If you have ever wondered how to be an event planner, you are not alone. In 2010 there were over 72,000 event planners employed in the United States alone1. If you are the type of person that always has to be the one in charge of planning parties, weddings, and other events for your friends, then this may be a career field for you. However, it’s not all fun and games. The event planner’s job description includes doing pretty much anything to ensure that every event goes smoothly. This includes ensuring that the right type of caterer is hired for each event, planning entertainment, finding out about and fixing problems as soon as they arise, and yes, the job may involve cleaning up the mess afterwards1.
If you are still interested, you probably want to know exactly what an event planner’s salary is so you know how much you will get paid to deal with all the stress, as well as the immense rewards, that goes along with this career field. Event planners in the United States earn an average of around $46,000 each year, while hourly employees generally earn over $20 per hour1. Of course, these are averages and depending on where you work, you could make much more than this, or you could make much less. Those that live in more populated areas and tourist destinations can expect to earn the most. However, the cost of living in these areas tend to be higher, so the earnings may balance out. However, you can probably expect to be busier in these areas as well. If you are planning on starting your own event planning business, it may be wise to start out in higher populated areas to ensure that you get the business you will need to remain open and above water.
- Introduction to Event Planning
- A Day in the Life of an Event Planner
- An Eventful Life … The Event Planner’s Job Description
- Paying the Bills: An Event Planner’s Salary
- How to Become an Event Planner
- Attend a Class: Event Planner Classes & Schools
- College: Get an Event Planning Degree
- Learn ‘On the Job’: Event Planning Internships
- Study at Home: Event Planning Courses Online
- Certifiable? The In’s and Out’s of Event Planner Certification
Introduction to Event Planning
Becoming an event planner can be fun, exciting, and rewarding. Those thinking about getting into the event planning career field may be dreaming about being the person in charge of planning big events like the Super Bowl, the Presidential Inauguration, or even special events at Disney World; however, event planners are also needed for much smaller events7. Anytime that people get together, especially in the business world, you can usually find an event planner behind the scenes making sure everything goes smoothly.
There are opportunities in nearly every industry for people to build their careers in event planning. However, becoming an event planner may not be as easy as it sounds. You may have experience organizing and planning your family and high school reunions; however, most businesses look for more than just that type of experience on a resume. Many companies that hire event planners expect that person has had some type of event planning training prior to entering into their event planner career. Event planning training can also lead to a certification that will help lead to better paying jobs.
If you are wondering what types of companies hire event planners, you may be surprised at how versatile the event planning career can be. Event planners can be found in banks, automobile dealerships, casinos, convention centers, country clubs, department stores, museums, schools, and even hospitals7. City and other local governments may even hire event planners to help plan for major city events like festivals and parades. The federal government also has event planners; however, they are often additional duties of people that were hired for other reasons; however, have been selected for the additional duty because of their experience in the event planning field. Hospitals and nursing homes are also known to hire event planners or activities assistants to help plan activities for patients and for charity work.
Quick Facts: Event Planner Salary, Training & Job Outlook
|Median Event Planner Salary||$45,810 per year
($22.02 per hour)
|Education Required (Entry Level Role)||Bachelor’s degree|
|Related Work Experience||None|
|Number of People Employed, 2012||94,200|
|Projected Job Growth Rate, 2012-22||33% (Much faster than average)|
|Projected Employment Change, 2012-22||+31,300|
A Day in the Life of an Event Planner
An Eventful Life … The Event Planner’s Job Description
If you are still reading, you’re probably wondering “What do event planners do anyways?” or “What do event planners do?” Most people think that event planners simply just plan the events and then their jobs are finished. However, there is much more to event planning than that. If you are self-employed, you have to market yourself in order to get leads. If you work for someone else, you have to market your company and the event so that you get participation in the event. The event planner job description can include managing a budget, advertising and marketing, communicating effectively with business partners and attendees, and securing entertainment for the event. This is all in addition to planning, coordinating, and hosting the event.
Most event planners are also in charge of getting food for their events as well. This can be as simple as having a catering company cater to the event, or securing multiple vendors for carnivals or food competitions. This requires that event planners have detailed knowledge about the people who are attending their event and what type of food they may like. It also requires that event planners are mindful of food allergies that their attendees may have. For example, you would not want to serve shellfish at an employee event for a company if one of those employees has a shellfish allergy. So, it is extremely important for the event planner to communicate with their clients about every detail of the event.
