How to Become an Event Planner in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become an event planner. Learn about degree requirements, salary and employment outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Hospitality Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information At a Glance

While a degree isn't strictly required, most employers look for event planners with postsecondary education in a field such as marketing or hospitality. A summary of some of the important details about this career is presented in the table below.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Marketing, communications, hospitality management
Key Skills Problem-solving, leadership, speaking, organization
Certification Voluntary
Job Growth (2012-2022) 33% (for all meeting, convention and event planners)*
Median Salary (2013) $46,260 (for all meeting, convention and event planners)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is an Event Planner?

Event planners are also called meeting planners. Their work involves taking care of the details that go into producing a successful event. Events you'll plan can include business luncheons, charity fundraisers and conventions. They basically ascertain the purpose and main objective of a gathering by conferring with their customers then organize it according to the occasion.

Step 1: Research the Job Duties of an Event Planner

Your primary duties in this position will include selecting venues, contracting vendors and caterers, sending invitations, hiring guest speakers and entertainers, communicating with and coordinating staff, creating event schedules and itineraries, and arranging travel and accommodations. You'll also issue client satisfaction surveys and handle any unforeseen problems that may arise before or after the event takes place. You'll also inspect event facilities to ensure that they meet the customers' expectations.

Step 2: Gain Work Experience

So much of what you'll do as an event planner will involve working with people, whether it be the clients, the vendors or the event attendees. For this reason, it's important that you be capable of working effectively with large numbers of people. As an aspiring event planner, you might wish to consider joining athletic, extracurricular or civic organizations at your school or in your community to hone your communication skills.

If you have no experience, you may enter the field of event planning by getting an entry-level position, such as helping with registration, creating timelines for meetings, planning smaller meetings or setting up schedules. Many event planning companies offer on-the-job training. Alternatively, if you can acquire experience in event planning on a smaller scale in the industry of your choice, it will be easier to parlay that background into a job as an event planner. For example, administrative assistants and hospitality workers in the catering and marketing industries are good candidates to become event planners.

Step 3: Earn a Degree

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), you don't have to have a college degree to break into the field of event planning. You do, however, stand a better chance of getting a position of greater responsibility if you have a bachelor's degree (www.bls.gov). Relevant majors include hospitality management and marketing. In addition, some universities may offer bachelor's degree programs in meeting planning.

Undergraduate hospitality management programs include courses on consumer satisfaction and service, beverage management, special events, food service sanitation, lodging operations management and organizational behavior. As a marketing major, you'll study such subjects as world languages, managerial accounting, macroeconomics, sales administration and marketing research. If you want to brush up on your skills, several colleges and universities offer continuing education classes in convention and meeting planning.

Step 4: Obtain Certification

You can obtain voluntary certification through the Convention Industry Council (CIC), which awards the Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) designation. This credential is recognized throughout the industry, and it may assist you in advancing to a better position. To qualify for CIC certification, you'll need to have amassed three years of full-time event planning work experience. You'll also have to successfully pass an examination covering such topics as logistics, meeting programs and financial management.

The Society of Government Meeting Professionals awards a voluntary Certified Government Meeting Professional (CGMP) credential. To become certified by this organization, you'll have to have been a member for at least a year. It will be necessary to enroll in a course and later pass a qualifying examination.

Step 5: Seek Career Advancement

As you gain job experience, it will be possible to move up through the ranks from event planner to conference coordinator, program coordinator, meeting manager and, eventually, director of meetings. Of course, you may decide to move from a smaller company to a larger organization with better career opportunities, or you might even wish to start your own event planning business.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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