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In need of advise/opinions
Ben Jackson, Student/Intern, Photographer
Kent | OH | | Posted: 9:59 PM on 02.11.12
->> I am a photojournalism major at Kent State University and I'm looking to transfer because I'm not happy at Kent. I hope to get some sort of sports photography job after I graduate.
I can't decide if it's a better idea to continue photojournalism or to change to a photography major. The programs that I have checked out (KSU, OU, IU, WKU) are all geared for news which is why I'm considering switching to a photography major.

My concern: Do I have a better chance of getting a job with one degree over the other and does the the popularity of the photo program/school play a factor.

Any input is greatly appreciated.
Thank you
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Patrick Fallon, Photographer, Assistant
Dallas | Texas | USA | Posted: 12:10 AM on 02.12.12
->> Hey Ben,

As a photojournalism major - and one with good friends at OU and WKU - my first question is: Why do you want a photography or photojournalism degree?

Why not a business degree? (help you know how to run a business)
Or an engineering degree? (help you build cool contraptions to make pictures others can't)

What matters the MOST above all else is going to be your portfolio. Your work.

The reputation of the school, the program and it's professors can help, but "better chance of getting a job" - slightly, by putting you in touch with the right people and good feedback - but that equation has changed with the internet.
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Israel Shirk, Photographer, Assistant
Boise | ID | US | Posted: 12:42 AM on 02.12.12
->> Business and/or marketing.
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Israel Shirk, Photographer, Assistant
Boise | ID | US | Posted: 12:45 AM on 02.12.12
->> And if you want to shoot winter sports like your page says, go somewhere you can develop a niche while you're in school - Colorado or Utah have mountains and snow.
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Chuck Liddy, Photographer, Photo Editor
PLANET | EARTH | | Posted: 2:22 AM on 02.12.12
->> "sports photography job"
what is that again?
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Scott Serio, Photo Editor, Photographer
Colora | MD | USA | Posted: 2:47 AM on 02.12.12
->> All the big name schools will teach you the basics if you don't already know them. Look through various threads here for ideas about that - professionalism, ethics, etc. The big named schools might even open a door for you. I graduated from Mizzou in '92 and that Missouri degree still gets a little respect...but only a little.

At the end of the day, the only things that matter are the images in your portfolio and how you conduct yourself.

Is the edge of getting one door to open worth going $100K in debt for a degree? Well, you need to answer that question. In the end, a degree is just a piece of paper. THe onus is ultimately on you to make great images. Hell, the guy who just won POYi tonight didn't go to a PJ school, he went to Rhode Island School of Design (which is a killer school, by the way). It still doesn't matter, you need to prove you can make the images. That is all anyone will care about.

The other debate about whether there is a future in editorial sports photography is another huge debate that will not get answered any time soon.
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Patrick Fallon, Photographer, Assistant
Dallas | Texas | USA | Posted: 4:11 AM on 02.12.12
->> Another thought - Take some time to think about what photographers you admire for their work - and WHY.

To make it a challenge for yourself - anyone at SI is off limits - as everyone always picks them. I want you to try and do your homework here - if its winter sports, awesome, who are the people that represent the best level of what you want to do? Look at the young and the old vets.

You'll find that the best people in the industry are always experimenting, thinking about new ways to try or do something. Some know more about lighting than any of us could hope to remember, some know the sports so well they know exactly what will happen next, others are quite creative and artistic. They are all Thinking Differently.

You also want to put together a strong portfolio - build a better website (even a wordpress type one is great). Learn how to edit your work better, cropping, toning, image selection. People here are happy to help, those people whose work you admire might even give you some feedback. Get a photo blog going, post pictures that YOU like for yourself, not just what your boss likes.

I've noticed (look in the clip contests, too) that some of the best sports photographers now a days - and the ones who are successful financially as well - are also really good at lighting and portraiture. They come up with concepts and know how to do high-end shoots for advertisers. (Add RIT to your list of schools to look at).

