How to Become a Certified Event Planner

Mar 09, 2020

Learn how to become a certified event planner. Research the education requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career in event planning.

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Should I Become a Certified Event Planner?

Certified event planners are responsible for coordinating and managing all aspects of an event. They come from many different workforce and educational backgrounds, but they're typically bachelor's degree holders. Many planners start out in another job, such as a catering coordinator position. With appropriate education and experience, planners may go on to host larger events, such as conventions and corporate meetings. Long hours, including weekends, are often required. Event planners may face regular stress due to event deadlines.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the median annual salary for meeting, convention and event planners was $49,370 in May 2018.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Hospitality management, marketing, public relations, communications, or business
Certification Voluntary certification available
Experience 1-2 years of experience may be required without a degree
Key Skills Communication, customer service, organization, interpersonal, negotiation, and problem-solving skills; advanced skill with online social media; basic computer skills and use of project management software; comfortable with video conferencing equipment; ability to keep composed under pressure
Median Salary (2018)* $49,370 (for meeting, convention, and event planners)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics*, O*NET OnLine.

To become a certified event planner, you should obtain a bachelor's degree in hospitality management, marketing, public relations, communications or business. Without a degree you'll likely need 1-2 years of experience in the field. You'll also need communication, customer service, interpersonal, negotiation and problem solving skills. You'll want to be organized and have advanced skill with online social media, basic computer skills with project management software knowledge, the ability to keep composed under pressure, and to be comfortable with video conferencing equipment.

Steps to Become a Certified Event Planner

Let's go over what steps you'll need to take to become a certified event planner.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Most employers require event planners to hold a bachelor's degree. Event planners may come from a variety of educational backgrounds such as hospitality management, marketing, or public relations. Relevant coursework includes accounting, hospitality management and meeting management. Some schools offer programs of study specific to event and meeting planning. Students in these programs might study event promotion, computer skills for business and event design.

Complete an internship. Some programs may require students to complete internships. Internships help you gain hands-on experience in the field and acquire a greater understanding of the event planning process.

Step 2: Gain Planning Experience

Many event planners start out planning smaller events, such as meetings and forums, for small organizations. Administrative assistants, for example, may assume meeting planning responsibilities in addition to their normal duties. You also may enter the field in related occupations, such as catering coordinator positions, to build experience and advance to a planner role.

Become familiar with common computer programs. Event planners must have skill with multitasking and organizing large amounts of information and tasks. Project management software, as well as spreadsheet and database software, may be helpful in keeping you organized and on track with planning duties.

Join a professional organization. If you wish to advance in the field of event planning, joining a professional organization, such as Meeting Professionals International (MPI), may be beneficial. Members of these organizations may find advantages such as networking opportunities, job search resources and webinars.

Step 3: Obtain Certification

Event planning certification designations may help you stand out to potential employers. The content in certification exams can vary according to event planning areas. One option is the Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) designation exam. The CMP credential is available to convention, meeting and exhibition event planners. Prior to taking the certification exam, you must prove eligibility; three years of experience and recent employment in the field are necessary, as well as earning continuing education credits.

Another certification that you may earn is the Certified Government Meeting Professional (CGMP) designation. You must qualify with experience and membership in the Society of Government Meeting Professionals (SGMP). Completion of a 3-day course and certification exam are also required.

Step 4: Specialize Professional Skills

According to the BLS, there are many different types of event planners. Association planners market the value of annual conferences and other voluntary meetings. Corporate planners focus on meetings in the corporation or with a related business. Government meeting planners need to be familiar with government regulations for buying materials and booking hotels to plan accordingly, while non-profit planners focus heavily on fundraising.

Event planners organize private and public events like weddings. Convention service managers act as liaisons between companies and venues such as hotels to make sure all the details are managed. Finding your niche and networking accordingly can help ensure professional prospects for the future.

To become a certified event planner, you'll need to earn a bachelor's degree or acquire the appropriate amount of experience and then complete certification.

Expert Contributor: Mark Mangum Mark has an MDiv and MBA in Leadership. He has several years' experience in service and operations management in the hospitality industry.

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