Technical School Vs. Traditional College

Technical schools specialize in teaching certain crafts. Often, students that complete the program will receive a certificate of completion and not a degree. Photography students interested in gaining knowledge and improving their skills for personal use and hobby would best choose a technical school for photographic studies.

But even serious and skilled photography students might choose an education at a quality technical school. Schools that specialize in photography without a focus on a general education are able to concentrate all programming on photography itself. For students sure of their career path, a photography technical school may be a good option. Students have the opportunity to gain photographic skills and begin working in a shorter period of time.

The Hallmark Institute of Photography in Massachusetts, for example, covers art and techniques, digital imaging, design and imaging arts, management, marketing, finance, and personnel in 10 months. The New England School of Photography in Massachusetts is a two-year program covering basic technical skills and underlying principles and allowing students to choose an area of specialization for their second-year courses.

The New York Institute of Photography in New York offers home study courses. The entire program can be completed in one to three years. The Center for Digital Imaging Arts at Boston University, with campuses in Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., offers a two-semester full-time program or a four-semester part-time program to obtain a professional photography certificate.

Prospective students unable to make a commitment to a long-term educational plan and the associated cost might also consider workshops and seminars at photography schools. These shorter programs are a good opportunity to test the waters and see if photography is a good career choice for you.

Technical schools specializing in photography are good options for students confident in their career goals and interested in a fast path to a career. Although the cost per semester can rival that of a four-year school, technical schools offer a shorter, more condensed program.

On the down side:

  • Some employers look for a four-year or graduate level fine arts degree.
  • Technical schools do not provide a general education and do not allow for a change in career path without switching schools.
  • Non-accredited schools have limited financial aid options.

Many colleges and universities across the United State offer a four-year bachelor's degree and/or graduate degree in photography, usually as a fine arts degree. Some of these schools, schools of art and design, are a cross between a technical school and a traditional college. A school of design offering a bachelor of fine arts in photography or master of fine arts in photography will provide a basic general education. The focus of the school, however, is on art and design. Consequently, the course load will be heavily weighted toward artistic endeavors and specialization. All students at these schools will have a primary art and design focus.

Both state and private colleges and universities offer photography degrees. In this environment, students major in photography, or fine arts with a concentration in photography, for example, and receive a complete broad-based education. Two-year schools confer an associate's degree. Four-year schools confer a bachelor's degree. Graduate schools confer a master's degree. Over the four-year period to obtain a bachelor's degree, students will take a number of liberal arts courses, as well as math and science. Students will take increasingly high-level and complex courses in their specialty. At some colleges, accomplished students are permitted to take graduate-level courses in their field as well.

Traditional schools offer a broader education and more financial aid opportunities. Any student wishing to attend graduate school for a photography degree must first obtain a bachelor's degree. Traditional schools provide greater opportunities for additional study in another field that may allow for additional skill development. For example, a photography student might also study computer science to pursue a full range of digital arts. A student might take writing and journalism classes to prepare for a career in photojournalism or travel photography. Science courses can enhance work as a scientific photographer.

The precise program offerings, cost, career goals, and time to completion should also be considered when choosing a technical school specializing in photography or a traditional college or university.

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