Credentials / PPA Degrees

What are the PPA Degrees?

Degrees are a vital way for photographers to keep up (and prove that you do!) with the latest the photographic industry has to offer. Official degrees like PPA's also give you an edge in business. If you've made the decision to pursue a degree through PPA, it's time to pick the one you want to work towards.


What is the Importance of a Degree from PPA?

When you make the decision to pursue a degree from PPA, you’re making the decision to better yourself and your business. You do this by:

  • Pushing yourself - You work in an industry that is always changing. Pursuing a degree allows you to stay on top of those changes. A degree is a way for you to keep from falling behind on the latest techniques, trends and technologies.
  • Better marketing your business - Degrees allow you to rise above the competition. Anyone can pick up a camera and call themselves a photographer, but not everyone can show that they’ve put in the work to be the best.
  • Justifying your prices - PPA degrees are an excellent way to validate your prices to clients. They want the best and your degree proves to them that they are getting exactly that.

What Types of Degrees Does PPA Offer?

So you’ve made the decision to pursue a PPA degree? Fantastic news! Now that you’ve decided which degree you want to earn, you’ll need to earn 25 merits in the category that leads up to the degree of your choice.

Here are the 4 basic steps of the degree program:


Each degree will require a different combination of merits, but 25 is the magic number of Merits required to earn any PPA Degree. So... How do you earn merits?

Merits can be accumulated in 5 ways:

  • Exhibition Merits are earned by competing in the Photographic Open category of PPA's International Photographic Competition. (At least 13 required for the Master of Photography degree.)

  • Speaking Merits are earned by instructing or contributing to the PPA and PPA Affiliate photographic community. Sharing your knowledge and experience is important in moving this industry forward, and PPA wants to reward you for contributing to that effort. (At least 13 required for the Photographic Craftsman degree.)

  • Artist Exhibition Merits are earned by competing in the more technical Master Artist category of PPA's International Photographic Competition. These images are evaluated for computer-applied techniques and proficiency. (At least 13 required for the Master Artist degree.)

  • Wedding Exhibition Merits are earned by competing in the Wedding category of PPA's International Photographic Competition.(At least 13 required for the Master Wedding Photographer degree.)

  • Service Merits are earned through PPA and PPA Affiliate volunteer service and learning opportunities. (These can be part of the 12 extra merits needed for every degree's 25-merit total.)

Learn More About the Merit System


Can I use one merit toward more than one degree?

Merits can't overlap when applied toward a degree. Once a merit is attributed to a specific degree, it is considered applied and cannot be used toward any other degree or merit bar.

Is there a deadline by which I have to earn enough merits for a PPA degree?

While your merits do not expire, all merits must be received and on record with PPA by October 31 in order to receive a degree at the next Award & Degree Ceremony at Imaging USA. This means that all merits being used toward a degree, including merits that need to be submitted by PPA Affiliates, must be received by PPA no later than October 31. 

Congratulations! You’ve put in the work and earned your Merits. Now you’re ready to receive your PPA Degree!

You will be notified by email when you are eligible to receive your PPA degree. The degrees are presented at the annual Award & Degree Ceremony that takes place at Imaging USA

If you are unable to attend the Award & Degree Ceremony during Imaging USA, your degree and medallion will be shipped to you after Imaging USA.

At the Award & Degree Ceremony, PPA degree recipients are presented with a colored ribbon and medallion when they receive their degree. There is a different ribbon color for each degree, and multiple degree holders will have multi-colored ribbons in accordance with the degrees they have earned.

Explore Degree Ribbon Gallery 

Download Degree Logos and Press Releases 


Directly Reach Out to Clients with the News!

We all know how important it is to keep up with existing clients. Earning a degree is a perfect opportunity for a non-salesy-yet-high-value-adding touchpoint with existing clients! Send them an email or postcard letting them know about your new degree. The same goes for landing a new customer you’ve been looking to convert, but don’t miss out on this incredible communication and differentiation opportunity! Plus, you’ll receive some heartfelt congratulations and who doesn’t like a little ego boost 

To sweeten the pot, consider holding an open house, offering a one-time promotion, or running a celebratory special. You don’t have to break the bank or cut your prices. The point is to use this perfect opportunity to reach out to customers and prospects and let them know that you’re getting even better and more passionate about your craft and that they can be proud to be working with you.


Share Your Professional Development Journey

Whether you’ve been invited to speak at an event, write a blog, or are just chatting up a fellow professional photographer, talk about your experience in earning your photography degree. Tell what the process involved, explain how it has made you better at your craft, speak to the value of what you’ve learned along the way, and share what it means to you and why. Sharing your experience is the best way to get people to buy into your passion, so do it!

Because, believe it or not, as simple as it might seem, in doing so you’ll establish yourself as a photography expert and a leader in your community! The more you put your name and expertise out there, the more potential clients will learn about you– and understand why hiring you is a good decision.


  • Issue a press release: Let us help you write a press release to let the world know about your amazing accomplishment!
  • Share your experience: Talk yourself up every chance you get! Whether you’re at a speaking engagement, networking with your peers or speaking with aspiring photographers, let everyone know just how important earning your degree was to you and your craft!


Download Degree Logos and Press Releases 


After earning all my degrees, then what?  Are there any other recognitions for continuing to learn, compete and serve?

Don't stop being active in Merit & Degree program...even if you've earned all your PPA degrees! You never want to stop improving your art or your industry. And PPA recognizes your efforts to go above and beyond via the following bars and awards: 

  • 25+ Gold Merit Bar – Members can earn one 25+ gold merit bar for every additional 25 merits earned beyond those required for any one degree.
  • IPC 50 Bar – The IPC 50 bar is awarded to members who earn a total of 50 exhibition/artist exhibition merits. Exhibition or Artist Exhibition merits used toward your Master of Photography or Master Artist degree are included in the total count for the IPC 50 bar.
  • Imaging Excellence Award – Awarded to members who hold a Master of Photography or Master Artist degree and who have a minimum of 13 images accepted into the PPA Loan Collection.
  • Imaging Excellence Bar – Awarded to members who already received the Imaging Excellence Award and go on to earn an additional 13 Loan Collection images for a total of 26 Loan Collection images. Members will continue to earn Imaging Excellence Bars for every additional 13 Loan Collection images awarded.

You can see images of all the degree medallions, ribbons and other recognitions in the Ribbons & Bars Gallery


Learn More About the Merits

A bar to be worn on the ribbons shall be awarded for each additional twenty-five (25) Merits earned beyond a degree. A silver star shall be placed midway on the right-hand ribbon as the insignia of a Past President. A national Award pin or other PPA earned award may also be worn on the ribbon. No other insignia shall be worn on or attached to the ribbons.