Unlike most fields, the creative business of advertising typically does not welcome newcomers who have yet to prove themselves. Advertising portfolios, or as many in the industry refer to as “books,” are considered a precursor for any rising copywriter or designer looking to get an interview at one of the top advertising agencies. Above all else, copywriting and design portfolios are considered proof that you can think well and excel creatively. Based on an ad school’s overall body of work, bang-for-your-buck tuition costs and quality of teachers, we have listed below the best advertising schools and the best portfolio schools in the United States.
The Miami Ad School
With locations in Miami, Minneapolis, New York and San Francisco, the prestigious Miami Ad School tops just about any list of best advertising schools. Boasting an international network of Miami Ad School alums and raking in advertising awards year after year, it should come as no surprise why this portfolio school is considered the Harvard of ad schools. Having this on your résumé, while not necessarily a rite of passage, should help you get in the door.
Yearly tuition: $17,400
The Creative Circus
Located near Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, The Creative Circus is a top portfolio school with an incredible job placement rate of 98.53% over the last year alone. Some would argue that, in a conversation of best advertising schools, The Creative Circus carries the same weight as the Miami Ad School on any résumé and for a cheaper price. The portfolio-focused ad school has regularly landed students at top shops like Leo Burnett, FCB and DDB.
Yearly tuition: $16,879.50
An extension of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business program, the VCU Brandcenter is another popular choice for east-coasters looking for a top portfolio school. The ad school has a recent 70% placement rate, with alums landing at powerhouse ad agencies like Wieden+Kennedy and R/GA. Industry vet Helayne Spivak, formerly the Chief Creative Officer at Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness, is the ad school’s most recent hire as program director.
Yearly Tuition: $19,500 (plus university fees)
Savannah College of Art and Design
A huge reason why Georgia is a leading state for portfolio schools is because of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCADD). With over 40 options for art majors and north of 60 options for minors, SCADD has something for every kind of visionary. The school has a 93% job placement rate for undergraduate and masters students combined for 2014, within 10 months of graduation. Its campuses are located in Atlanta and Savannah, with an online eLearning curriculum available to faraway students.
Yearly Tuition: $33,795
San Diego Portfolio Studio
The San Diego Portfolio Studio is quickly establishing itself as one of the best portfolio schools on the West Coast. In its infancy, the young ad school helped its students earn a whopping 32 Addy awards, including 2014 Best in Show Addy Award. The San Diego Portfolio School has also attracted top agency talent, with instructors from Vitro among others. SDPS currently offers a course co-taught by a copywriter and art director from the same agency.
Tuition: $1,995 (6-month workshop)
Art Center College of Design
Among the best advertising schools with a focus on portfolio development, Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design has two beautiful California campuses for students to choose from with the naturalistic San Rafael Hills and Downtown Pasadena campuses. A recent inductee to the Intel Design School Network, the design school will be focusing some new work on innovations in wearable technology. It’s hard to find a better West Coast portfolio school for any designer.
Yearly Tuition: $18,665 (undergrad)
Stan Richards School of Advertising & Public Relations
UT-Austin’s Stan Richards School is a new addition to the Moody School of Communication that adds some fresh hype to the university’s renowned business program. The school is honoring advertising mogul Stan Richards decades after he built the flourishing ad agency The Richards Group. The school’s Center for Brand Research is also an incredible source for students to study a collection of advertisements and agency briefs.
Yearly Tuition: Unknown
Brainco | The Minneapolis School of Advertising
The Minneapolis School of Advertising, commonly referred to as Brainco, puts a greater focus on small classes and tight-knit circles to manufacture quality copywriter, UX and designer portfolios. Founded by Creative Director Ed Prentiss, Brainco is among the first portfolio schools to offer an online portfolio workshop open to students across the country. Many full-time students find the curriculum to be complementary to their work schedule as classes typically take place at night.
Tuition: $1,400 (for in-class, per quarter)
This accredited Atlanta portfolio school declares an average job placement rate of 97-100% in under 3 months after graduation. Among the few notable portfolio schools mentioned by Luke Sullivan in the famed Hey Whipple, Squeeze This book, the Portfolio Center has a variety of specialized classes for every advertising mind. Copywriters get to take a course in Guerilla & Experiential Concepts, while digital media majors can enjoy a class devoted entirely to logo design.
Yearly Tuition: $34,539
Chicago Portfolio School
Located in the heart of Chicago, The Chicago Portfolio School is an ideal ad school destination for anyone serious about working at an agency. With a collection of alumni who now work at the likes of Ogilvy, FCB and David & Goliath, the portfolio school can be credited as a launching pad for many careers. The school would prefer to be known as “an idea school” over a design school or advertising school, which is designed to present more possibilities for students who want to offer solutions for other industries along their career path.
Yearly Tuition: $16,200
Austin Creative Department
Another Texas portfolio school that is a cheaper alternative to the traditional advertising school is the Austin Creative Department. Founded in 2011 by GSD&M Creative Director Will Chau, the ad school emphasizes real-world advertising principles, focusing on solving real ad agency briefings and training for client presentation skills. The school’s instructors are all industry professionals and courses are offered to students individually instead of by quarter.
Tuition: $750 per course
This one-of-a-kind advertising agency is a miracle unto itself. The first “student-run, professionally mentored” ad agency was conceived from an idea written on a napkin. The Utah agency has already worked with such brands as Holiday Inn, Nike and EA Games. What makes this one of the best advertising schools is the promise to empower its students to run their own agency, with all positions filled. As one of the best portfolio schools, the ability to work directly with big brands is an invaluable experience that can crush the spec competition.
Yearly Tuition: Unknown
More Options for Ad Schools in the Future?
When we recompile this list in a few years, we hope to see more affordable options appear on our list for best advertising schools and best portfolio schools. The fact that so many newcomers in the last decade have been able to provide a similar learning platform at a bargain cost is proof that these institutions don’t need to be so expensive in order to be successful. Attracting great minds should be a priority. Irrespective of this reality, in an industry that has such limited educational options available, the growth of more ad portfolio schools and online ad schools can only work to give these great minds more opportunities with their careers.