How to Become a Cinematographer

Overview & Salaries

Recommended Degree:
The right degree for you depends on the specialization and company you apply for. Usually a bachelors degree in film editing, cinematography or production can be useful to have in most positions. If you are looking to get into a competitive position, then a masters degree may be useful. Networking and successful work experience are also great ways to have a high paying cinematography career.

Begin your career path today by signing up for free information from one of our accredited colleges below that offer programs to help get you started in cinematography.

How Much Does a Cinematographer Make?
$46,280 (national median salary, to view salaries in your state click on the “Best Places to Work” tab up top)

Expected growth from 2012-2020:
+49,500 additional people employed

Specialization Options:
Camera operations, lighting, film editing and digital film editing.

(all information above provided by the BLS)

Discover the Best Places to Become a Cinematographer

As expected, California has the highest level of employment in the field, as well as the greatest yearly average salary for cinematographers, where 7,970 positions are receiving an annual mean wage of $92,940. New York is second in the nation, with 3,780 jobs and a yearly average salary of $78,430.

Top cities employing cinematographers according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics include:

  • Hollywood, CA
  • New York City, NY
  • Chicago, IL
  • Miami, FL
  • San Francisco, CA

Employment and Salary Information by State for Cinematographers

Use our interactive map below to find out which areas of the United States are currently experiencing the greatest amount of growth and job availability for graduates looking for a career in Cinematography. The associated information has been gathered from the Bureau of Labor statistics, representing data collected in 2012.

Employment and Information Data for Cinematography

Why Become a Cinematography?

Let’s face it, there aren’t too many jobs in the world where you work directly with movies stars or possibly end up on stage in front of a billion person television audience to thank the Academy. Well, Cinematography, Digital Film making and Performance for Film and Broadcasting certainly offers that opportunity and more.

While the position can be demanding (both physically and mentally), the opportunity to express a certain level of creativity pushes many behind the lens, as well as in front of it.

Recommended Courses to Help You Become a Cinematographer

  • Cinematography, Form and Function
  • Hands-on Camera
  • Fundamentals of Lighting
  • Introduction to Digital Post
  • History of Cinematography
  • Directing for Cinematographers
  • The Visual Screenplay
  • Cinematography/Filmmaker Collaboration
  • Production Workshop
  • Post-Production for Cinematographers

Degrees to Help You Become a Cinematographer

One-Year Cinematography Program
The one-year cinematography certificate program will provide students and introduction to all the basics of the art as well as provide a foundation to work in entry level cinematography roles.

MFA in Cinematography
Most Master of Fine Arts in Cinematography are two-year programs designed to instruct future Directors of Photography (DPs) in every creative and technical aspect of cinematography.