A lot of young people ask me, especially at this time of year, whether they should do a degree in photography, my advice is this, and it is only my opinion. –
A degree tells an employer that you have the self motivation to complete 3 years of study and produce a body of work. It’s not school, you don’t have to be there. If two people turn-up for a job, both interview well and both have great personalities, but only one has a degree – the one with the degree will almost definitely get the position. However, having a degree in photography won’t necessarily get you a job as a photographer. This year alone, thousands of students left universities with some kind of photographically related degree. Most of them are now unemployed or are working in an office or a building society. There simply aren’t enough jobs to go round.
If you want to be a photojournalist, study something like politics or history, a portrait photographer should look at anthropology or sociology and I think somebody who’d like to become the worlds next big-shot surf photographer will find 3 years reading oceanography or meteorology a lot more beneficial. You can tie photography into all of these courses and there’s also the added ‘belt and braces’ advantage – when you emerge, riddled with student debt, after 3 years and you can’t walk into that dream photography job, you’ll have a much more usable degree.
“But how do I learn about photography?1” I hear you say – every university will have a photography club or society of some kind, join that and make friends with photography and art students – they have free access to equipment and darkrooms and they also throw the best parties.
Only a genuine passion in the medium will get you anywhere in photography…and for the record, I don’t have a degree, and apart from a night class when I was 19, I’ve never studied photography.