Also set some end goals for yourself in 3-5 years, reevaluate them semi-annually. Ask yourself what could you do today to be closer to those goals, to be closer to the level of the work you admire?
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Jeff Stanton, Photographer
Atlanta | Ga | USA | Posted: 8:17 AM on 02.12.12
->> Ben, you've been given some honest answers. Here's another: get a degree in something that has the potential for employment longevity. Cuz it ain't happening in photojournalism.

I am doing design work for several newspapers and I can tell you that management cares little about the quality of images and they don't care where they come from, as long as they have something to keep the heads from bumping, and in many cases, they don't care about that anymore.

I see cell phone camera images going right on page 1 in many cases and they look awful. But I'm telling you, they simply don't care how they look, as long as they get them free. Do yourself a favor, become a licensed embalmer. Good job prospects for now and in the near and distant future.
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David Harpe, Photographer
Denver | CO | USA | Posted: 9:19 AM on 02.12.12
->> Plastics.
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Preston Mack, Photographer
Orlando | FL | | Posted: 9:59 AM on 02.12.12
->> You do not need a photo degree.
Photo jobs are few and far between. You are likely NEVER to have a staff photography job.

Get a degree in something that is "useful" like business. Do the photo thing on the side. Work on the school newspaper. If you are good enough, you will find an opportunity. If you are not, you have a degree you can build on.
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Clark Brooks, Photo Editor, Photographer
Urbana | IL | USA | Posted: 10:05 AM on 02.12.12
->> Ben,
I second much of the advice above. Get out of the PJ program and work toward a degree in business, English or straight journalism with an emphasis on design, advertising and marketing. Having a multiple skill sets will make you more marketable down the road. Should you decide to go the self-employed route, you find the education and experience beneficial as you build your business.
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Thomas Campbell, Photographer
Houston | TX | USA | Posted: 10:47 AM on 02.12.12
->> Don't get a degree in photography or photojournalism. Completely worthless degree.

Like many other have said, your degree doesn't matter nearly as much as what you can do and how you act. Get a degree in something that is worthwhile and that you will use.

I live in the 4th largest metro area in the nation and I would be surprised if we had two dozen salaried photographers. Recently a friend quit a full-time salaried job as a photographer to go full freelance and they filled his position with a writer/web developer. Bob Rosato left SI and who did they hire to fill his position?

There are roughly one billion sports photographers in America [citation needed] and how many real full-time salaried with benefits jobs do you think there are? When photographers quit or retire, companies continually replace them with a designer or writer or something that likes to shoot and maybe doesn't completely suck at it, then hire a freelancer a couple times a year for a big job.

Do yourself a big favor and get a degree that you can use to get a job. Get a BBA, or a marketing degree or a communications degree or accounting degree or something that qualifies you to be a contributing member of society and would applicable to being a freelance photographer. Then go out and learn how to shoot great portraits.
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Ben Jackson, Student/Intern, Photographer
Kent | OH | | Posted: 12:28 PM on 02.12.12
->> Thanks for all the great input.
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Michael Prengler, Photographer
Fairview | TX | USA | Posted: 2:52 PM on 02.12.12
->> Patrick Fallon wrote:

"Learn how to edit your work better, cropping, toning, image selection."

This is a really big one, especially working on a deadline. As a rookie myself this is one of the areas that I find the most challenging. It's not just getting the shot but identifying quickly that you have the shot.

Prepare for the shoot before you go, know your subjects tendencies. Look at Liddy's moniker icon.

Lastly, get a fallback degree for sure! This is one that I've been trying to get my 20 year old daughter to understand.
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Michael Fischer, Photographer
Spencer | Ia | USA | Posted: 3:16 PM on 02.12.12
->> Patrick, you made my day by being an advocate for a business degree.

Learning to shoot Ben, as has been suggested here, is not the same as learning to make a living. If I had a dollar for every time I've stressed/begged/urged college student to earn a business degree instead of a photo degree in these forums, I could live off of the interest earned. (Even at 1% .. :-o)

I joined Professional Photographers of America a while back, and they have business courses because they see the same situation - being a good shooter is not enough - having good business skills is a must. You're in college - NOW is the time to learn the basics of business. Over my lifetime, I've know lots and lots of gifted photographers and even more average ones. To a man (or woman), the ones with business skills have done better, sometimes a LOT better - regardless of their photo skill set - than the ones without business education.

