If you are 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, and 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, or 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 an earned bachelor’s degree in business, communications, hospitality management, marketing, or 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. However, without 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, but increasingly complex tasks in event planning have made a college degree the norm in education 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, and public relations, as reported by BLS. Event planning experience gained through internships or involvement in extracurricular activities can be valuable, and may be critical for advancement, particularly for students who don’t have a background in hospitality or tourism.
When candidates land their first event planner job, they will likely spend their time handling entry-level meeting logistics matters, including guest registration and equipment organization. As event planners gain more experience, their 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.
Earnings Potential for Event Planners
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), meeting, convention, and event planners earn a median salary of $50,600 per year. The lowest ten percent of earners working in this occupation earned less than $28,590, while the highest ten 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. Of course, 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. As individuals exit the workforce, workers will need to be replaced. 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 an event, convention, or meeting planner. Below are several job opportunities for individuals with a bachelor’s in event planning, or a closely related discipline.
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, or a closely related discipline. Convention service managers often work in hotels and large convention centers.
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, and store openings. Private events, such as anniversaries, reunions, and weddings also employ event planners. And in the nonprofit arena, event planners run banquets, charity or advocacy gatherings, and food drives.
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.
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.
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 in order 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, but 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 is 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, it should come as no surprise how important networking skills are. Event planners work with a diverse group of professionals, including caterers, musicians, and 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 is 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, but meeting and event planners must be able to anticipate problems that 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.
In addition to the above qualities needed to successfully work as a meeting or event planner, the role calls for punctuality, empathy, and a strong work ethic. Without these traits, as well as the ones listed above, it is difficult to succeed in this uniquely designed 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, and training. Once you’ve obtained 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 Bureau of Labor Statistics, 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; and arts, entertainment, and recreation services.
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