What degree do Brandcenter graduates earn?
The Brandcenter is a division of the VCU School of Business, and our graduates earn a Master of Science degree in Business. The degree requires 42 credit hours of graduate level courses.
The Master’s degree in business sets VCU Brandcenter graduates apart from graduates of advertising and portfolio schools. Our students learn to creatively solve business problems, a skill that is applicable to a wide variety of jobs at agencies, companies, consultancies, start-ups, etc.
Can I enroll part-time or start in the spring/winter/summer?
No. The Brandcenter is only offered as a two-year, full time program that begins once a year in the fall.
How do I apply?
You can request our application on our Admissions page. The application will be emailed to you directly (check your junk/ spam mail) and will contain step-by-step instructions on how to apply, including the specific requirements and assignments for each of our five tracks.
Can I apply to more than one track?
You may only apply to one of our five tracks. However, you can specify in the application whether you want to be considered for other tracks. (See instructions are in the application packet.)
When reviewing applications, our faculty may see applicants that they feel would be better suited for a different track based on their application responses. In this case, we would notify the applicant and outline next steps.
Take a look at the track descriptions on our Graduate Program page, and keep in mind that our program is highly collaborative across all 5 tracks, so students are not siloed into one area.
How will my application be evaluated?
We’re interested in people who demonstrate a zealous talent for their chosen craft.
When we review samples from prospective art direction and copywriting students, we look for indications that the candidate has a talent for creating fresh, surprising, original, smart, attention-getting communication. For art directors specifically, we look for good typography, design and presentation. We want to see an understanding of concept in the work presented. Writers: your entire application is an opportunity to show us you have a passion for writing and the ability to be concise. Your writing should demonstrate conceptual thinking, not just clever words.
Creative brand management applicants should demonstrate that they can combine business skills with creative thinking. We are looking for applicants who can analyze business situations and utilize creative and strategic thinking to make decisions for brands.
Experience design candidates should show how they use their knowledge of technology to create strategic and engaging consumer experiences.
For strategists, your application should show us how you arrive at interesting insights leading to strong, compelling ideas. We are looking for students who are perceptive, passionate about people, and have strong analytical and critical thinking skills.
What is the tuition?
Please see current annual tuition rates here. Tuition is subject to change.
Do you offer financial aid, loans, or military benefits? How do I apply?
Yes! VCU Brandcenter students may be eligible for federal financial aid, federal graduate PLUS loans, military benefits for service members and their dependents, and other funding programs.
Visit our Financial Aid page for more information on how to apply to each program.
Do I have to have a background in advertising to apply?
No. Talent and a passion for your craft are required; but a degree in advertising/marketing/communications or work experience in those fields are not.
Our program does require a bachelor’s degree from a 4-year university, but it can be in any major. Our students’ undergraduate degrees span architecture, pre-law, art/visual arts/studio art, biology, biomedical engineering, business/economics, digital media arts, English, fashion, film & media, foreign languages, government/political science, history, industrial design, information design and corporate communications, journalism, music, psychology, PR, and sociology/anthropology, and more.
What is your acceptance rate?
Approximately 100 students are accepted to the VCU Brandcenter each year (roughly 20 per track). The acceptance rate is generally 45-48%.
What are the demographics of your student body?
Our student body is typically 10-12% international, 20-24% minority and 45-48% female. The average age is 25. Some of our students are married. Some have kids. About 70% of our students have at least one year of work experience after undergrad before starting their Brandcenter education. These jobs vary from a year of working at a college bookstore, to several years of agency experience, to having a completely unrelated career before deciding to make the move to advertising/marketing/communications. Prior work experience is not a requirement.
Are there opportunities for internships and real world work experience?
Yes! The Brandcenter facilitates a paid internship program that takes place during the summer between the 1st and 2nd year of the program. Internships are optional (not for class credit), but most students take advantage of the opportunity to gain real world experience. Most summer internships are 8 weeks, paid, and they are all over the country. See where our students have interned recently on our Internships page.
Throughout their two years, Brandcenter students have additional opportunities for real world exposure and experience through connecting with industry mentors, taking on freelance projects, listening to weekly industry speakers at Friday Forum, and learning from a predominantly full-time faculty who are well-connected in the business. The faculty regularly assign real world projects, inviting real clients to brief the students. When the students present their work, they present to the client as well as their faculty and peers. Examples of these real world clients include Google, Audi, General Mills/Cheerios, JW Marriott, HBO, Barnes & Noble, Oreo, and many more each semester.
What is your job placement rate?
Our job placement rate is approximately 97% six months after graduation, and we do our best to help our students find and prepare for career opportunities. One way is hosting our annual Recruiter Session, where over 250 recruiters from around the country come to Richmond to look at our students’ work, meet them and interview them just a few weeks before they graduate.
Our alumni get jobs at the best agencies in the world - places like Wieden + Kennedy, TBWA\Chiat\Day, Barton F. Graf 9000, The Martin Agency, AKQA, Droga5, R/GA, Venables Bell & Company, and great companies like Nike, IBM, Facebook, Audi, The Coca-Cola Company, Target, Google, Walt Disney Imagineering, etc. There is a strong entrepreneurial spirit among our students and alumni, and many of them go on to work for start-ups, start agencies or companies of their own, or come up with Kickstarter products like Hackaball, WetSox, or The Cool Baby or The Shrimp Cloud - voted two of "The Three Most Awesomely Outrageous Campaigns on Kickstarter Right Now."
How important is the portfolio I develop throughout this program?
