What Is the Best Degree Path to Becoming a Meeting and Event Planner?

event planning degree

Are you an organized person who enjoys the challenge of managing logistics and solving problems? You might want to consider a career as a meeting and event planner. Business and financial professionals who choose this rapidly growing career handle the planning of:

  • large businesses
  • non-profit organizations
  • personal events that range from parties to professional conferences

However, qualifying for this role requires education, training, and other skills. Below we’ve detailed the role of a meeting and event planner, as well as the best degree path to help you become successful in this field.

The Role of a Meeting and Event Planner

Virtually every large event or conference requires planning and organization to go smoothly. Meeting and event planners are the individuals in charge of this type of organization. They often specialize in a planning a particular type of event, such as:

  • corporate business meetings
  • meetings between government agencies and officials
  • trade show events for professional organizations
  • other kinds of events

Regardless of what kind of events they plan, they are typically responsible for a variety of tasks. These tasks include:

  • Coordinating lodging, transportation, and dining
  • Establishing the date, time, and location of the event
  • Handling vendor contracts through bidding and negotiations
  • Keeping the cost of the event within the client’s budget
  • Organizing equipment and activities
  • Registering and checking in attendees

Education for Aspiring Event Planners

An undergraduate degree can prepare you for a flourishing career as an event planner. In fact, most companies seeking event planners call for a bachelor’s degree in one of these:

  • business
  • communications
  • hospitality management
  • marketing
  • public relations

In some cases, individuals without a bachelor’s degree or those who hold an associate’s degree may qualify for an entry-level event planner position. If you don’t have a degree, employers often ask for a minimum of one to two years of work experience in the field.

Bachelor’s Degree Options for Aspiring Event Planners

One of the first steps to becoming a meeting or event planner is to earn an undergraduate college degree. In the past, a four-year degree was not as essential as it is today. However, increasingly complex tasks in event planning have made a college degree the norm for this career, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The most popular majors for aspiring event planners are hospitality and tourism management. Other common areas of study include:

  • business
  • communications
  • marketing
  • public relations

Event planning experience gained through internships or involvement in extracurricular activities can be valuable. It may be critical for advancement, particularly for students who don’t have a background in hospitality or tourism.

When you land your first event planner job, you will likely spend your time handling entry-level meeting logistics matters, including guest registration and equipment organization. As you gain more experience, your responsibilities will expand to tasks like negotiating contracts and interacting with clients. A bachelor’s degree in a field related to event planning will open doors in the field.

What Is the Best Degree Path to Becoming a Meeting and Event Planner?

Earnings Potential for Event Planners

According to the BLS, meeting, convention, and event planners earn a median salary of $50,600 per year. The lowest 10 percent of professionals in this occupation earned less than $28,590, while the highest 10 percent made over $86,000 annually.

The job outlook for this profession is favorable. Over just a decade, the BLS predicts career opportunities for meeting and event planners will increase by eight percent, much faster than the average job growth expected across all occupations. For most professionals who choose a career in meeting and event planning, the nature of the work itself is rewarding.

Approximately 15,200 job openings for event planners are projected each year, according to BLS. Job openings are expected to result from job transfers and retirements. To help set yourself apart from the competition, education is critical. Candidates with a bachelor’s degree in a discipline applicable to event planning will have the best job opportunities. Applicants with experience working in the hospitality industry should also fare well in their search for an event planning job.

Job Opportunities in Event Planning with a Bachelor’s Degree

With the proper education and training, you may qualify for a role as a planner for

  • events
  • conventions
  • meetings

Below are several job opportunities for individuals with a bachelor’s in event planning, or a closely related discipline.

Convention Planners
A convention planner is responsible for the planning and organizing duties associated with conventions and conferences. Advanced leadership or management roles in this occupation require a four-year degree in:

  • business
  • event planning
  • hospitality management
  • a closely related discipline

Convention service managers often work in hotels and large convention centers.

Event Planners

The details of any large-scale event are arranged by event planners. Event planners are often hired to plan:

  • award ceremonies
  • corporate events
  • galas
  • product launches
  • store openings
  •  anniversaries
  • reunions
  • weddings
  • banquets
  • charity or advocacy gatherings
  • food drives

Exhibition Organizers

An exhibition organizer plans, produces, and promotes displays for exhibitions. Often referred to as show managers or exhibit managers, this specialized event planner works closely with conference and exhibition facilities.

Meeting Planners

A meeting planner is in charge of planning large meetings and gatherings for organizations. They often work in niche industries, such as healthcare or education. For example, healthcare meeting planners specialize in the organization of conferences, meetings, and workshops for healthcare professionals. Corporate meeting planners are responsible for planning meetings such as internal business meetings or meetings between businesses. Whether these events take place in-person or online, they often have a large amount of attendees.

Job Outlook for Meeting and Event Planners

As reported by BLS, the job outlook for meeting and event planners is favorable. Individuals with a bachelor’s degree in event planning or a closely related discipline should experience the best job prospects. According to BLS, employment for this occupation is projected to grow eight percent through 2029. The demand for meeting and event planners should remain stable as businesses and organizations prepare to host annual events in the upcoming year.

What Is the Best Degree Path to Becoming a Meeting and Event Planner?

