Recently, I was talking to a friend's daughter who wants to take Photography in the university. I was amazed how she knew about history and art besides she had some excellent pictures to show. I could tell she really liked it! She was turning down two Psychology offers in order to pursue her dreams. However, life has taught me to be more practical. I felt like advising her, because most people do not know what it means to pursue a career in photography. I know it is beautiful and rewarding to take inspiring pictures and I do not want to go over again the time spending pattern of a professional photographer but everybody should know that part too. It is where the hard work is!
How do I support my argument?
Well to start, I will tell you what another friend of mine told me. He studied photography at the university and after about 100 000 photos and more than $20,000 of tuition (according to him) I can tell you that either he posts everything or the photos just look average (my opinion). He confessed that if he had invested that money in equipment and studied on his own, he would be a much better photographer!
Second, university sees photography more as an art while colleges see it as a business. Wouldn't it be nice to make money by doing what you love? Is photography socially perceived as an art? At the end, you need to make money to keep up upgrading your gear,marketing yourself, and improving your skills. In addition, be prepared for those who want your skills for free because they think it is about pushing a button. Out of this second point, I advised my friend's daughter to take colleges courses instead. Besides being less expensive, they teach you all the skills to be a Photography Business. Believe me, you will need them to survive in a society where almost everybody has a good camera. The skills are what differentiate a professional photographer from a camera owner.
Third and last, once you finish university you will need to heavily invest in gear,creating your portfolio, paying agents and marketing in the web and without having a well paid job: How will you get the money? Practice has taught me that nobody buys you as a photographer unless you are credible, have a solid portfolio and references in your specialty (because you must be a specialist in a niche otherwise, forget it!)
Summing up, my advise -to those who want to formally study photography- is to take college courses and start working in their portfolios since the very beginning. Work with the end in mind and do not be the starving artist that at the end has to do anything to survive whether he/she likes it or not!