Event planners also must be skilled in problem-solving. Event planners may be required to be able to solve problems within a very small timeframe. What happens if your caterer calls off two hours before the event is supposed to take place? The experienced event planner already has a back-up plan in place and is able to get the food there right on time. Finally, event planners must always keep attendee safety in mind. Event planners should always know and explain fire and emergency evacuation plans to event participants in case an unfortunate or unforeseen event occurs that requires a quick, calm, and efficient evacuation from the building.
Paying the Bills: An Event Planner’s Salary
If you were dreaming of being the person to plan the Super Bowl, then you are probably thinking that an event planner’s salary should be in the high double digits or even triple digits. However, while event planners do make a decent salary depending on where they live, most event planners are not the extremely well-paid event planning staff that coordinates the Super Bowl each year. An event planner salary can range from about $27,000 per year to about $79,000 per year. The $79,000 salary range is extremely high for an event planner salary; however, the average salary is right around $46,000 per year6.
The average event planner salary is actually slightly less than the average household income in the United States. The average household income in the United States was $51,017 in 20135. However, it is important to keep in mind that this is the total household average income. If the household has two working adults and if both people are earning similar wages, you could surmise that each person made around $25,500. So, event planners may actually be making more than a single person in a two-person household where both people work.
According to the most recently published U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2012)8, the median event planner salary is $45,810, which is 32% higher than the $34,750 median overall average for all occupations.
The event planner’s salary depends on several things. It depends on education, experience, the population of people where the job is located, the size of the company the event planner works for, and the demand for event planning services. An event planner that has a degree in event planning or a related field, like recreational management or hospitality, will likely make more than a person without a degree. Similarly, a person with an event planner certification, will likely make more than someone without similar certification. Finally, people that live in higher-populated places will often find that they make more than average, and there may be more demand for event planning in popular tourist destinations.
How to Become an Event Planner
Some of the best event planners often have a significant experience in coordinating functions before they even make it out of high school. These people are the ones that have helped coordinate plays, fundraisers, talent competitions, and award ceremonies. Event planners may also be the ones that family members are likely to call on to help plan reunions, parties, weddings, and family vacations. However, if you have absolutely no experience in planning events, you may still be wondering how to be an event planner. If you have experience, you may also wonder how to become a certified event planner.
How to become an event coordinator and how to become an event planner are legitimate questions that people thinking about getting into the field need to have legitimate answers to. If you are serious about the event planning career, then my advice to you would be to first get a college degree in event planning or a related field. Many colleges offer these types of degrees, or degrees in similar fields like recreational management and hospitality. You can also build your skills and test the waters by volunteering to help plan family events and events for your college or sorority. This way you can find out if you like the type of work you want to build your career in before you get too invested in the career.
Certified Special Events Professional (CSEP) and Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) are two certifications that many employers that hire event planners look for when they are recruiting potential applicants. Some employers will not even interview a person that does not have one of these certifications. CSEP certification requires that a person take an exam; however, in order to qualify for that exam, a person must have documented work experience in the event planning field3. CMP certification also requires that a person take an exam and have documented work experience in planning meetings, events, or conferences2.
Key Skills for an Event Planner
- Keep Calm Under Pressure: Event planners work in a fast paced environment and regularly have periods of extremely high stress. Appearing calm and in control (even when you are not) and being able to make quick decisions and provide direction for others is paramount for a good planner.
- Communication: As a planner, you will be communicating with a range of people on a daily basis (clients, contactors, suppliers, event staff, etc.). You must have excellent written and oral communication skills and be able to articulate the needs and requirements of your clients efficiently and effectively.
- Customer-service: A planner must understand their clients requirements, be able to act professionally in a number of different situations, and help your event participants network and socialize with their peers at the events they host.
- Interpersonal skills: Maintaining a positive, long term relationship with both clients and suppliers will greatly increase an event planners career success.
- Negotiating: A large part of the ‘behind-the-scene’s’ work of a successful event planner is finding and negotiating service contracts on behalf of your clients. The ability to negotiate a fair contract, whilst getting a good price for your client is a critical skill for an event planner.
