Advertising School Advice

I have a B.S. in Business and Management and am planning to go back to school to either earn a Masters in Communications/Advertising or attend a portfolio school. I would like to be a copywriter with experience in art direction.

These are the schools I am applying to. If anybody has any thoughts or words of wisdom about them, please share.

It would be nice to have a Masters Degree. However, I know that a porfolio, who you know, and the quality of your work is what lands jobs, so a portfolio school is not a bad idea.

Creative Circus
Miami Ad School (either the Portfolio Program or the Creative Masters Program in conjunction with Florida International University)
Boston University (Ad Lab)
Syracuse University (S.I. Newhouse School)

I looking for thoughts on Creative Circus vs. Miami Ad School vs. Boston University

Creative Circus has a good reputation but offers no Degree. Miami Ad School has a fairly good reputation as well, but offers a Degree at the sacrifice of less focus on a portfolio. Boston University is a very well-known university that offers a traditional degree program with a creative track.

So, it's hard to make a decision.

Any thoughts?


Guest's picture

I am not answering this as a student or junior ... I have worked for over 15 years and taught at various ad schools.

Honestly. Don't worry about degrees and Masters etc.
If it makes you feel good to say you have a 'Masters Degree' that's nice, but it means nothing to a Creative Director.

To get a job as an art director or copywriter you need a portfolio. A good portfolio.
This is what Creative Director's want to see and what they base their decision on as to whether to hire you or not.
CD's don't want someone who can theorize about good advertising, they want someone who can make it.
Of course, making good work can require some intellectual thinking and logic, but also talent and personality. Traits not so forthcoming in Academia.
Qualities like lateral thinking, concepting, creativity, risk-taking etc. are what it's all about in everyday agency life.

To get in to a creative school you will need to demonstrate some creative ability and fresh thinking, they will ask you for examples of work and/or ask you to do a copy test.
This makes sense as a way for them to at least do some pre-editing of possible students.

If this seems daunting then you need to find out more about what they are really looking for and/or speak to present or ex students who could maybe help you out.
But it should come from you ... it is also your way of finding out for yourself if this is actually something you enjoy, are good at and should be doing.
If even an entry copy test seems too hard for you, then real copywriting certainly won't be your cup of tea.

Regarding schools, just find one that suits you. That is why there are different ones.
Do your research online and try and visit as many actual schools as you can to see what the real 'vibe' is like.
Speak to students and lecturers ... compare and make a decision.

You want a school with four qualities:
1. It is up-to-speed with industry needs offering all forms of training from traditional media to digital and integrated advertising.
2. It has good industry connections (giving you access to good lecturers as well as good jobs)
3. It is up there in the student awards categories (see who is winning what in CMYK magazine and all the student awards for D&AD, One Show etc.)
4. Its students get hired after studies!

Good luck.

FourT6and2's picture
218 pencils

I appreciate your advice.

I know a Masters doesn't matter to a creative director. However, it matter to me. While I don't plan on teaching, a Masters Degree is needed for jobs other than Copywriter/Art Director. I have an interest in both the account and creative side of the industry. And who knows...I may not wind up being in creative my entire life...or even staying in advertising, for that matter. But, right now, it's what I want to do.

I have researched many, many schools and visited some as well. My applications are already in to most of them and I've been accepted to two already.

My dilemma is which school to choose and which program.

Miami Ad School has both a Portfolio Program and a dual program to earn a Masters at the same time through Florida International University, but at the sacrifice of having less focus on a portfolio.

Boston University has the Ad Lab and I've heard both good and bad things about them.

Creative Circus has a great reputation, but I've not been able to talk to people who have been through the program and are now actually working. This is 100% portfolio work and offers no degree.

VCU is supposedly the place to go for a Masters and portfolio work. But, again, haven't been able to talk to anybody with direct experience.

I know very little about the Chicago Portfolio School.

Basically, I 100% understand that a portfolio is the most important thing for getting a job. However, I feel it is important to be well-rounded and educated about the many facets of what goes on in a business and I'd like to keep my options open in the future (especially in a declining economy) and that is why I feel a Masters Degree is also important. It's not just for teaching.

I am most definitely creative enough, smart enough, intellegent enough, and driven enough to succeed. I am just looking for feedback about these programs.

Noee's picture
180 pencils

Hey there!
I am almost in that same position.
I have a BA in Advertising and Design/ Art Direction.