It's that simple.
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Dirk Weaver, Photographer, Assistant
Charlotte | NC | USA | Posted: 3:22 PM on 02.12.12
->> Consider a degree in Liberal Arts.
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Ben Liu, Photographer
Lubbock | TX | | Posted: 4:06 PM on 02.12.12
->> I also recommend choosing a degree that can be marketable. If you want to run your own photography business or freelance, a business degree can come in handy. It can be tough to find work with English and Journalism degrees, but they teach writing and communications skills that can prove very beneficial.

I have a degree in Journalism, with a photojournalism emphasis, but I don't use it today. The coursework helped me improve my writing skills and I got to learn about some interesting subjects such as media law and global communications. Even though I may not be using that degree, I learned many skills that opened up many other opportunities.

In this field, it is a strong portfolio and a strong network that matters most. Build up your portfolio and attend workshops to learn new skills, but more importantly to network with people. And never burn any bridges. Who you know can make or break your career.
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Matthew Hinton, Photographer, Assistant
New Orleans | LA | USA | Posted: 4:08 PM on 02.12.12
->> Try some reverse engineering. Find some photographers, creative directors, photo editors, and even publishers you like and respect and find out how they landed a job. If a lot went to the same school or studied with a certain professor then go to that school and network with the students and faculty there. Universities are kind of like country clubs and people tend to hire their buddies or alumni.

Find out if the jobs you want have internships. Unfortunately many internships are unpaid nowadays so maybe go to a school that is in the same city as the job you want so you can have at least have food an lodging at the school and at least get some school credit for an internship. A major metro area is good place to go if you can afford it.

The main point of a university is networking and getting to the job in the place and field you want. If you want to work in NYC go to school in NYC, if you want to Chicago do the same. People tend to hire locals and people they know. Plus as a student or intern or freelancer you can build a relationship with the publication or job you want a couple of years before you graduate.

A degree in anything nowadays is not a guarantee of a job. It used to be a few decades ago. Your chances of being unemployed are much less if you have college degree but its no guarantee of employment anymore.

As many have stated some classes in business or marketing are essential.
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John Schreiber, Photographer, Assistant
Redondo Beach | CA | USA | Posted: 5:59 PM on 02.12.12
->> I will second, third, and even fourth encouraging you to get a business degree (or at least take a lot of business classes).

My undergraduate degree was in marketing and I wound up getting a Masters degree in Photojournalism right after college (thankfully, the graduate degree was basically free with my graduate research assistantship).

As of now, I am enjoying "funemployment" as I search for jobs. Want to know how many staff photography positions I have found? Zero... Zip... None... at least in my area. I know there are staff positions somewhere out there, but you are competing with Pulitzer Prize winners and probably half the photographers you look up to for those jobs.

So, each day, as I search for employment, I thank the sweet baby Jesus that I also have a business degree. It has allowed me to expand my job search to other areas such as PR and Marketing and is also helping me start a freelance business on the side with my photojournalist fiancé.

Not to be discouraging, but you need to expand your skill set beyond sports photography. Obviously, work hard and build a good sports portfolio but also learn to write; learn HTML and how to build a website; learn how to draw up a business plan. You will not regret it.
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Walt Middleton, Photographer, Photo Editor
Columbus | OH | USA | Posted: 6:01 PM on 02.12.12
->> I think it may have been said a few times already...
get a buisness degree...
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Ian L. Sitren, Photographer
Palm Springs | CA | USA | Posted: 8:11 PM on 02.12.12
->> This has always puzzled me.

Of all of the photographers I truly admire and who have had some level of success, I cannot think of one of them who ever had any "formal" education as a photographer.

Just seems odd to me.
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Patrick Fallon, Photographer, Assistant
Dallas | Texas | USA | Posted: 8:38 PM on 02.12.12
->> One thing I should note - I am glad I went to school for photojournalism - I learned a lot about imagery and JOURNALISM - in other words, I didn't just learn about how to take pictures, but about information, communication, the written and spoken word, working with and communicating with people, media laws, developing sources, etc.. I think its a really useful degree that I could apply to a lot of fields and professions. I also made some wonderful friendships and connections that will last a lifetime. Personally the community of friends at J-Schools that I had was worth it completely to me. Ask me in 5-10 years, but I would not trade it for anything right now.

