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Are there colleges that teach Photoshop? Things to know if you're interested

Above: A fractal I created, then edited in Photoshop

If you are interested in learning Photoshop at the college level, you might have some of these questions:

Are there colleges that teach Photoshop?

Yes. It is very common to find one or two Photoshop classes at small colleges. Typical names for the classes:

  • A department name and number usually comes first. Like “Art 1**”. For example, “Art 181” was the name of one Photoshop class I taught. Titles include:
  • Art & Design Survey
  • Graphic Design
  • Digital Photography
  • Digital Illustration
  • Digital Painting
  • Computer Art

These smaller colleges usually teach “vocational” skills, or things that will help you walk right into a specific type of job and start helping people or making things. So, in addition to learning Photoshop, you’d have to take other classes where you learn MS Word, Excel, Adobe Illustrator, or other common software packages.

If you just want to use Photoshop for work, ask yourself these questions:

  • What do you like to do with Photoshop? Would you rather be cleaning up old photos in Photoshop, or designing websites in Photoshop, or painting pictures in Photoshop?
    1. If you like cleaning up old photos, maybe you should look into digital archiving, or career paths related to historical research or genealogy.
    2. If you like designing websites in Photoshop, definitely look into web design. Designing websites in Photoshop isn’t ideal (because you can’t interact with it while you design it) but it’s a start.
    3. If you like painting pictures in Photoshop, talk to some illustrators and do a little career research.
    4. There are lots of things you can do with Photoshop. What do you like to do?
  • Why do you think you need to go to college just to learn Photoshop? What about online learning?
  • How much money do you need to make?

You may not need any college at all. If you can get some experience as a professional using Photoshop before going to college, you are saving money. Believe me, this is a huge deal. It is crucial to get as much education as you can, but “education” can come from lots of sources. Like a job where you have to use Photoshop every day.

When I taught Photoshop classes, I was required to teach Photoshop for only 50% of the class. The rest of the class was teaching design. This is super important. You can use Photoshop? Fine. But if everything you make in Photoshop looks ugly and out of place, you need some design education.

If you really want to go to college and study this stuff, you probably will not find a college department called “Photoshop.” But you will probably find a department called “Art and Design” or “Graphic Design” or even just “Art.” Don’t be afraid of it. It’s fun and maybe you would like it.

I had students in my Photoshop courses who liked making illustrations, flyers, advertisements, and even posters and bumper stickers. Many of these students could have easily got a job as a production designer or a digital production assistant. None of them necessarily needed college certificates to do so.

If you do not have a college certificate, print out some things you’ve made in Photoshop. You now have a certificate. The value of the certificate depends on the quality of what you just printed out.

But won’t I be more successful if I go to college?

Not necessarily. I think college is great. I’m glad I went. But there are a lot of people—who are making a lot of money—who self-educated. They knew they could figure out what they needed on their own. So they went for it without going to college. Good for them. Are you that type of person? Try a little college, look at your grades, and see what you think. If your grades are bad, that’s also sometimes a sign that the timing isn’t right, or the type of college isn’t right, etc.

There are also people who went to college, studied writing or philosophy or chemistry, and are now Photoshoppers. Remember that your career depends on you and what you want to do, not what some college offers on a list.

Can I find a job or make a living with Photoshop?

Yes, you can. Here’s how: Talk to people and ask them if they could use somebody with Photoshop skills. Do this stuff:

  • Get out of your chair. Don’t sit around all day looking for jobs online. That stuff is depressing anyway.
  • Forget sending out flyers and resumes all day. You can do it some of the time, but don’t do it all day.
  • Go outside and walk into buildings and start talking to people.

But before you do that, do this:

  • Print out copies of your resume that you can give to people.
  • Print out samples of your Photoshop work, if you have them. Buy some nice photo paper at the store. Buy a portfolio binder at an office supply store. Put the printouts in the portfolio binder. This will look pretty cool if you haven’t done it before.
  • Wear clothes that won’t annoy people. The most creative, expressive people I know are the same ones that put on nice clothes when they go interview or look for work. You do not have to look like everybody else. But if you have your own style, don’t let it shout louder than your printed samples of work and your resume. It’s not always easy to control the message that your clothing sends.
  • Look up the following types of organizations in the area:
    • Non-profits
    • Creative agencies (marketing, advertising, design, etc.)

Those are pretty good gigs if you can get them. People are more laid back and you can usually do creative work, as opposed to…Photoshopping barcodes or something. Believe me, there are boring Photoshop jobs out there.

Anyway, when you arrive:

  • Walk in and say, “Hi, my name is ___. I’m really good at Photoshop. I can do some other things too, and I wondered if you could use somebody like that.”
    • If the answer is “no, sorry,” then ask if you can leave your resume, and say, “I thought I’d try here because sometimes businesses like this need people with these skills. Do you know of any others who might?” People want to help. Give them a chance.
    • If the answer is “yes,” then congratulations and start listening to what the business is saying. What are their needs? Try to help solve actual problems that they have. See if you can figure out why they need somebody with Photoshop skills.

What is it like to make a living with Photoshop?

It’s pretty nice. I once moved from a job in a warehouse-type environment (working with computers, but still) into an air-conditioned office with comfy chairs overnight after the CEO of the small company learned that I could use Photoshop and Illustrator. He talked to the marketing department and they said that I’d be very useful to them. This made me very happy inside. Not only could I make pretty things all day, but I could learn more about the software on the job. Whenever I wanted to do something cool, I just looked it up and learned it there on the spot. I learned more from a month in that job than a lot of students learn in a single, full-semester college Photoshop class.

Now, as a professional web designer, I use Photoshop almost every day. I almost forget it’s there—I just need to make an image, and suddenly I’m making it. So I make money with Photoshop, but I use lots of other tools, too, such as Coda, or Illustrator, or Vim, or LibreOffice, or whatever gets the job done.

I’m out of time but I hope this is helpful. The most important part of this is just to talk to people. Tell them what you can do. Ask them for help.

Good luck!