Licenses, Registrations, and Certifications for Meeting and Event Planners

In addition to earning a degree, some jobs in meeting and event planning require certifications. Although certifications, licenses, and registrations are not necessarily required in this profession, they do demonstrate knowledge and skills. Certifications can help set you apart from the competition, especially if other applicants hold the same degree level as you.

Certified Government Meeting Professional (CGMP)

The CGMP designation, offered by the Society of Government Meeting Professionals, is for meeting planners who work for, or contract with, federal, local, and state government. To qualify for the CGMP certification, candidates must have worked as a meeting planner for at least one year. Also, candidates must have been a member of the Society of Government Meeting Professionals for at least six months. Certification requires the completion of a three-day course and a passing grade on the qualifying examination.

Certified in Exhibition Management (CEM)

The CEM designation is offered through the International Association of Exhibitions & Events. CEM designation demonstrates the meeting of professional standards for events managers and exhibitors. Also, candidates must complete nine relevant courses to receive this credential.

Certified Meeting Professional (CMP)

The CMP credential is offered by the Events Industry Council, a widely recognized leader in the industry. The CMP credential aids in career advancement by offering an exam that tests knowledge in:

  • facility operations & services
  • financial & risk management
  • logistics, and strategic planning

To qualify for the CMP, applicants must pass the exam and show proof of education and experience.

For those interested in wedding planning, there are several organizations that offer certifications. For example, both the American Association of Certified Professional Wedding Consultants and the American Association of Certified Wedding Planners offer certifications in wedding planning. These certifications emphasize attracting clients and planning large-scale wedding events.

Important Qualities Required for Meeting and Event Planners

In addition to education, certification, and training, becoming a meeting and event planner requires certain personal qualities. These qualities may be innate or developed outside the classroom. Qualities that prove to be beneficial in the industry include:

Communication skills: Solid communication skills are beneficial to any job. They come in especially handy for an event or meeting planner. Since this occupation requires verbal exchange of information between clients, staff, and suppliers, it is important to be able to communicate effectively. Oral and written communication skills can be honed in school, but some degree of natural ability is required.

Creativity: Event planners, especially those working as wedding planners, often develop creative solutions to fit budget constraints and solve issues that arise during planning. Being creative is an essential part of the job. If the client has a small budget, or if decorating issues arise, solutions must be found. It takes creativity and ingenuity to accomplish these tasks.

Detail-orientation: As an event planner, it’s important to be detail-oriented. Event planners must be organized and able to identify any problems before they are detected by their clients. To identify and correct a problem before the client does means the event planner is doing their job. For example, identifying spelling errors on invitations or improper seating arrangements are just some of the issues that can arise for event and meeting planners.

Interpersonal skills: Having good interpersonal skills is helpful for event and meeting planners. Event planners must maintain positive working relationships with clients and suppliers. Interpersonal skills help create a good working relationship filled with respect and encouragement.

Negotiation skills: In order to secure quality products at a reasonable price, and to keep costs within a client’s budget, solid negotiation skills are needed for event and meeting planners. The best event planners have strong negotiation skills.

Networking skills: Since the event and meeting planning industry relies heavily on relationship building, networking skills are important. Event planners work with a diverse group of professionals, including:

  • caterers
  • musicians
  • photographers

Planners meet regularly with vendors and develop close relationships with these professionals. By developing relationships through networking, event planners often save their clients time and money.

Organizational skills: It’s important for an event or meeting planner to be able to multitask. Duties associated with event planning require multiple tasks to be carried out at the same time. In order to multitask successfully, organizational skills are a must. Event planners should be able to meet tight deadlines and pay close attention to details.

Problem-solving skills: Most jobs require problem-solving skills. Meeting and event planners must also be able to anticipate problems that may arise and resolve them immediately. These problems should not land back in the client’s lap without a resolution. One of the most important aspects of an event planner’s job is to prepare creative solutions that satisfy their clients.

What Is the Best Degree Path to Becoming a Meeting and Event Planner?

In addition to the above qualities needed to successfully work as a meeting or event planner, the role calls for:

  • punctuality
  • empathy
  • a strong work ethic

Without these traits, as well as the ones listed above, it is difficult to succeed in this unique career.

Final Thoughts on Becoming a Meeting and Event Planner

While not always required, a bachelor’s degree can help open doors for the aspiring meeting and event planner. Also, career advancement is assisted by:

  • education
  • experience
  • training

Once you’ve earned your degree and honed the skills necessary to work as an event planner, you may be well on your way to enjoying a long career with favorable job prospects.

According to the BLS, approximately 15,000 openings for event planners are projected each year. This number should remain consistent over the next decade. Individuals with a bachelor’s degree will see the best job prospects. Also, as reported by BLS, pay will remain steady. Top employers of meeting and event planners will include:

  • administrative and support services
  • religious, civic, and grant-making services
  • accommodation and food services
  • arts, entertainment, and recreation services.

Related:

What Is Event Management?
30 Best Affordable Online Bachelor’s in Hospitality Management
5 Jobs With a Bachelor’s in Tourism
How Long Does it Take to Get a Degree in Hospitality?
5 Ways Technology Has Changed The Hospitality Industry For the Better
5 Ways to Keep Pace and Stay Ahead of the Curve in the Hospitality Industry

BDP Staff:
April 2021

This concludes our article on how to become a meeting and event planner.

Brenda Rufener
Author

Julie McCaulley
Expert

Carrie Sealey-Morris
Editor-in-Chief