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How to Become an Event Planner

Find out how to become an event planner. Research the education and training requirements, and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in event planning. View article »

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Video Transcript

Should I Become an Event Planner?

An event planner is a highly organized, multi-tasking professional who arranges corporate meetings, conventions, festivals, ceremonies and similar types of events. Event planners select event dates, establish locations and arrange accommodations and transportation for event participants. Other common event planning duties include drawing up contracts, arranging catering and decorating services and ensuring that the costs of events remain within structured budgets. While there are no hard education requirements to get started in this career, event planners who possess a bachelor's degree might hold a competitive edge over applicants without a degree. Keeping up with deadlines can add stress to this job, but pulling off a successful event might be very rewarding for these planners.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree (preferred)
Degree Field Communications, hospitality, marketing, business, public relations, or a related field
Experience 1-2 years of relevant work experience
Key Skills Strong verbal and written communication, customer-service, interpersonal, problem-solving, organization, business, and marketing skills; use of database, budget, and social media/networking software
Salary $46,840 (2015 median)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Though not required, most event planners should have a bachelor's degree in communications, hospitality, marketing, business, public relations or a related field. They should also have 1-2 years of relevant work experience. Key skills for event planners include strong verbal and written communication, customer-service, interpersonal, problem-solving and organization skills, advanced computer skill (for example, database software, budgets and social media/networking), and business and marketing skills. As of 2015, the median annual salary for event planners was $46,840, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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Steps to Becoming an Event Planner

Step 1: Earn a College Degree

Employers generally hire applicants with at least a bachelor's degree. Related degree programs are available in areas such as communications, hospitality management, public relations or marketing. These programs can train students on the complex demands of event planning, as well as help them develop related skills, like computer application and business writing.

Supplement Education Through Electives

Event planners need to possess a wide range of skills, some of which may not be acquired through the degree program they choose. For example, a communications program may not provide enough business and marketing courses. An aspiring event planner should choose their elective courses wisely to ensure they receive a well-rounded education in all areas of study relevant to this career.

Participate in an Internship

Colleges and universities may be able to assist students in finding internships working for event planning companies. Some schools may even require completion of an internship. Participating in an internship can help a prospective planner develop their skills by working directly in the field and may help establish networking connections they can use during their job search.

Step 2: Earn Experience

The BLS states that employers make seek candidates who have at least 1-2 years of relevant work experience, especially if the applicant does not hold a degree specifically in hospitality. Most event planners begin by working as assistants for established professionals. This affords them an insider's perspective on the field, an opportunity to develop on-the-job skills and a chance to create a portfolio of their work. Portfolios are presented to potential clients and should include event photos, letters of recommendation, event publications, announcements and other forms of related materials.

Step 3: Network in the Field

To become an effective event planner, one must socialize as much as possible to maximize the chances of meeting potential clients. Event planners should hand out business cards at every opportunity and maintain good relationships with vendors, business owners, venue managers and other professionals.

Join a Professional Organization

Joining a professional organization, such as the National Association of Event Planners (NAEP), may help new event planners form important connections and find job opportunities. Professional organizations may also offer other useful resources, including continuing education options.

Step 4: Obtain Voluntary Certification

Certification programs may provide event planners with new educational, professional, and networking opportunities. Earning voluntary credentials may also help an event planner stand out as a professional in the industry. Examples of useful certificate programs include the Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) certification program, which is offered by the Convention Industry Council, and the Society of Government Meeting Professionals' Certified Government Meeting Professional (CGMP) certification.

Step 5: Consider Self-Employment

After gaining experience, many event planners consider establishing their own event planning businesses. Aspiring entrepreneurs should consider whether they would like to specialize in social or corporate event planning and market themselves through websites, business cards, and other advertising channels accordingly.

Hopeful event planners should earn a bachelor's degree in communications, hospitality management, public relations, marketing or a related field before gaining experience in the field, networking, obtaining voluntary certification and possibly opening their own event planning business.

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