However, I also took courses to get a business minor, including finance, accounting, marketing, economics. I wish these were more in depth, but they gave me a basis of understanding that I try to accompany with workshops and online resources from the NPPA and ASMP about the business of photography. Michael F. above is right about running a business and I think that if you want to run your own photography business, a business major is a really good idea.

My point, I suppose, is to diversify yourself - you say you want to be a "sports photographer" - but the reality is there are some REALLLY good people out there who do it simply for the fun factor, for free. They don't care about getting paid, they make money other ways. Doing just one area, one thing, will likely not work out well.

My interests in visual journalism are different than yours, thats cool, I'm not saying you have to like everything and do everything I do, but going back to my first post - ask yourself WHY do you want a photo degree. If you just want to learn to take better pictures, there are other ways of doing that. For me, college was an opportunity to grow, mature and develop my work. Those relationships with people developed there as well.

That said, I wish I had taken some coursework in design, electrical engineering and video editing. If I am able to get a staff job somewhere, those skills would be great to have, they are things for my tool belt that can help me in a variety of things. Think about the skills you want, how they will be useful to you now and in the future. Oh and after you got your diploma, you still got a ton to learn. As my dad said at graduation, "Now that you are done with College, you can really start learning." I think I learned as much in the 6 months after graduation as I did in years before it.

Now after all this #RealTalk - Go read every post on this blog my friends made, some of it is over-the-top and snarky, but the underlying truth in these posts is poignant, about how there will be a lot of haters - but somehow you just make it work... (and to not take ourselves too seriously)
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Chuck Liddy, Photographer, Photo Editor
PLANET | EARTH | | Posted: 7:40 AM on 02.13.12
->> There are some great posts on this thread. The question which comes constantly begs to be answered. Do students who "love", "like" "want to be" photojournalists actually make coherent decisions when they sign up for these programs. Have you studied the job market? Do you speak with any graduates from these schools (recent grads) about how they are fairing in the current job market? In my opinion a big mistake would be listening to the snake oil salesmen at the schools who pitch these programs. You risk going into serious debt to earn a degree which in the current job market is nothing short of useless. As an example, our paper hasn't hired a shooter in YEARS. However, look at the positions we've lost? Our whole imaging department, picture editors and several shooting positions. Someone retires? They don't get replaced. This is not a doom and gloom commentary. These are facts which most newspapers in the country are dealing with. Unless you are a truly gifted photographer with connections the likelihood of scoring a staff position is pretty slim. I would take the advice given here by some of the other posters....concentrate on another degree where you ight actually have a chance of finding gainful employment. Good luck.
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Michael Fischer, Photographer
Spencer | Ia | USA | Posted: 9:06 AM on 02.13.12
->> As always, Chuck provides the tough medicine you may not want to hear but questions that really need to be asked.

Chuck is spot on when he talks about the snake oil salespeople at our schools. They make money by getting you to enroll. No jobs when you graduate? They have no skin in that game.

Ultimately, what any good 4 year education should provide is the ability to learn how to think. If you don't want to take business, Dirk's suggestion of a liberal arts degree is a good idea.

Maybe the conversation I had with my son last week is worth repeating. As we looked at next year's high school offerings for his junior year, he listed woodworking. His thinking? He likes working with wood, and he figured out that if his love of history doesn't lead to something, he wants to have a backup plan that is completely different - something that lets him use his hands.

By having a business degree or a liberal arts degree, you give yourself a backup - you're not trapped. Everyone on this website loves sports photography - but I doubt 1% of the members make a living doing it full time.
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Adam Brimer, Photographer, Assistant
Knoxville | TN | USA | Posted: 9:17 AM on 02.13.12
->> I graduated with a business degree in logistics in 2007.

