Remember a few weeks back when we did a bit of research on whether Photography School was worth it? Turns out that if you want to be a photographer, it’s best to take a non-fully paid undergraduate photography degree route.
That doesn’t mean that some very good questions weren’t raised – so here we are with a bit of a follow-up. A brief note: these statistics aren’t directly comparable; the last piece was just March 2012 data, while this data is everything IPUMS-CPS gave me from 2010-2012. That disclaimer in mind, let’s dive in.
The Full-Time Photographer
In the United States, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (commonly known as ‘Obamacare’) changed the definition of full-time work to 30 hours a week. One minor point that came up was the idea that many Photographers, although listing their first profession as ‘Photographer’, work part time. With that in mind, I ran the numbers for Photographers who worked 30 or more hours. Here are the decile incomes (again, just like last time, I have added together any reported salary and business income, to take into account self-employment):
So, the median income of a full time photographer over that time span (in the United States, of course)? $41,000. Certainly a living, perhaps not on either of the coasts (or the Great Lakes). $95,000 and up puts you in the top ten percent of photographers. (For the record, $150,000 puts you in the top 5% and $280,000 puts you in the top 1%).
Hopefully that clarifies things a bit.
Under Thirty Photographers
This category deserves a special mention mainly because, well, I was quite interested. It’s well targeted to the majority of Personal Finance blog readers – under thirty years old, trying to get rid of some debt. This topic, if you recall, came up because we were discussing getting an undergrad education in Photography… with all the loans and work that goes into that. When I screened the 2012 data by age, however, the data set was way too small to get meaningful results.
Armed with the 2010-2012 data set, I set out again to figure out what an under-thirty Photographer can expect to make. Without further ado…
The Photography Degree: Following Through on the Follow-Through
Of the two new statistics, the under-thirty stats should be the most sobering. I want you to remember some numbers from the first piece – the median cost of room, board, and tuition for a 4-year private not-for-profit school in 2010-2011 was $38,129. The average student who graduates with college debt (2/3 of all students that year) averaged $26,600 in loans.
Again, these articles aren’t meant to turn anyone off a Photography career. On the contrary, the issue is with going into massive amounts of debt in order to fund a degree which won’t be that lucrative.
Yes, the numbers get better with experience and full time hours. But 80% of under-thirty year olds who list ‘Photographer’ as their main profession make less than $40,000 a year. Let that sink in for a second.
- Miriam King, Steven Ruggles, J. Trent Alexander, Sarah Flood, Katie Genadek, Matthew B. Schroeder, Brandon Trampe, and Rebecca Vick. Integrated Public Use Microdata Series, Current Population Survey: Version 3.0. [Machine-readable database]. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2010-2012.
There you have it, all the new data that probably should have gone with the old data. Never let it be said DQYDJ doesn’t follow up when there are questions – and feel free to ask if something isn’t clear.
We may not always be right, but we certainly are well-researched!
Do you think a photography degree is worth it to enter the field?