Photography and Related Media Master of Fine Arts Degree

Earn your graduate photography degree at RIT, ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the 6th best fine arts school for a graduate degree in photography.


Graduate Studies in Photography (MFA)

U.S. News & World Report, 2021

Overview for Photography and Related Media MFA

  • Learn from ten full-time faculty members who exhibit and publish in renowned national and international forums.
  • Access to experts in the fields of the photo sciences, photojournalism, and advertising photography.
  • Scholarships and graduate assistantships that include opportunities to work as teaching assistants, archival and library assistants, faculty research assistants, gallery assistants, and more.
  • Dedicated graduate studio spaces, computer labs, and printers.
  • World-class photographic facilities, which recently underwent a multi-million-dollar renovation in 2021.

RIT's graduate degree in photography emphasizes an expansive interpretation of photography as a conceptual art form, with the intention of engaging and nurturing the individuality of each student in their continued development as innovative, critical artists in the world. Successful completion of the MFA in photography enables you to become a successful visual artist and to seek careers in education, archives, museum or gallery work, and as a professional photographer.

MFA in Photography 

RIT's MFA in photography is among the best photo schools in the country. We are ranked 6th by U.S. News & World Report (2022) as one of the best fine arts school for a graduate degree in photography.

In the photography MFA, you'll refine your technical and artistic photographic skills while you create a new body of work. Ample time is spent creating work and refining your personal artistic vision. Elective courses are available in dynamic areas such as video, printmaking, painting, sculpture, communication design, crafts, bookmaking, graphic design, new media, computer graphics, art history, and archival preservation and conservation. Students also have opportunities to enhance their studies through independent studies and internships.

Graduate Photography Thesis

Your MFA in photography culminates in a graduate thesis exhibition, where you will install and exhibit an original body of work. The thesis publication is documentation of the thesis project, which must be submitted in digital form. It must contain an extended artist statement and a presentation of the majority of thesis artwork. The thesis defense is a public presentation made by the student, in explanation of the thesis project, creative research, and exhibition.

Photography Faculty

Eleven full-time faculty members, all critically regarded for their artistic work in exhibition and publication, contribute to the MFA in photography. 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 in photography is supported by a staff of 30 full-time faculty members from the RIT's School of Photographic Arts and Sciences and School of Art; adjunct faculty members from George Eastman Museum; as well as noted regional, national, and international practitioners, critics, and historians.

World-Class Photography Studios and Facilities

You'll spend time creating in a range of top facilities designed for you to explore, learn, and develop your photography skills and techniques. The William Harris Gallery supports the exhibition of graduate thesis work, student work, and the works of contemporary image-makers. It maintains a calendar of exhibitions, public lectures, and receptions. Importantly, it also provides real-world experience for graduate students to learn firsthand about gallery operations, installation, and marketing and communications as a gallery manager or staff member.

The Photo Cage puts state-of-the-art photography equipment right at your fingertips. It includes a range of equipment you can checkout for your use, including cameras (DSLR, film, medium- and large-format), video cameras, and camera accessories including lights, audio recorders, computers, monitors, tripods, rigs, cine rails, and more.

In addition to gallery spaces, students have open access to dedicated studio spaces and world-class imaging equipment, including:

  • Professional gallery spaces
  • Kreonite analog color processor
  • Lambda digital chromogenic processor
  • Alternative process facilities and chemicals
  • Black and white and color darkrooms
  • Lighting studios
  • 35mm, medium, and large format film cameras
  • 35mm and medium format digital cameras
  • Video equipment, such as Ronin stabilizers, dollies, and more
  • Sound equipment and dedicated recording studio
  • Access to printmaking, glass, woodshop, and other art-making facilities

Students are also interested in: Fine Arts Studio MFA, Film and Animation MFA


Careers and Experiential Learning

Cooperative Education and Internships 

What makes an RIT education exceptional? It’s the ability to complete relevant, hands-on career experience. At the graduate level, and paired with an advanced degree, cooperative education and internships give you the unparalleled credentials that truly set you apart. Learn more about graduate co-op and how it provides you with the career experience employers look for in their next top hires.

Co-ops and internships take your knowledge and turn it into know-how. Co-op in the College of Art and Design provides hands-on experience that enables you to apply your artistic capabilities in dynamic professional settings while you make valuable connections between classwork and real-world applications.

Cooperative education, internships, and other experiential learning opportunities are encouraged for graduate students in the MFA in photography and related media.

Creative Industry Days

Connect with Design Industry Leaders

RIT’s Office of Career Services and Cooperative Education hosts Creative Industry Days, which connects students majoring in art, design, film and animation, photography, and select computing majors with companies, organizations, creative agencies, design firms, and more. Creative Industry Days are a series of events that allow you to network with company representatives and interview directly for open co-op and full-time employment positions.

