. How long will it take you to make that amount as a photographer? Could you have reached that point without a degree?


All photography degrees are different but you tend to find that they concentrate more heavily on a rounded syllabus of creative arts and less on the business aspect of photography. Students can leave University with a good creative grounding in fine arts but with absolutely no idea how to set up their own business or make money from it. 


When people ask “Do I need a degree to be a photographer?”, what they really mean is “How do I make money as a photographer?” and “Will I be taken seriously as a photographer without a degree?”. The answer to this is yes, you will be taken seriously as a photographer if your work is good enough. If your portfolio stands out, you don’t need a degree to validate it. 

New Market Developments:

One of the problems with degrees is that they can’t react quickly enough to new market developments and technology changes. You could end up studying texts that are not as relevant to the modern world. 

Your Options:

On the whole, if you have three years and the money to invest along with the inclination to learn about the creative arts as a whole rather than specifically photography, then a degree could be for you.

If you just want to be a better photographer, create an excellent portfolio and have a thirst for learning, then consider IOP online photography courses. For a fraction of the cost of a photography degree, we can provide you with:

  • Tutor Support
  • Help & Advice On Building a Portfolio
  • Help In Choosing a Niche
  • Business Development Information
  • A Supportive Community Of Like-Minded Individuals

All for a fraction of the cost of a degree course. 

Examples of great photographers who don’t have a University degree in photography:

David Bailey suffers from Dyslexia and Dyspraxia. This prevented him from pursuing an academic career.

Robert Frank trained as an apprentice under various photographers before starting his career, but he didn’t study at University.

Ansel Adams lived and breathed photography but University was not part of his journey

What Next?

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