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Imaging Arts—Photography MFA

Program overview

The MFA program in imaging arts emphasizes a broad interpretation of photography as a conceptual art form, with the intention of inspiring and nurturing the individuality of each student as a creative, productive artist. The program encourages graduate study in photography and related media as a means to personal, aesthetic, intellectual, and career development.

The curriculum provides a flexible pattern of study that is continually sensitive to the needs of each student, building upon the strengths each individual brings to the program. Successful completion of this top ten, nationally ranked program enables a student to seek careers in education, museum or gallery work, or as a self-employed visual artist.

Program goals

The program provides students with the opportunity to use the still and moving image as a means to:

The MFA program and BFA program options in the School of Photographic Arts and Sciences are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). 


Imaging arts, MFA degree, typical course sequence

CoursesSem. Cr. Hrs.
First Year
PHGR-701 Histories and Aesthetics of Photography I 3
PHGR-703   Imaging Core I 3
PHGR-711 Graduate Seminar 3
ARTH-605 Thinking about Making: The Practice of Art in a Global Society 3
PHGR-702 Histories and Aesthetics of Photography Il 3
PHGR-704 Imaging Core II 3
PHGR-722 Contemporary Issues 3
  Professional Electives 9
Second Year
PHGR-721 Research Core 3
PHGR-890 Thesis 6
PHGR-724 Professional Development for the Emerging Artist 3
  Professional Electives 18
Total Semester Credit Hours 60

Distribution of work within these guidelines is subject to modification based upon the candidate’s background, abilities, and interests. An individualized course of study will be prepared with the advice of the graduate faculty and made a matter of record. Modifications in this prescribed program thereafter must be approved and recorded.


Elective courses are available in animation, video, multimedia, film, printmaking, painting, sculpture, communication design, crafts, bookmaking, typography, color photography, new media, studio photography, advertising photography, computer graphics, art history, and archival preservation and conservation. There also are opportunities for independent studies and internships.


The thesis exhibition/project must be an original body of work appropriate to the major commitment of the degree candidate. A written thesis will be prepared for inclusion in Wallace Library. Specific guidelines are available in the “MFA Guide for Students and Faculty: Policy Regarding Student Work.”

Admission requirements

To be considered for admission to the MFA program in imaging arts, candidates must fulfill the following requirements:

Applicants who are capable of graduate level academic work, as well as artistic visual expression, and who demonstrate an interest in the exploration of new artistic ideas and experiences will be recommended.


The portfolio, along with written records of achievements and recommendations, serves to inform the faculty of the applicant’s readiness for advanced graduate study. It provides a visual statement of the applicant’s performance to date in terms of his or her skills, aesthetic development, and maturity.

Applicants should submit a portfolio of 20 images--uploaded to, the College's portfolio website, or via a personal website--representing a cohesive body or bodies of recent work. An artist’s statement accompanies the portfolio, addressing the work being presented and its creative process.

Admission selection for the fall semester is made in the spring from among all portfolios and completed applications received. Applicants should be certain that portfolios are postmarked no later than January 15 to ensure review of the application. Acceptance occurs only once a year for a fall admission.

Portfolio instructions:

Additional information


Thirteen full-time faculty members, all critically regarded for their artistic work in exhibition and publication, contribute to the MFA program. The faculty brings individual expertise and dedication to their work with graduate students, encouraging intellectual inquiry of contemporary art-making practices and aesthetics. The MFA program is also supported by a staff of 40 full-time faculty members from the schools of Photographic Arts and Sciences, Print Media, Art, and adjunct faculty members from George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film, as well as noted regional, national, and international practitioners, critics, and historians. To learn about the MFA faculty, facilities, equipment cage, MFA events and curriculum, please visit or RIT School of Photographic Arts and Sciences on Facebook. 

Transfer credit

Graduate-level course work taken prior to admission should be submitted for approval upon entrance into the program. Up to 8 semester hours of graduate work with a minimum grade of a B (3.0) or higher is transferable toward the degree, with the approval of the graduate coordinator.

Grades and maximum time limit

The average of all grades for graduate credit taken at the university must be at least a B (3.0) to qualify for the degree. Thesis hours are usually taken over several semesters. University policy requires that graduate programs be completed within seven years of the student's initial registration for courses in the program. Bridge courses are excluded.

Policy regarding student work

The School of Photographic Arts and Sciences reserves the right to retain at least one original piece of work from a student’s MFA thesis show for inclusion in the MFA Collection, to be used for educational, promotional, and exhibition purposes. Graduates must also leave the school a CD containing 20 images of thesis work completed for the master’s degree.

William Harris Gallery

William Harris Gallery ( supports the exhibition of graduate thesis work, student work, and the works of contemporary imagemakers. It maintains an academic year calendar of exhibitions, public lectures and receptions. Importantly, it also provides real world experience for interested graduate students, where they learn firsthand about gallery operations, installation, and communications.

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