Featured Work

Featured Profiles

Curriculum Update in Process for 2024-2025 for Photography and Related Media MFA

Current Students: See Curriculum Requirements

Photography and Related Media, MFA degree, typical course sequence

Courses Sem. Cr. Hrs.
First Year
Histories and Aesthetics of Photography I
This course, the first in a two-semester sequence, will present an overview of the multiple and intersecting aesthetics, applications, perceptions, and philosophies of photography. Readings and discussions will examine the emergence and establishment of fine art photography, documentary and photojournalism, photography in the sciences, commercial and pop-cultural photographic applications, photography in the political arena, and photography as a mode of social interaction and identity formation. The class will also study the evolving technical history of photographic processes and the proliferation of critical theoretical perspectives on the medium during its first 100 years. (This class is restricted to degree-seeking graduate students or those with permission from instructor.) Lecture 3 (Fall).
Histories and Aesthetics of Photography II
This course, the second in the two-semester sequence, will offer an in-depth study of key historical, critical, and theoretical issues in photographic visual culture in the modern, postmodern, and contemporary periods. The course will explore aesthetic trajectories in modern and contemporary photography from the emergence of the modernist Avant Garde at the beginning of the 20th century to such contemporary phenomena as the deadpan aesthetic, performance documentation, fictive photography, and photographic appropriation. This course will also examine the evolving language of commercial photography, stylistic and ethical approaches to photojournalism, photography and the politics of the museum, vernacular photographies, and the presence of digital technologies and social media networks in the contemporary global media age. (This class is restricted to degree-seeking graduate students or those with permission from instructor.) Lecture 3 (Spring).
Studio Core I
This critique course, the first in a two semester sequence, will establish a working methodology, critically engage with peers, and develop a body of new artwork. At the conclusion of the semester, all students will participate in a work share event. (This course is restricted to IMGART-MFA Major students.) Studio 9 (Fall).
Studio Core II
This critique course is the second in a two semester sequence. Having established a working methodology in Studio Core I, students will continue to experiment and produce a significant body of work through critical engagement with their peers and their own research and experimentation. Successful completion of the course will result in advancement to half-candidacy via a formal review by MFA faculty. (Prerequisites: PHGR-703 or equivalent course.) Studio 9 (Spring).
Integrated Practices I
In this course students will integrate writing, research methods, and experimental problem solving skills to further develop studio practices through integrated project based assignments and projects. Students will hone their skills in art practices, critical analysis, strategies for making, and writing about artwork through developing expanded practices within studio experimentation and artistic thinking. Throughout the semester, the students will become familiar with multiple research facilities throughout the University and the region. (This course is restricted to IMGART-MFA Major students.) Lecture 2, Studio 3 (Fall).
CAD Studio Elective*
Professional Elective**
Open Elective
Second Year
Research Core I
This course, following successful completion of half-candidacy, will outline the policies and procedures required for the MFA thesis defense and thesis publication for this program of study. Throughout the course, students will refine their research, presentation, and writing skills. Through assignments and in-class discussion and critique, students will begin developing their thesis defense presentations, conduct research relevant to their work, and begin drafting their thesis publication. Studio 6 (Fall).
Research Core II
This course is the second in a sequence of two courses focusing on the completion of the thesis publication and thesis defense. Supported by the research tools and resources outlined in Research Core I, students will conduct mock defenses and complete all components of the thesis publication. At the conclusion of the course, students will successfully submit their thesis publication to ProQuest. (Prerequisite: PHGR-721 or equivalent course.) Studio 6 (Spring).
Professional Development for the Emerging Artist
This course prepares students for entering a career in the arts. Course content covers practical information related to professional practice such as crafting a CV, grant writing, writing an artist’s statement, creating a professional application packet and researching exhibition spaces and other opportunities for artists. (This class is restricted to degree-seeking graduate students or those with permission from instructor.) Lecture 3 (Fall).
Students produce a thesis as a component of the MFA degree in Photography and Related Media. The completion of the thesis exhibition, from artwork to the installation, is the focus of this course. (Co-requisites: PHGR-721 or equivalent course.) Thesis 6 (Fall, Spring).
Open Electives
Total Semester Credit Hours

* CAD Studio Elective refers to any graduate level course in the College of Art and Design that includes a studio component.

** Professional Elective refers to graduate studio courses offered in the Photography and Related Media program (PHGR).

Admissions and Financial Aid

This program is available on-campus only.

Offered Admit Term(s) Application Deadline STEM Designated
Full‑time Fall February 15 priority deadline, rolling thereafter No
Part‑time Fall Rolling No

Full-time study is 9+ semester credit hours. Part-time study is 1‑8 semester credit hours. International students requiring a visa to study at the RIT Rochester campus must study full‑time.

Application Details

To be considered for admission to the Photography and Related Media MFA program, candidates must fulfill the following requirements:

English Language Test Scores

International applicants whose native language is not English must submit one of the following official English language test scores. Some international applicants may be considered for an English test requirement waiver.

88 6.5 60

International students below the minimum requirement may be considered for conditional admission. Each program requires balanced sub-scores when determining an applicant’s need for additional English language courses.

How to Apply Start or Manage Your Application

Cost and Financial Aid

An RIT graduate degree is an investment with lifelong returns. Graduate tuition varies by degree, the number of credits taken per semester, and delivery method. View the general cost of attendance or estimate the cost of your graduate degree.

A combination of sources can help fund your graduate degree. Learn how to fund your degree


The MFA program in photography and related media is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

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