As a full-time daily newspaper photojournalist, I'm thankful every day for that educational background. It has served me well in many ways. Feel free to email me if you have any questions.
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John Germ, Photographer
Wadsworth | Oh | USA | Posted: 10:28 AM on 02.13.12
->> Ben,
I'd like to add something: don't get the wrong impression by these comments. A liberal arts degree or a business degree isn't going to get you a job. If you think you can have a "business degree" and graduate, try photography and if that doesn't work out get a job based upon your "business degree" that's not going to work. That's a pipe dream too. The truth is the job market is TOUGH. You need experience. Which means internships. While it's true a liberal arts or business degree can give you important skills they aren't going to get you a job. Those days are over - unless you're graduating from Harvard or Michigan graduate school or the like. Lots of KSU business grads waiting tables. No doubt there are a lot more jobs in Corporate America than in photojournalism but you need more than just a degree. If you're 3 years out of college and no relevant work experience you'll quickly find your business degree isn't worth much either. Just as with journalism or photography, if you want a job with a business degree you need to start with the people getting the jobs and work back from there. But a degree alone isn't worth much and it costs a whole lot.
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Andrew Katsampes, Photographer
Melrose | MA | USA | Posted: 12:01 PM on 02.13.12
->> Digital photography has changed the whole business model. Digital music has changed the whole business model ... iTunes vs 45s.
Two photographer stories:
1. Bill photographed weddings for his dad using 4x5 film. Dad gave him 84 sheets to photograph the wedding. Bill had to get it right. Now. A wedding photograph blasts out 2000+ images for the couple to review online.
2. Fred was a lawyer until his kids graduated from college. Now Fred photographs for AP. Fred commented to me, "If it were not for the histogram, he would be in trouble." Fred shows up at a new environment/venue kicks out a few test images, checks the histogram, and makes adjustments. Bill could not do this. Bill had to get it right. One shot.
Digital photography has reduced (but not eliminated) the skill/talent of reading the light and making camera adjustments. Those without the skill/talent can survive in the digital world.
The internet has changed pricing and distribution.
Digital photography has also changed the customer's perceived value of the final product. The customer does not realize they are renting you, your skill, your experience, your expensive camera body, and your expensive lens.
In summary, I agree with the others. Check out other degrees. For years, I worked as a computer programmer, bought equipment, and photographed weekends before transitioning to a sports photographer.
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James Durbin, Photographer, Student/Intern
Kirkwood | MO | USA | Posted: 1:35 PM on 02.13.12
->> I'd like to chime in as a recent Journalism graduate (Dec. 2011 - Southern Illinois University Carbondale School of Mass Communications) and I will gladly accept the "huh" comments from the naysayers for what I am about to say.

I am glad for my journalism/photojournalism background and degree. The people I met along the way are tossing me referrals and job openings left and right. It is thanks to my journalism coursework that I have a portfolio and resume ready to submit and one that has been edited and critiqued countless times. (Please don't take this post as an invitation to find flaws in my work, I'm just here to voice an opinion.)
My professors are there because they care about the profession and will go to bat for me and my fellow graduates but the key is you really have to want it. They won't put themselves out there and stake their name on a young gun if they don't think you can deliver. I do want it, and my work along the way showed it. I worked for every publication in the region, did freelance work and perhaps MOST IMPORTANTLY did NOT shy away from learning video and multimedia production. If you aren't prepared to live and breathe photojournalism during your time in the program you might as well get a degree in general studies. The cream rises to the top and there are jobs. Do I have one yet? NO. But I have had a lot of interviews, a lot of referrals for work, and I've been taking time to really find where my niche is and decide where I want to go.

By the way, I tried to do the business route, because I've read all the things that were posted here many times before. But it was boring coursework and I decided that an even bigger waste of time than acquiring a journalism degree (as some here have said) would be acquiring a degree in something I don't care about. I'm in this because its what I love and what I want to do.

Take that with a grain of salt, coming from an unemployed (but happy) journalism graduate.
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Matthew Hinton, Photographer, Assistant
New Orleans | LA | USA | Posted: 1:59 PM on 02.13.12
->> The point of business classes not necessarily a degree is that if you spend any amount of time being a freelancer a HUGE majority of your time will be spent doing business like or not. Even for a staff photographer the times spent photographing is usually the shortest amount of time.

