Should I ditch photography School?

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excel­lent online learn­ing that wasn’t there when I stud­ied, plus the dark­room work that was so impor­tant then, has been replaced by digital.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?