- Organization: To be able to plan high quality, successful events an event planner must be detail-oriented and be able to multi-task, delegate, and meet tight deadlines, all while keeping to the event budget. Some events are planned years in advance, so the ability to prioritize, think and plan for both the short and long term is another vital skill for an event planner.
- Problem-solving: Problems will arise, caterers will not turn up, weather will not go according to plan and a multitude of other problems will arise every day. The ability to think creatively and on your feet is another skill that any successful event planner has in their arsenal.
Attend a Class: Event Planner Classes & Schools
It may sound hard to believe if you are not familiar with the event planning career, but there are event planner schools out there that have degree programs tailored to the event planning career field. If you are unsure about getting into the career field, you may simply want to enrol in a few event planning classes before you decide to take out student loans for a full course load. There are even online event management courses that are designed to help people get experience in event planning without taking them away from their current full-time jobs. The quickest and easiest way to find event planning courses is to simply open up your favorite search engine, such as Google or Bing, and type “event planning courses” into the search box.
An event planning education that leads to a four-year degree will typically consist of the core classes that everyone has to take (science, math, English, history, etc.) and then courses that are focused on hospitality, management, catering, accounting, marketing, and event planning. However, there are some community colleges that offer shorter associate degrees that are more focused on the event planning concepts rather than core classes. Prince George’s Community College, San Diego State University, Penn-Foster University, San Francisco State University, and the U.S. Career Institute all offer degrees or certificates in event planning. Most colleges also offer some type of hospitality, tourism, or recreation degree that is useful for future event planners.
It is important that you verify that the college that you attend is accredited and has a good reputation or your degree may not be worth the paper it is printed on. First, do not fall for the “pay a fee, get a degree scam.” Any place that is offering to give you a degree for simply paying them a fee is a scam. You need to actually take courses and get college credit for them so that you learn the ins and outs of this business before you earn a degree. Also, it is a good idea to only look at schools that have website addresses that end in “.edu” as these are typically accredited schools, while those that end in .com, .org, or any other extension are often either non-accredited or scams.
College: Get an Event Planning Degree
If you haven’t realized it by now, getting an event planning degree is extremely important and will lead to more success in the event planning field. As stated before, there are many colleges that offer event planner degrees or event management degrees. However, not all colleges are treated the same. The best event planning colleges are those that are accredited and have a rigorous curriculum designed to teach you the many concepts that go into successful event planning.
If you are looking for the top notch event planning college, then you may want to check out Champlain College located in Burlington, Vermont. They rank as the best event planning college according to Education Portal4. However, the event management is only available as a minor that you can select with another major to earn a degree in. The good news is that the college offers a Management and Innovation major that pairs very nicely with the event planning minor. The other disadvantage of this school is that you have to physically attend the school, so you would need to live in Vermont during the time you attend. However, if this is not an issue for you and you want a top-tier event planning education, then you should definitely check out Champlain College.
If you need a more flexible option to get your event planning degree from a respectable event planning college, then you may want to check out Florida International University’s Hospitality Management – Event Management degree. The FIU program can be completed completely online, with the exception of the school’s internship requirement. However, the opportunities that the school offers for the practical experience are wonderful. They have partnered with different hotels, cruise lines, and other event venues to create a unique experience for their students. They also offer students the ability to participate in their student exchange program for the internship requirements, and students are able to visit exotic countries like Trinidad in order to complete the practical experience.
Learn ‘On the Job’: Event Planning Internships
The best event planning colleges will always require you to complete a certain amount of hours in an internship before awarding you a degree. Online degree programs may even have this requirement, as evidenced by FIU’s internship requirement. The best way to secure an internship is to start searching for an internship site very early on in your academic career. Many students mistakenly believe that they do not need a resume to secure an internship site. However, the reality is, unless your school already has a specific site that has agreed to take their interns, you will need to have a resume and apply just like any other job applicant. However, the difference between you and other applicants may be that you probably are not being paid and do not take up a slot in the company’s employee infrastructure.