And having a Master also matters to me.. So what I am going to do, is apply in the Uk to these universities:
- Leeds
- Falmouth
- Bucks
And after one year of MA, go to Miami Ad School and build my portfolio.

May all your dreams come true.

Guest's picture

If you're looking to be well rounded, then definitely Boston University. It has a reputation that transcends the advertising world, and could get you in the more creative parts of a traditional company (Target, Samsung, etc.)

Guest's picture

I went to the circus and got a job. in fact every writer who graduated from my class went on to get jobs. go for it.

Guest's picture

It's not only about getting a job in the short-term. It's about being able to go on to bigger and better things later in life as well. I can see how a Masters Degree would help equip someone for this. But, how would a portfolio school, alone, do that? What happens when a great opportunity comes along in the future only to hear, "Sorry, we're looking for someone with a Degree..."?

Guest's picture

It sounds like you're only looking for the advice you want to hear...

I spent a year trying to decide which to go to... internet research... asking. You never know where you will even be in 5 years. Honestly, you get out what you put in. I think you just have to pick and stick with it and do your best and you'll do fine.

Guest's picture

Also, if you have to have a Masters, then go to a school where you can get a Masters. Go ahead and cross the others out now.

Also VCU is the best for the masters program, hands down.

Guest's picture

There's something I've been desperately trying to find out.
I live in India, I want to apply to both creative circus and miami ad school.
The question is, as an international student miami ad school will cost me a BOMB! and i'll be taking a loan if i get through. So am scared even at the thought of such a huge loan, but gotto do it.

What I want to know is, tuition fee apart, what kind of monthly living costs am i looking at for both of these institutions. I dnt have a choice but to rough it out, basic meals, basic shack, cheap alcohol...thats all.
hw much approximately will it cost, i really have no idea.

thanks a lot!

mmackinven's picture
1608 pencils

If you're willing to travel, I recommend Axis Adschool in New Zealand.
I graduated 2007 and walked straight into a placement/job here at Y&R.
We had a few international students, one from India who now works for Ogilvy Mumbai.

Best of luck with what you choose!

AmOgodzzz's picture
826 pencils

Don't worry about whether a school offers a degree or not. The creative advertising field is not concerned with what credentials you have but whether you have a great book. Creative Circus is a great place. I wouldn't rule it out just because they don't have a degree program. You should also think about School of Visual Arts in New York. I would avoid any sort of master's program in communications or the business of advertising since that signals to recruiters that you'd probably be more suited to work on the account side or as a media planner.

Hellas's picture
1172 pencils

I may not be the best to give an advice, since i'm looking for a school myself, but how about the Academy of Art in S.F? I'm pretty sure they offer a master's, is relatively cheap and once you 're done you can go into a 2yr program for portfolio preparation with the money you would have saved....

"I don't live in Greece, Greece lives in me..."

poizonn's picture
5 pencils

hey! I'm on the same position as you are. Just finished a BS-International Business and really want to study advertising and get a solid portfolio. Your initial post was from 2009 so I'm guessing you already chose and finished. What did you end up deciding? Happy with the decision?

My initial doubt is wether to go to the Circus or MAS for the Art Director portfolio program..

FourT6and2's picture
218 pencils

I wound up going to The Creative Circus. Best decision I've ever made. If you're looking for a portfolio school, I highly recommend The Circus. I had a job before I even graduated. And I owe the start of my (hopefully successful) career to the folks at The Creative Circus. The people are really nice and the faculty know their shit.

Each school seems to have their own "world view" and style when it comes to creative work. The Circus focuses heavily on Concept and Craft. Big ideas. And that's what the majority of Creative Directors I've encountered look for.

So, yeah. The Circus is awesome. Go for it!

Also, for what it's worth, my partner went to MAS. No matter where you go — MAS, VCU, Circus, Chicago Portfolio School, VSA, etc. — just make sure you get along with the culture and the vibe of the place. Because you will be there a lot. That's probably the most important thing. I visited a few of the schools and I just jived really well with the Circus. It felt natural. It felt like the kind of place I wanted to spend my time at. And that's important when you will be working your ass off for two years in the same place, with the same people...

Alex Yoo's picture
Alex Yoo

I graduated from VCU BrandCenter and it was the best decision I've ever made. Not only do you get a degree, you get exposure to all sides of advertising and a better understanding to these fields regardless of your specialty. Also great is the forced collaboration between creatives and planners--it gives the creatives strategic insights that other graduates from other programs are not exposed to, and the kind of work we produce come with an added dimension because of these insights.

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