Sports Photography Degrees

In order to enter the field of sports photography you do not need any educational qualifications per se. However, having a degree in photography can help you improve your skills and knowledge in the field, as well as help you to understand the business aspect of it.

If you are considering becoming a professional sports photographer, read on to learn more about the profession and what qualifications could be useful to you.

About Sports Photography

Sports photography is a specific sub-field of photography that focuses on capturing all the excitement of sports. As such, it is a very high-paced, challenging, and dynamic form of photography. Photographers who chose to pursue sports photography must be able to stay alert and capture all of the moments in a game or match.

Some of the skills a sports photographer must cultivate include:



Specialize in one sport

Each sport is different and poses its own set of challenges. If you specialize in shooting a specific sport, you’ll understand that sport better and become an expert in shooting that sport.

Timing is everything

In sports photography, capturing the perfect moment is all about timing. Get that down ensures that you’ll get the perfect shot.


Getting in the right position will put you where all of the action is. As you understand the sport you are shooting, experiment with positions to find which one gets you the best shots.

Most sports photographers work as freelance photographers. They can also work for magazines and other organizations. As such, a successful sports photographer must have a keen understanding of how to successfully market their photographs and their style of photography.

How to become a professional sports photographer

Most professional sports photographers work either as freelancers or for certain magazines or print media organizations. If you are interested in becoming a professional, you do not need to go through extensive schooling. Most people who pursue this as a career choose to enroll in an associate’s degree program, bachelor’s degree program, or certificate program.

In general, these are the steps that you may take to becoming a sports photographer. All of the following steps don’t need to be followed; rather, your career aspirations will dictate the specific path you take.  

Steps to become a sports photographer:

1. Get a high school diploma

2. Enroll in an associate’s degree in photography

3. Enroll in a bachelor’s degree in arts with a concentration in photography

4. Enroll in a certificate program in photography or sports photography

4. Get relevant experience and improve your sports photography skills

Associate degree in photography

An associate degree is usually the first step towards becoming a photographer with qualifications. Strictly speaking, a degree is not required in order to enter this profession per se. However, enrolling in a degree program in photography will help you to develop the necessary skills, knowledge, and expertise needed to enter into the world of freelance photography with a great deal more confidence.

It’ll also help when you are looking for jobs as your qualifications can help to give you a competitive edge over other applicants.

An associate degree in photography features a curriculum which aims to teach students both the technical and artistic components of photography. You can expect to take part in a lot of hands on work.



Some of the courses offered

Associate degree in photography

2 years

  • Multimedia
  • Design and composition
  • Lighting
  • Color composition
  •  Digital photography
  •  Website design

Bachelor’s degree in photography

If you wish to further your educational qualifications, you can choose to follow your associate degree with a 4-year undergraduate degree in the field. At this level, you have a few choices in terms of what major to pursue. You can either enroll in a bachelor’s degree in fine arts with a concentration in photography or seek out a dedicated photography degree.

This degree will build upon the knowledge and skills you learned at the associate degree level and teach you how to refine your skills further. It’ll also help you learn the skills you need to effectively market yourself and your work.



Some of the courses offered

Bachelor’s Degree in photography or Fine Arts with major in Photography 

4 years

  • Color theory and application
  • Composition and media
  • Form and space
  • Digital imaging and composition
  • Business practices for photography
  • Camera exploration and techniques  

Career prospects and salary

Sports photographer is not treated as a distinct career by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, there are career statistics and in-depth information provided for photographers by and large.

According to BLS, the career profile for photographers looks like this:

Career Annual Median Salary (As of May 2015) Entry level education Is there any on the job training required? Job outlook between 2014 and 2024 The employment change from 2014 to 2024
Photographer $31,710 Minimum of a high school diploma Long term training on the job 3% - this is much slower than the average rate of growth for most professions which is 7% 3,900

How Long Does It Take to Complete a Sports Photography Degree?

If you want to become a sports photographer, you can start with an associate's or a bachelor’s degree in photography. There are many universities that offer a 2-year associate's degree, a 4-year bachelor’s degree and a 2-year master’s degree. You can also opt for online photography degrees or certifications. The Rochester Institute of Technology, California Institute of the Arts and the Rhode Island School of Design are some of the best schools for photography degrees.

What Are the Requirements to Complete a Sports Photography Degree?

The requirements to complete a degree in sports photography vary for each degree and university. For example, the Rochester Institute of Technology requires students of the 4-year bachelor’s degree in Photographic and Imaging Arts to complete 122 credit hours. On the other hand, the students of a 2-year master’s degree in Photography & Related Media must complete 60 credit hours to graduate. In addition to taking courses, the photography students are typically required to gain hands-on experience and build portfolios.

How Much Can I Make after Completing a Sports Photography Degree?

Even though a formal degree is not required to begin a career in sports photography, getting formal education provides knowledge of technical aspects that help polish your skills. After completing a degree in photography, people often work as a freelance sports photographers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported an annual income of $34,000 for photographers in 2018.

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