Very. Your portfolio is your “ticket” into the interview process. In order to graduate from the Brandcenter, creatives will have to have a strong portfolio with great work that are strategically smart. Strategy students’ portfolios will showcase the research and insights they uncovered and the strategies they created that led to engaging campaigns. Experience Design students' portfolios may show solutions to marketing challenges that demonstrate their technology and design thinking, including information architecture, user experience design, and coded artifacts that could be part of a larger campaign. Creative Brand Management students’ portfolios could include case studies, marketing plans, and the brand campaigns that resulted under their leadership.
We want you to succeed, and a strong portfolio that shows you to be a well-rounded branding professional will help ensure your success. Take a look at our graduating students’ online portfolios.
What kind of technology is available at the Brandcenter for students?
The Brandcenter’s computer and editing labs are equipped with 42 Macintosh work stations which may be used to edit any digital media graphics, text, page layout or video. The Brandcenter uses industry standard, all-digital equipment for video production. We have 35 digital video cameras, 20 non-linear editing bays, state-of-the-art lighting and sound equipment available for checkout, as well as Final Cut Pro and other software for editing the best work. We also have 5 PCs for research use by the strategists and creative brand managers. All Brandcenter computers are connected to a network that includes file servers with dedicated, protected space for each student.
The XD lab is equipped with two 3D printers, a laser cutter, and various other tools, as well as workspace where the experience design students can apply their design thinking to build their ideas.
What are job titles that your grads typically hold (or will hold as their careers mature)?
Art Director, Designer, Creative Director
Copywriter, Creative Director
Creative Brand Management:
For companies: Brand Manager, Product Manager, Marketing Manager, Brand Consultant, Chief Marketing Officer
For agencies: Account Manager, Account/Strategic Planner (we have several CBM alums who have become planners agency-side)
User Experience (UX) Designer, Creative Technologist, Chief Technology Officer, Digital Producer, Interaction Designer, Information Architect (IA), Interactive Art Director or Interactive Copywriter, Social Media Manager
Account Planner/Strategic Planner (same job...different agencies call them different names), Planning Director, Consumer Researcher, Research Director, Brand Consultant, Consumer Insights Manager (client-side), Connections Planner, Brand Strategist
Is there recommended reading for prospective students?
Sixty - VCU Brandcenter's student magazine
Breaking In by William Burks Spencer, a Brandcenter alum
Pick Me, an Adweek book by Nancy Vonk and Janet Kestin
How to Start Your Career in Advertising – a free ebook written by Brandcenter CW alum Greg Christensen.
Art Direction and Copywriting applicants:
Hey Whipple, Squeeze This by Luke Sullivan
How to Write a Sentence by Stanley Fish
Creative Brand Management applicants:
Primal Branding by Patrick Hanlon
Good to Great by Jim Collins
A New Brand World by Scott Bedbury Kelly
Experience Design applicants:
Sketching User Experiences by Bill Buxton
Truth, Lies & Advertising by Jon Steel
by Chip and Dan Heath
My budget is pretty tight. Can I work outside the Brandcenter?
With a heavy course workload and a team-oriented environment, we strongly recommend students limit any outside employment to 20 hours per week. If you choose to work, it is necessary for your employment to have flexible hours.
How much can I expect to spend on supplies?
While it varies, you can probably expect to spend from $1,000 to $2,000 on supplies while you’re here. We strongly recommend students save all receipts for two reasons. First, it’s good practice for the real world, as you will be required to document your expenses in an agency. Second, costs can be written off on your taxes if you are hired or working in advertising that same year.
Where do students live?
Richmond, Virginia, commonly referred to as “RVA,” is a historic southern city in the midst of a creative rebirth. It is an urban community with countless apartment/housing options. You can search Craigslist or other housing websites, or just walk or bike around the city to get to know the neighborhoods and look for “For Rent” signs.
Current students of the Brandcenter are another great way to find housing. We connect incoming students with the graduating class as well as current students looking for roommates/ apartments.
One of Richmond’s predominant residential areas is called The Fan, named for its shape: it fans outward from VCU’s Monroe Park Campus. This neighborhood is filled with hundreds of houses and apartments, many of which were built in the late 1800s, as well as restaurants, bars and shops. The architecture is diverse, and one to four-bedroom apartments and houses abound. Many of our students live in this area, and the adjacent neighborhoods known as The Museum District and Carytown, which are just further west.
Shockoe Bottom is an equality popular area with renovated warehouses that are now apartments. Most are loft-style, located above dozens of restaurants and shops. Like many of the other neighborhoods in the city, Shockoe Bottom houses a mix of graduate students, medical students and professionals. This area is about a mile from our building, on the other side of the downtown district, at the foot of the historic Church Hill neighborhood (including St. John's Church, home of Patrick Henry's famous "Give me liberty or give me death" speech.)
There are countless more apartments and condominiums immediately surrounding the city.
How expensive is renting an apartment in Richmond?
According to the real estate market trends for 2016, one-bedroom apartments in Richmond rent for $864 a month on average and two-bedroom apartment rents average $1031. In polling our current class, our students pay between $450-1,000 a month in rent (depending on number of roommates, location, etc.)
Do you follow the VCU academic calendar?
Yes. We follow the VCU academic calendar for the Monroe Park Campus.
Why is Sixty called Sixty?
Sixty is our annual student magazine, and it got its name from the duration of the VCU Brandcenter program: sixty weeks.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out!
Hawley Smyth, Senior Admissions Counselor
We hope to see you soon.