It is important to create a resume that showcases your skills and experience and that the resume is accurate. It is also wise to ensure that there are no spelling or grammatical errors on your resume, because many employers will simply throw away resumes that have glaring mistakes in them. One of the most important things to remember is to not wait until the last minute to search for an internship site. It can take up to six months or longer to find an internship site that will accept you, and it may take longer to get all of the paperwork signed between your school and the internship site to allow you to get credit for the internship.
If you are wanting to secure a paid internship, the best way to do this is to try and find a job within the industry that you want to work at as soon as you start your college education. This will get your foot in the door and help you gain experience along the way. It also makes things easier for your employer. They already know you and the work that you do, and they may be more comfortable allowing you to be their event coordinator than a random intern that they do not know.
Study at Home: Event Planning Courses Online
If you are not able to be flexible and need a way to get your education without having to attend a physical campus all of the time, then event planning classes online may be the solution for you. First, you will need to decide if you just want to take one or two event planning courses online, or if you are wanting a full degree out of your education. If you are just wanting to take a few event planning courses online, then there are many free or low-cost outlets out there that won’t get you a degree; however, they will help you brush up on your event planning skills if that is what you are looking for.
If you are looking for a full four-year-degree or event planning certificate, then you will want to search for event planning schools online. The most respectable schools will be accredited by a regional accrediting authority and will be eligible to receive federal financial aid funds. American Public University in Charles Town, West Virginia is probably one of the best schools that offers an online certificate in Meeting and Event Planning.
Many people also want to try to get their event planner certification online as well. However, online event planning certification is not available. If a company tells you they offer event planning certification online, then run far, far away. Also, if a company charging you a fee to take an online test and states that will be a Certified Special Event Professional or Certified Meeting professional, then they are trying to scam you. Both of these certifications require a person to have a certain amount of experience (and in some cases, a degree), and then you have to take the exam to qualify. The exams have to be taken at testing centers that are designated by the certification companies as approved testing sites, or the exam will not be considered valid.
Certifiable? The In’s and Out’s of Event Planner Certification
Certified event planners are often more marketable than those without certification. However, event planning certification requires a certain amount of experience, as well as some education. The CSEP event coordinator certification requires that a person has three years of full-time employment in the event planning industry, and this work experience must be documented3. This event management certificate also requires that you take an exam after you have this experience. The exam currently costs $600 to register for, which may seem expensive; however, some employers will cover the cost of this certification for you.
You can obtain a CMP certification three different ways: you can have three years of experience in events planning, two years of experience and a degree in the industry, or you can have three years of experience as an educational instructor of event planning or hospitality management2. You also have to sit for an exam after obtaining this experience in order to obtain the CMP certification. The CMP exam is slightly less expensive than the CSEP; however, it still costs $450 for the exam. This is in addition to the $250 application fee to apply for the certification prior to taking the exam2.
If you are simply looking for an event planning certificate or event management certificate, the process is slightly easier. Many universities and community colleges offer these type of certificate programs that typically take less than one year to complete. These are not as helpful as a two- or four-year-degree; however, certificates can show employers that you have experience in the event planning field and they can help you get a jump-start in the industry. If you are wanting to start your own event planning business, then an event management certificate may be the best way to learn about the industry prior to launching your business.
- McKay, D. R. (2010). Event planner: Career information. (Retrieved from http://careerplanning.about.com/od/event-planner/p/event-planner.htm)
- Convention Industry Council. (2014). Apply for the CMP. (Retrieved from http://www.conventionindustry.org/CMP/CMPApplicants/ApplyfortheCMP.aspx)
- CSEP. (2014). Applying for the exam. (Retrieved from http://www.ises.com/csep/applying-for-the-exam)
- Education Portal. (2014). Best event planning schools: List of top U.S. schools. (Retrieved from http://education-portal.com/articles/Best_Event_Planning_Schools_List_of_Top_US_Schools.html)
- Hargreaves, S. (2013). 15% of Americans living in poverty. (Retrieved from http://money.cnn.com/2013/09/17/news/economy/poverty-income/)
- U.S. News. (n.d.). Meeting, convention and event planner: Salary. (Retrieved from http://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/meeting-convention-and-event-planner/salary)
- Wake Forest University. (n.d.). Event planning. (Retrieved from http://career.opcd.wfu.edu/explore-careers/event-planning/)
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Meeting, Convention, and Event Planners (Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/meeting-convention-and-event-planners.htm)