Becoming an Event Planner: Salary Info & Job Description

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An event planner earns a median wage of about $46,000. Is this worth the education requirements? Read job postings from real employers and learn the truth about the requirements and career outlook to determine if working as an event planner is ideal for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming an Event Planner

As an event planner, you have the opportunity to use your creative skills to develop themes for events and decorate spaces. The following is a list of more pros and cons that can help you decide if becoming an event planner is right for you:

Pros of Being an Event Planner
Get to meet new people often*
Opportunity to travel worldwide to exotic destinations*
Excellent job growth (33% projected from 2012-2022 for meeting, convention and event planners)*
Get to plan exciting events, such as weddings and parties*

Cons of Being an Event Planner
May work long irregular hours*
Nature of job can be demanding*
Usually responsible for meeting tight deadlines*
Low starting salary (lowest 10% earned $25,940 as of May 2014)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Essential Career Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) combines the job duties of event planners with meeting and convention planners. These professionals are responsible for coordinating all aspects of an event, such as booking a location, arranging hotel accommodations and transportation for guests, organizing entertainment and working with caterers and other suppliers. You may also spend significant time performing sales and financial tasks, including negotiating contracts, soliciting bids from vendors, approving payments and overseeing budgets. In this profession, you must have good communication, interpersonal and problem-solving skills to secure your clients trust and ensure that their needs are met.

As of May 2014, the BLS found that the lowest-paid 10% of meeting, convention and event planners earned less than about $26,000, while the highest-paid 10% earned more than approximately $82,000. The BLS also noted that these professionals are expected to have a much faster-than-average job growth of 33% from 2012-2022. With companies becoming increasing global and the importance of face-to-face meetings, event planners will continue to be in demand. Employment opportunities are also likely to increase due to planners leaving or retiring from the field.

Education and Training Requirements

You typically need to have a bachelor's degree and some related work experience to become an event planner. You do not need to have a degree in hospitality management, but employers may require that you have 1-2 years of relevant experience as a substitute. Some degree programs you may consider include business administration, communications, marketing and public relations. You may also consider taking continuing education courses in hospitality management if your degree is in another major. To prepare for a career as an event planner while in school, you can participate in an internship or serve as a meeting planner for a student club on your campus. If you have experience in a related field, such as catering or restaurant management, you may qualify for an event planning position that involves more responsibilities.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Most job postings for event planners showed that employers are looking for candidates who can also work in areas such as catering, fundraising and travel planning. There were no primary educational requirements or minimum number of work experience listed, but some experience in the field was requested. Following is a list of job postings that can give you some insight into what real employers were looking for during October and November of 2012.

  • A property management company in San Antonio, TX, wanted to hire an event/travel planner who had experience working in the travel industry. The candidate would perform duties such as booking venues, planning travel itineraries and using meeting planning software.
  • A club in South Carolina sought an event/catering planner to coordinate events and private parties. This employer required at least two years of experience and is looking for a candidate with good teamwork and leadership skills.
  • A Chicago, IL, health and human services company looked for a senior fundraiser/event planner to coordinate all the logistical operations of the company's annual event. The candidate must have a bachelor's degree and at least five years of experience in event planning or fundraising. Job responsibilities include meeting financial goals, soliciting new donors and scheduling fundraising meetings.
  • A computer consulting firm in Fort Lauderdale, FL, looked for an event planner/project coordinator to plan training events that will take place in Latin American countries. The candidate must have event logistics experience, as well as be a native Spanish speaker fluent in English.

How to Get an Edge in the Field

To gain a competitive advantage in this field, you can obtain a professional certification, such as the Certified Special Events Professional (CSEP) credential offered by the International Special Events Society or the Certified Meeting Planner (CMP) designation offered by the Convention Industry Council. To apply for the CSEP examination, you must have a minimum of three years of verifiable full-time professional experience in the field. Once your application is approved, you have 15 days to complete the CSEP exam at a testing center of your choice.

To qualify for the CMP exam, you must have either three years of full-time experience and current or recent employment in the field within the past year, two years of full-time experience with a bachelor's degree and current or recent employment in the field within the past year or three years of current full-time experience teaching related coursework at an academic institution. To maintain your CMP status, you must complete at least 200 hours of a supervised internship experience or complete a minimum of 25 hours of relevant continuing education within the past five years.

You may also consider pursuing advanced study to improve your job prospects. You may complete a graduate certificate program in event management or a master's program in facilities and event management, hospitality management or tourism administration.

Other Careers to Consider

Food Service Manager

If you like creating menus or coordinating the catering process for events, then a career as a food service manager might also interest you. According to the BLS, employers prefer candidates who have completed some postsecondary education. Additionally, many businesses in the industry tend to hire graduates of a food service or hospitality management program to fill management trainee positions. Some of the duties you would have as a food service manager include overseeing kitchen orders, food preparation and presentation procedures, responding to food quality and customer service complaints from patrons and complying with safe food handling and health regulations.

As of May 2011, the BLS reported that food service managers earned a median salary of about $48,000. The nationwide employment level for these professionals was projected to decrease by three percent from 2010-2020. Although less new restaurants are expected to open, the BLS found that food service managers are likely to find employment opportunities at grocery stores and facilities that specialize in fast foods.

Lodging Manager

You might also be interested in working as a lodging manager for a hotel or resort. Some of the job duties for this position are similar to that of an event planner. For instance, you may be responsible for coordinating room booking, overseeing a facility's interior décor and food quality, ensuring that the needs of guests are met and managing a budget. If you have a high school diploma and several years of relevant work experience, you could gain employment as a lodging manager. However, you generally need a bachelor's degree in a field related to hospitality management to work at most full-service hotels.

The BLS found that lodging managers earned a median wage of approximately $47,000, as of May 2011. For the decade of 2010-2020, these professionals were expected to have a slower-than-average employment growth of eight percent. One of the main reasons for this sluggish job growth was that more hotels will be offering limited services.

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American InterContinental University

  • Master of Business Admin: Management
  • Bachelors in Business Administration Specialization in Le Cordon Bleu Hospitality Management
  • Associate of Arts in Business Administration

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Purdue University Global

  • Master : Business Admin
  • Bachelor of Business Admin
  • AASBA in Food/Hotel Management

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Grand Canyon University

  • DBA - Management
  • MBA
  • Bachelor of Science in Business for Secondary Education

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Regent University

  • Master of Arts in Law - Business
  • Master of Business Administration
  • Bachelor of Science in Business
  • Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies - Business

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Colorado State University Global

  • MS - Management
  • MS - Organizational Leadership
  • BS - Business Management
  • BS - Organizational Leadership

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Louisiana State University Shreveport

  • Master of Business Administration - Hospitality and Casino Management Concentration
  • Master of Business Administration - Hospitality and Casino Management Specialization
  • Master of Business Administration with a General Business Specialization

What is your highest level of education completed?

Utica College

  • MBA - General

What is your highest level of education completed?

Saint Leo University

  • BA: Business Administration - Management
  • BA: Business Administration - Logistics
  • AA: Business Administration

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