Photography and Related Media MFA

Graduate Admissions Counselor

David Wivell

Department Contact

Daniel Larkin

Admission Deadlines & Requirements

Program Available Online? No
Application Deadline January 15 Priority Deadline
Admit Term Fall Term Only
Entrance Exam None
Other Portfolio
English Language Exams:
TOEFL (Internet) 90
PTE Academic 58


Priority deadline - COMPLETE applications that are received by this date are given priority consideration for admission and financial aid (if applicable). Applications received after the priority deadline will be considered on a space-available basis.

Rolling - There is no specific deadline for applications; applications will be accepted and reviewed throughout the year until the program reaches capacity.

Program overview

The MFA program in photography and related media 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 focus 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 the program enables students to seek careers in fields including education, museum or gallery work, or as self-employed visual artists.

Program goals

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

  • pursue a professional career and earn a livelihood
  • enrich their personal lives and society as a whole
  • create a community of creativity, scholarship, and purpose 

Plan of study

Distribution of work within these guidelines is subject to modification based upon the candidate’s background, abilities, and interests. An individualized course of study is 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 areas such as, but not limited to, video, printmaking, painting, sculpture, communication design, crafts, bookmaking, graphic design, new media, computer graphics, art history, and archival preservation and conservation. A complete list of graduate electives is available through the student's adviser. There are also graduate electives offered throughout the university. Students also have opportunities to enhance their studies through independent studies and internships.


Matriculation from the MFA program is obtained when the student has completed and mounted their graduate thesis exhibition, successfully passed their thesis defense, and submitted their thesis publication. The thesis must be an original body of work appropriate to the major commitment of the degree. The thesis publication is a professional, published presentation of the thesis project, which must be submitted, in both print and digital form. It must contain an extended artist statement and a presentation of the majority of thesis artwork. It is prepared for inclusion in the Wallace Library, the School's Archive, and the Graduate Annex Space. The verbal defense requires a public address by the student, discussion of the thesis project, and exhibition in a digital presentation format.


The MFA program in photography and related media and the BFA program in photographic and imaging arts are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).


Photography and related media, MFA degree, typical course sequence

Courses Sem. Cr. Hrs.
First Year
PHGR-701 Histories and Aesthetics of Photography I 3
PHGR-702 Histories and Aesthetics of Photography II 3
PHGR-703 Imaging Core I 3
PHGR-704 Imaging Core II 3
PHGR-711 Graduate Seminar 3
ARTH-605 Thinking about Making: The Practice of Art in a Global Society 3
  Free Electives 12
Second Year
PHGR-721 Research Core I 3
PHGR-723 Research Core II 3
PHGR-724 Professional Development for the Emerging Artist 3
PHGR-890 Thesis 12
  Free Electives 9
Total Semester Credit Hours 60


Admission requirements

To be considered for admission to the MFA program in photography and related media, candidates must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Complete a graduate application.
  • Hold a baccalaureate degree (or equivalent) from an accredited university or college.
  • Submit a portfolio containing a focused body of artwork that demonstrates visual sophistication, aesthetic awareness, craft, as well as a commitment to purpose and idea. (Refer to Portfolio Requirements for more information.)
  • Submit official transcripts (in English) of all previously completed undergraduate and graduate course work.
  • Submit a personal statement of educational objectives that outlines the selection of RIT for the MFA degree and the candidate’s professional goals they wish to achieve.
  • Submit an artist statement explaining the intention behind the portfolio submitted.
  • Submit a current resume or curriculum vitae.
  • Submit three letters of recommendation from academic or professional sources.
  • International applicants whose native language is not English must submit scores from the TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE. A minimum TOEFL score of 90 (internet-based) is required. A minimum IELTS score of 7.0 is required. The English language test score requirement is waived for native speakers of English or for those submitting transcripts from degrees earned at American institutions.
  • Optional participation in an interview.

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 understanding into the applicant’s performance to date, ability to create advanced, self-directed work and his/her aesthetic development and maturity.

Applicants should submit a portfolio of 20 images representing a cohesive body or bodies of recent work. Images must be uploaded to Through SlideRoom and the Graduate Admissions website, applicants will submit their Letter of Intent and an Artist’s Statement.

The application deadline is January 15. Admission selection for the fall semester is made in the spring from among all portfolios and completed applications received. Acceptance occurs only once a year for a fall admission.

Portfolio instructions to SlideRoom:

  • Submit a portfolio of no more than 20 images to the college's portfolio website: (Size restrictions can be found through SlideRoom.) SlideRoom supplies space for titling and additional information about each image, such as: title of the work, date, size, and medium
  • Number images 1 to 20 in the order the applicant wishes them to be viewed
  • Include a one-page Artist's Statement discussing submitted work and applicant’s creative process
  • Include a one-page Letter of Intent explaining why the applicant is interested in obtaining an MFA and specifically why RIT would be a successful fit for pursuit of a professional study degree

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 supported by a staff of 30 full-time faculty members from the schools of Art and Photographic Arts and Sciences; faculty from the art history department; adjunct faculty members from George Eastman Museum; as well as noted regional, national, and international practitioners, critics, and historians. To learn about MFA faculty, facilities, the equipment cage, MFA events, and curriculum, please visit the school's website.

Scholarships and graduate assistantships

All accepted applicants are awarded a university scholarship. Level of scholarship support is based on merit of application materials. Concurrently, the MFA program faculty grants graduate assistantships to all accepted applicants. Assistantships include a variety of positions, including team teaching introductory photography courses, faculty assistantships in the classroom and with research projects, gallery management, and working in an archive. Upon acceptance into the MFA program, applicants are notified by the MFA director as to level of support for both the university scholarship and the graduate assistantship. Both scholarship and assistantship are renewable in the second year of graduate study. 

Transfer credit

Graduate-level course work completed 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 Director.

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. University policy requires that graduate programs be completed within seven years of the student's initial registration for courses in the program.

Policy regarding student work

The School of Photographic Arts and Sciences reserves the right to retain digital copies of original art 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 submit a copy of the thesis publication to the school's MFA archive.

William Harris Gallery

William Harris Gallery ( supports the exhibition of graduate thesis work, student work, and the works of contemporary imagemakers. It maintains a 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 as a gallery manager or staff member. 

Career Outcomes

The RIT Office of Career Services and Cooperative Education website provides information pertaining to student skills and capabilities, salary data, career information, job outcomes, and contact information for the Career Services Coordinator by program.

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