School of Photography - Graduate Degrees

Item 4

Master of Fine Arts (MFA) Degree

The MFA program provides advanced practice and intensive study of the photographic medium. Core curriculum covers historical perspective, advanced theoretical and conceptual development in traditional, experimental and digital photography capture, post-production and output. The program culminates with a formal thesis project and complete body of work that supports the thesis and showcases each student's unique vision and talent.

MFA Photography Unit Requirements
Major 27 units
Directed Study 18 units
Graduate Liberal Arts 12 units
Electives* 6 units
TOTAL 63 units
*Per director approval

MFA Photography Degree Requirements

  • Successful completion of Final Thesis Project
  • Minimum 2.0 cumulative GPA
  • Minimum grade of C in all required 63 units

Additional Information

MFA Program Learning Outcomes

Graduate students will meet the following student performance criteria:

MFA Thesis Project

  • Produce an advanced-level thesis project within a digital or traditional specialization, demonstrating mastery and synthesis of the skills taught in the program.

Thesis Project Development

  • Propose a solid concept suitable for refinement and development.
  • Select an appropriately challenging and feasible project.
  • Present a cohesive body of work
  • Successfully articulate the end result of the project.
  • Demonstrate sufficient preparation for their project (research, problem solving)

Conceptual and Design Skills

  • Make creative decisions that optimize conceptual impact, cohesiveness and personal style
  • Integrate conceptual and technical elements of photography to convey a story, idea, or emotion
  • Effectively deploy design elements within the composition and presentation of the imagery.

Technical Skills

  • Utilize effective lighting styles, techniques and equipment appropriate to art for commerce, photojournalism/documentary, or fine art applications, as determined by projects and professional focus
  • Master exposure, lighting ratios, and post–production skills as appropriate to the project.

Communication and Analysis

  • Communicate ideas and proposals clearly, verbally and in writing, including defending work and choices made during capture, output and presentation
  • Demonstrate professional behavior throughout the review process
  • Critique their photographs with an understanding of technical, aesthetic, and historical context
  • Build on feedback to improve their body of work

Professional Readiness

  • Assemble a cohesive portfolio, which shows a unique personal view and style.
  • Produce and present professional quality materials
  • Clearly articulate future plans and goals in the area of photographic specialty
  • Effectively library and archive complete body of work

Academy of Art University Learning Outcomes
Graduates of the Academy of Art University will demonstrate the ability to:

  1. Produce a body of work suitable for seeking professional opportunities in their chosen field of art and design.
  2. Solve creative problems within their field of art and design, including research and synthesis of technical, aesthetic, and conceptual knowledge.
  3. Communicate their ideas professionally and connect with their intended audience using visual, oral, and written presentation skills relevant to their field.
  4. Execute technical, aesthetic, and conceptual decisions based on an understanding of art and design principles.
  5. Evaluate work in their field, including their own work, using professional terminology.
  6. Recognize the influence of major cultural and aesthetic trends, both historical and contemporary, on art and design products.
  7. Learn the professional skills and behaviors necessary to compete in the global marketplace for art and design.


Please see Degree Breakdown for requirements for the program. Explore our course catalog and take classes based on your interests, either online or in our world-class facilities in San Francisco.

Graduate Degree Breakdowns

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

The MFA degree provides advanced study for students pursuing a career in Photography. Studio courses focus on the techniques necessary to develop and master technical skills as well as a high level of concept and critical thinking. Graduate Liberal Arts courses promote the expression of ideas and effective communication utilizing visual, oral and written presentation skills. The program culminates with an independent Thesis Project. Students will graduate from the program equipped with a portfolio of work and prepared for professional opportunities in the field of Photography.

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