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Many events can, and are meant to be fun. But other gatherings may not be focused on fun and games — they may be more serious or practical in nature. In both cases, making sure an event is carried off without any glitches can involve a lot of hard work and expertise. This is where event planners step in with their combination of customer service, marketing, and interpersonal skills. Event planning degree programs can help prepare aspiring event planners for careers in this creative and competitive space.
In today's technology-rich world, much of the event planning process can take place online. That can make online degree programs in event planning a natural (and even complementary) option for students interested in this exciting, growing field. Students typically have the ability to complete coursework whenever it is convenient for them, so working adults and students with families can benefit from the flexibility of an online program.
What do event planners do?
As part of the greater hospitality industry, event planners can find themselves working in any number of different business venues. In each case, event planners concern themselves with meeting the expectations of their clients and providing a memorable (and seamless) experience for all who attend. Excellent customer service skills, an attention to detail, and basic sales and marketing know-how are required for any event planning position.
Event planning professionals are needed to organize occasions like:
- Conferences or workshops
- Trade shows
- Job fairs
- Fund-raising soirees
- Concerts and festivals
- Family events
- Theme parties
- Product launches
- Conventions, seminars, and meetings
Event planning is a complex discipline that requires employees to master a number of different skills in order to be effective. When meeting with potential clients, event planners must display first-rate customer service and sales skills. During the actual coordination and production of the event, it is the event planner's job to oversee all aspects. This requires a sharp attention to detail and excellent work ethic. Additionally, event planners need to understand the basics of design in terms of creating invitations, lighting,venue layouts, design props, table linen, seating arrangements, chair covers and entertainment.
With technology advancing, event planners must be able to make effective use of digital platforms to prepare and plan for events including the use of social media to garner publicity.
Typically, the duties of an event planner include:
- Meeting clients to understand and plan the purpose, scope and nature of an event
- Plan events including costs, location and logistics
- Negotiate contracts with clients, venues and other contractors
- Arrange transport and lodging for guests, as necessary
- Arrange for audiovisual equipment, notebooks and the like, as required
- Arrange the menus, catering and decorations for the event
- Monitor the event to ensure the clients and attendees are satisfied
- Take care of the invoicing and payments for the event
Occupations and Career Outlook
The following table from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows data for occupations relating to the field of event management along with wage and employment statistics.
Projected Job Growth
(2016 - 26)
|Meeting, Convention, and Event Planners||102,420||$52,630||10.2%|
Choose a degree that can help you meet your career goals
With round-the-clock access to study materials and lectures, students in online programs can design a study schedule that suits their already busy lifestyle.Online degree programs in event planning can range from certificate to master's degree programs. As events become bigger and more complex, many employers may look for candidates who hold at least a bachelor's degree in a related field. Management positions may require a graduate-level degree. Specializations may help you pursue a career in the event planning field that interests you.
Prospective students should carefully choose the degree path that can help them achieve their long-term career goals.
Online Certificate Programs in Event Planning
What can I expect to learn in an online certificate program?
Entry-level positions in event planning may only require a high school diploma or certificate along with relevant experience.
Typical duration: Less than or up to two years, depending on the program
General Prerequisites: High school diploma or GED
Typical coursework:Depending on the program you choose, obtaining your event planning certification online can help ensure you receive a proper introduction to the hospitality industry along with training that specifically focuses on event planning. Core curricula can include:
- Fundamentals of event management
- Introduction to small business management
- Event marketing
- Event risk management
- Event coordination
- Site and venue selection
Additionally, individuals may be required to acquire work experience in event management and complete a project in order to graduate.
Possible electives: Event entertainment, event décor, event protocol
What can I do after earning a certificate?
A certificate in event management may enable you to switch careers to the event management field or make you eligible for entry-level roles, if you are a fresh graduate. Some potential careers are:
- Meeting, convention, or event planner
- Food service manager
- Lodging manager
Online Associate Degree Programs in Event Planning
What can I expect to learn in an online associate degree program?
Associate degree programs may serve as an extension of certificate programs. While business and event planning are taught in more detail, associate degree programs may also include foundation courses like English and mathematics.
