Recently on our photography forum this question (To go or not to go to photography school) was brought up by forum member kat. She wondered whether it was worth it to take a photography program at the university level.
It’s a very interesting question and it brought me back to my own university days and reminded me of something a statistics professor once told me. He said that the WORST thing you can do (ON AVERAGE for the average person) for your lifetime earnings is to go to university. This is because while you are going into university you are racking up debt and not making money. Obviously for professional degrees (accounting, medicine, law etc.) there is no other way, but photography is different. You can either go to photography school or learn photography by yourself, online, by taking workshops, apprenticing etc.
As for myself, I did go to photography school and completed a 2.5 year program after university in the mid 90’s. I don’t regret it one bit, I love knowledge and photo school trained my eye quite well.
However — If I were in this position today would I do the same thing?.…Honestly, I doubt I would.
The world these days is digital, and there’s SO much excellent online learning that wasn’t there when I studied, plus the darkroom work that was so important then, has been replaced by digital.
I really think I’d recommend workshops and self-learning over a full on program that takes 2–3 years. Keep in mind that AFTER the 2–3 years nobody will be waiting to give you a job, you will have to hustle BIG TIME and market yourself‚ BIG TIME..or else, on average you will fail.
Another sobering stat from back in the day is that 2 years AFTER graduating from photography school, only 20–25% of the graduates will be working photographers. That stat still seems accurate to me today based on what I‚ see.
So what do you think — Is photography school a waste of time?