How to Become an Event Planner

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5 Steps to Becoming an Event Planner

Step 1 Complete a bachelor’s degree

Generally, professionals are required to earn a bachelor’s degree in meeting and event management. Some of the courses that students may complete in these programs include human resource management, event sales and sponsorships, financial accounting, agreement negotiating, and relationship management. People can also enter the field by earning a degree in business management, marketing, public relations, communications, or hospitality management.

Step 2 Get hands-on experience

In order to put their classroom studies into practice, students should get hands-on experience planning events on their own or by participating in an internship at an event planning company. Aspiring planners can gain experience by volunteering for activities at their school, such as helping the student union plan concerts, comedy shows, festivals, and sporting events. Similarly, people can obtain hands-on experience by helping to organize company meetings at their job, or by volunteering for a nonprofit organization that coordinates events.

Step 3 Learn industry technology

Event planners are required to master programs that are used in the industry, including project management, customer relationship management, and sales and marketing software. Some specific programs these professionals may use include Marketo Marketing Automation, Microsoft Project, Blackbaud The Raiser's Edge, Convention Industry Council CIC APEX Toolbox, and Active Network EventRegister.

Step 4 Choose a specialization

While some event planners are generalists, others choose to specialize in a certain type of event—especially if they want to start their own business. Some of the niches people can focus on include weddings, birthdays, business meetings, conferences, fundraisers, mall events, and corporate retreats.

Step 5 Create a portfolio

Whether event planners are looking for a job or clients, a portfolio is a way for them to show off their skills and accomplishments. Portfolios can include photos of the events they organized, press clippings, testimonials, and event brochures or invitations. In addition, any challenges that needed to be overcome related to tight deadlines or budgets, or creative constraints should be explained to help highlight the ability to work under pressure.

FAQ on Earning Your Event Planner Degree

  • Although a certification is not required to get a job, earning one can help professionals impress potential employers and clients. The following are some of the credentials those in the event planning industry can earn.

    • The Certified Meeting Professional (CMP), which is available through the Events Industry Council, is offered to those who have at least three years of professional experience. In order to earn this credential, applicants must pass an examination to demonstrate their knowledge of facility operations, strategic planning, logistics, and risk management.
    • The Certified Meeting Planner offered by the Events Industry Council is for professionals who have been employed full time in the industry for at least three years. People who want this credential are required to pass an examination.
    • The Certified Government Meeting Professional from the Society of Government Meeting Professionals is for those who work with the local, state, or federal government. To earn this certification, people must complete a course and an examination.
  • People who earn a certification are required to take continuing education courses in order to maintain their credentials.

  • Event planners need to connect with potential clients or employers, as well as other industry professionals such as florists, photographers, entertainers, and caterers. Attending networking events can help them to build their network.

  • Event planners can market their services in a variety of ways, including maintaining a mailing list of prospective and current clients, being active on social media, and building a website and blog.

  • Event planners who want to work for themselves will need to obtain a business license from their state. In addition, business owners may also have to get insurance, depending on the requirements of their state.

Event Planner Salary & Job Growth

Students who enroll in any degree program want to know they are going to get a good return on their tuition investment. In order to shed light on how much event planners make, this section provides information on salary potential for professionals at different levels and the job opportunities that these workers will enjoy in the coming years.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2017, event planners earned a median salary of $48,290 per year, with amounts ranging from $26,390 to $82,980 annually. Similarly, Glassdoor reports the following breakdown of how much these professionals can earn over the years of their career.

Years of Experience Average Annual Salary
0 to 1 $40,581
1 to 3 $43,792
4 to 6 $52,719
7 to 9 $54,712
10 to 14 $57,771
15+ $63,954

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the employment for event planners will increase by 11 percent between 2016 and 2026. Although the projected growth for these professionals is expected to be faster than the average of all other professions, the agency notes that economic activity can influence the meetings and events industry. As the economy waxes and wanes, organizations who use the services of event planners adjust their budgets for meetings and other events accordingly.

Alabama Mean wage annual: $43,790
Currently Employed: 400
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 7%
Alaska Mean wage annual: $60,020
Currently Employed: 80
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 6%
Arizona Mean wage annual: $44,890
Currently Employed: 1,770
Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A
Arkansas Mean wage annual: $43,830
Currently Employed: 570
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 11%
California Mean wage annual: $56,520
Currently Employed: 13,910
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 14%
Colorado Mean wage annual: $47,570
Currently Employed: 3,350
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 24%
Connecticut Mean wage annual: $59,650
Currently Employed: 670
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 7%
Delaware Mean wage annual: $50,530
Currently Employed: 220
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 10%
Florida Mean wage annual: $47,200
Currently Employed: 6,580
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 22%
Georgia Mean wage annual: $50,870
Currently Employed: 2,690
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 14%
view more

Finding an Event Planner Program

This section provides information to help future event planners find the college that best meets their needs. There are several factors that can influence which degree programs event planning students choose. Whether they are concerned about tuition costs, the ability to earn certifications, or the delivery method of courses, the search tool below can help people narrow down their choices.

Professional Event Planner Associations & Groups

The business of event planning is all about making connections, so it’s important for professionals to be a part of organizations that help them do that, as well as keep their knowledge and skills current. The following are some professional associations that event planners can join to connect with each other and stay informed about what’s going on in the industry.

  • Event Planners Association

    Organization that provides support to members of the event and amusement industry. People who join this association receive access to networking events, certification programs, legal document templates, and industry software.

  • PCMA

    Organization for business event strategists. Members get access to education opportunities, market intelligence, and publications.

  • National Association of Event Planners

    Organization that promotes high standards and integrity in the field by providing resources and education to professionals.

  • National Association for Catering and Events

    Provides resources for catering and event professionals, including education opportunities, networking events, and certifications.

  • Meeting Professionals International

    Meeting and event industry organization that provides certificate programs, webinars, blog posts, and networking events. Those who join this association can receive industry research journals, job board access, newsletters, and on-demand professional development services. In addition, people can connect with professionals in their community by participating in local chapters.

  • International Association of Exhibitions and Events

    Founded in 1928, this association provides services to professionals in the exhibitions and events industry around the world. The organization offers professional development and resources, discounts on services, advocacy, industry news and publications, and webinars.

  • Wedding International Professionals Association

    From wedding planners to florists to cake designers, this organization provides education for professionals in the wedding industry. Members can take courses and webinars, participate in mentoring programs, and attend events. The association has local chapters in Phoenix, Atlanta, New Orleans, San Francisco, and New York.

  • International Live Events Association

    Supports events workers by providing networking, education, and professional development. Members can also receive discounts on car rentals, shipping, technology, and business management tools.

  • Academic Event Professional

    Organization that provides education programs for academic event planners.

  • Event Service Professionals Association

    Offers mentor programs, scholarships, networking events and education for event service professionals.

Resources for Event Planners

In order to keep their clients happy, it’s important for event planners to continue learning about the industry throughout their careers. The following are some resources that professionals can use to stay up to date on what’s going on in the field.

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