Typical duration: Two years of full-time study
General prerequisites: High school diploma or GED
Typical coursework: Associate degree courses typically consist of the core topics in certificate courses and more. They may also offer the opportunity to specialize in the management and planning of a particular type of event or meeting. Some of the topics you may see in the curriculum of an associate degree course are:
- Tourism and hospitality management research
- Mechanics of event planning
- Introduction to convention/meeting management
- Introduction to exposition and trade show management
- Travel management
- Principles of sales presentations
- Principles of accounting
In addition, you may be expected to complete an internship or gain a certain amount of work experience as a part of the program.
Possible electives: Special events design, international convention meeting management, convention destination management, event fundraising and sponsorship
What can I do after earning an associate degree?
An online associate degree in event planning can act as a stepping stone to completing an undergraduate degree. You may be able to transfer your credits from your associate program to a bachelor's degree program. An associate degree program in event planning can also prepare you for entry-level roles in larger event management firms. Some potential careers are:
- Meeting, convention, or event planner
- Food service manager
- Lodging manager
- Catering manager
- Wedding planner
Online Bachelor's Degree Programs in Event Planning
What can I expect to learn in an online bachelor's degree program?
In addition to planning and managing actual events, event planners need to understand a wide variety of business and marketing concepts. A bachelor's degree program builds on core subjects giving a more in-depth view of the hospitality industry along with the skills needed for leadership roles in the industry.You may also be able to choose a specialization as a part of your program.
Typical duration: Four years of full-time study
General prerequisites: High school diploma or GED, associate degree
Typical coursework: Some core courses you may see included in your program are:
- Sporting events management
- Approaches to philanthropy
- Special event coordination
- Wedding planning and management
- Attractions and parks administration
- Club management
- Event contracts
Possible electives: Depending on your program you may be able to choose a specialization. Some examples of which are:
- Association planning
- Convention service management
- Corporate planning
- Government meeting management
- Healthcare meeting management
- Nonprofit event planning
Completing an event management degree program online may still require you to complete an internship at an approved firm.
What can I do after earning a bachelor's degree?
A bachelor's degree is often considered to be the minimum requirement for employment in larger event management firms. A bachelor's degree may also prepare you to start your own event management company. Some potential careers are:
- Campaign coordinator
- Sporting event coordinator
- Food service manager
- Wedding planner
Online Master's Degree Programs in Event Planning
Many master's degree programs do not focus on event management alone but may combine subjects like business, hospitality management or tourism with a special focus on event planning or convention management. These advanced degree programs may open up careers in higher management roles or allow you to enter into a teaching field.
Graduating from an accredited event planning degree program generally demonstrates to future employers that you have received an education that meets certain quality standards. Another advantage of enrolling in an accredited program is being able to transfer your credits from one program to another should you choose to advance your education.
Look for colleges that have regional or national accreditation. A few professional bodies that provide accreditation for event management degree programs online are:
- The Accreditation Commission for Programs in Hospitality Administration (ACPHA)
- The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
Certifications and Licensure for Event Planning
Although certifications are not necessarily required to practice as an event coordinator, becoming certified can show commitment to the profession, competency in your field and may help advance your career in an area of specialization. A few certifications you might want to consider earning in the field of event planning are:
- Certified Meeting Professional (CMP)
- Certified Government Meeting Professional (CGMP)
- Certified Special Events Professional (CSEP)
- Certified Master Wedding Planner
Whereas certifications may be voluntary, licensing requirements are usually mandatory if you plan to work independently through your own business. Depending on the state you live in, event planners may need to hold small business licenses or meet other requirements mandated by the state such as various permits that may be required for holding an event.
Meeting, Convention and Event Planners
Source: 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.
Scholarships and Financial Aid Programs
- Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) Scholarships
- The Timothy S Y Lam Foundation Scholarship
- IFEA Foundation Legacy Scholarships
- Helen Brett Scholarship
Other resources for aspiring customer service representatives
- Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA)
- Event Planners Association
- Society of Government Meeting Professionals (SGMP)
- International Festivals & Events Association (IFEA)
- International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE)
- Events Industry Council