You still need to know your way around a tax return, mileage, and expense vouchers, etc.

You need to know what CODB means. You need to know the difference between net income and gross income and the salary you pay yourself. Retirement, insurance, business law, etc.

Especially if you freelance a lot of time is spent networking and marketing yourself and do "boring" business.

The key is to battle through learning it and make the business part of the job fun.

You can trade funny stories about how you finally got a client to pay. One that comes to mind is a photographer paid a disheveled homeless man to deliver a message to glass tower ad agency that hadn't paid him. Because the homeless man was there on business they had to let him into the office much to the shock of the deadbeat ad agency. They paid up and gave the homeless man a check to send to the photographer.

You'll have to do it a lot like it or not, so try to make it fun.
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Preston Mack, Photographer
Orlando | FL | | Posted: 2:03 PM on 02.13.12
->> I have been a full time freelance photographer for over 10 years. I shoot , maybe 20% of the time.
Everything else is business/marketing related.
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Chuck Liddy, Photographer, Photo Editor
PLANET | EARTH | | Posted: 2:18 PM on 02.13.12
->> Yeah, I took the bait.
"I'm in this because its what I love and what I want to do."
then topping it off....
"coming from an unemployed (but happy) journalism graduate".
not wanting to be rude but you just proved the point of what everyone on here has said. Just for the sake of my those of us who are do you pay your bills? do you still live at home? statements like yours are somewhat irresponsible for those seeking real information. And pray tell,
"The cream rises to the top and there are jobs."
Really? Where? I have a bunch of friends who are GREAT, award winning photojournalists with YEARS of experience in multimedia AND stills. These jobs you speak of...please inform us where they are so I can inform my friends.
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John Schreiber, Photographer, Assistant
Redondo Beach | CA | USA | Posted: 3:56 PM on 02.13.12
->> Yes, business classes are boring as sh*t... I don't know how I sat through 3 accounting classes but I am sure glad I did. Business Law? Wanted to bang the 10 inch thick book against my head every day. But, I can't tell you how valuable that knowledge is. In fact, that thick book still sits on my shelf and I find myself referencing it all the time.

I got through business school because I also worked for the school newspaper as a photographer and that helped break up some of the more mundane reading, studying, etc, I had to do for my business classes. It takes a very special person to actually ENJOY filling out cash flow statements.

And John (Germ), I would actually disagree with your statement that you can't try photography and then go back to business. You CAN try photography/journalism and then fall back on your business degree if it doesn't work out.

I haven't had any related experience in the business world since I graduated business school in 2008. However, last week alone I have had 3 interviews with marketing, PR, and internet companies who seem to value my journalism background and the fact that I at least have a basic business background as well. Every job on my resume right now is journalism related. There are a lot of crossover skills you can take from journalism to business.

I am not saying everyone in college should get a business degree, but I think if you are planning to start a freelance business out of college, you should at least have the basic tools and knowledge to do so. Or, at least have another area of study that can make you more marketable to employers if things fall through.
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Butch Miller, Photographer
Lock Haven | PA | USA | Posted: 5:03 PM on 02.13.12
->> Youthful exuberance in venturing forth down a career path is quite common and can be valuable ... as long as it is tempered with a huge dose of reality.

Cream does rise to the top ... When you are going to be competing with others who have acquired their equally thoughtful and skillfully written resumes and stellar portfolios gathered while actually working on the front lines for decades in addition to the proven performance and work history accumulated there... be prepared to have in your repertoire a little something extra ... there will only be so much space for that cream to be scooped up ...

Business classes are indeed boring ... so is much of the daily chores of a PJ ... regardless of how much you may love what you do ... Once the honeymoon phase is over ... having those business skills won't harm you ... lacking them could, over the long haul, impede your success.
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John Germ, Photographer
Wadsworth | Oh | USA | Posted: 7:08 PM on 02.13.12
->> John - I hope it works out for you. But there's a difference between an interview and a job.
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Chuck Liddy, Photographer, Photo Editor
PLANET | EARTH | | Posted: 12:20 AM on 02.14.12
->> john germ "WORD".
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Thread Title: In need of advise/opinions
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