Event Planning Degrees: Certificate, Training & Online Course Info

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What will you learn in an event planning program? Read about degree, certificate and training requirements, the pros and cons of event planning degree and certificate programs and potential careers.
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Study Event Planning: Degrees and Certificates at a Glance

Event planning degree and certificate programs prepare students for designing and coordinating corporate meetings, conferences, trade shows and special events. If you're considering a career as an event planner, keep in mind that according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many employers prefer to hire applicants with bachelor's degrees related to event planning, such as hospitality management.

According to the BLS, employment for event planners should increase by 44% from 2010-2020, which is much faster than average. However, competition is fierce, and candidates with bachelor's degrees and experience may have the best prospects.

Additionally, event planners working for corporations may be subject to layoffs when the economy goes south; budgets for meetings are often first to get cut, which leaves event planners out of work. Planners in the healthcare industry typically experience strong job security since meetings for healthcare workers are usually required for licensure maintenance.

Certificate and Training Bachelor's Degree
Who is this program for? - Students or career-changers who want to learn more about the event planning industry
- Experienced event planners seeking career advancement
Students interested in learning how to plan large and small events
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Catering coordinator (salary not available - this is an entry-level position that may not require a bachelor's degree)*
- Meeting, convention and event planners ($50,000)*
Same as for certificate and training programs
Time to Completion Completion time varies depending on the program and the student's schedule 4 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements
- Hospitality management courses
- Event planning courses
- Internship
- Graduation portfolio or capstone project
- Roughly 5 to 10 event planning courses
- An individual or class project
Prerequisites Experience in event planning may be recommended High school diploma or GED
Online Availability Yes Yes, but online programs through accredited schools are rare; online/on-campus hybrid programs may be more common

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Certificate and Training Programs in Event Planning

A variety of event planning programs and classes are available at postsecondary schools, professional associations and other organizations. They may be offered as individual classes or as part of a program that culminates in a certificate. Classes and programs may be designed to introduce you to the field, expand on your current knowledge or update you on certain industry trends. They can be self-paced or follow a structured timeline. However, keep in mind that many employers prefer to hire event planners with bachelor's degrees. If you don't already have or plan to obtain a bachelor's degree, these programs and courses may not sufficiently qualify you for some positions.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • If you already have a bachelor's degree in a different or related field, a certificate program can provide you with the necessary skills to become an event planner
  • Certificate programs can help keep your skills and knowledge of industry trends updated
  • May help you prepare for certification exams

Cons

  • Employers often seek candidates with bachelor's degrees
  • Financial aid may not be offered for these programs
  • May not receive professional practice through internships

Courses and Requirements

What you study and the requirements involved vary for each class or program. You may earn college or continuing education credit in some programs or classes, but not in others. Some certificate programs may include a set of core classes and allow you to choose electives. Courses and programs may cover event planning basics, event production, negotiations, contracts, food and beverage, site selection and types of events.

Online Certificate and Training Options

Online courses are usually available through professional organizations. Postsecondary schools that offer relevant classes or programs typically offer them in a traditional classroom format, although some of your classes may have an online component.

Stand Out with this Certificate and Training

To stand out among competitors, begin acquiring experience as early as possible. If your program doesn't offer internship opportunities, consider volunteering to organize community or school events.

Many certificate programs and training classes prepare you for professional certification. The Convention Industry Council (CIC) and the Society of Government Meeting Professionals (SGMP) are two such organizations that offer certifications. For CIC's Certified Meeting Professional credential, applicants must have at least three years of event planning experience, in addition to recent related job experience and some continuing education credits. Applicants must then pass a certification exam that includes topics on facilities and services, meeting programs, logistics and financial management.

The SGMP credential shows that you're familiar with government rules regarding travel regulations and buying policies. To qualify for this certification, you must have at least one year of experience as a meeting planner, and you need to be an SGMP member for six months. The final certification steps include taking a 3-day course and passing the related exam.

Bachelor's Degree in Event Planning

A bachelor's program in event planning or event management is rare, so if one doesn't exist in your preferred area, you have other options. According to the BLS, hospitality management is an ideal field for earning a bachelor's degree if you're an aspiring event planner. Some hospitality management programs even have event planning concentrations. You study fundamental business concepts that may be applied to organizing and overseeing event operations, such as marketing and budgeting, and you can study different types of events.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Many hospitality management programs have event planning concentrations or relevant electives
  • Hospitality management degrees can be applied to a variety of careers in the industry other than event planning
  • Internships are often required and provide you with real-world experience and professional connections

Cons

  • Competition can be intense for the most desirable jobs
  • You may need to work very long hours, especially during large, complex events
  • When a company's funds are tight, event planning may be one of the first jobs to get cut

Courses and Requirements

In a hospitality management program, you take core classes in marketing, accounting, food production and employee management. Course topics that relate directly to event planning teach you about the different types of events you may plan, such as weddings, conventions and meetings. You also learn about promotion, event production, negotiations and social media. Internships are commonly required in these programs, which allow you to gain paid or unpaid practical experience with an event planning organization.

Online Degree Options

Some schools offer online hospitality management bachelor's programs, but you may need to hold a certain amount of college credit before applying. Also, your program may require attendance at some campus-based sessions - either at the school or a local college offering comparable classes. Coursework is typically equivalent to traditional campus-based programs, including the option to choose a concentration.

Stand Out with This Degree

Because employers prize experience, you can get involved with planning school or community events. Certifications also help you stand out among competitors. Additionally, mastering virtual meeting software and staying current on social media platforms can make you more attractive to employers, according to the BLS.

Alternative Degrees

You can also earn degrees in other fields that relate to event planning, such as marketing and public relations. While you can apply the skills learned in these programs to event planning, they also translate to other occupations; in a down economy when event planners are being laid off, you may qualify for other positions, such as public relations specialist or marketing manager. The BLS projected a 23% employment increase for public relations specialists from 2010-2020 and a 14% increase for marketing managers during the same time.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Purdue University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Hospitality and Tourism Management
      • Master of Science in Hospitality and Tourism Management
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Benedictine University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Accelerated Masters in Business Administration
      • DUAL MBA-MSN
      • Masters in Business Administration
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelors in Management
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • PhD in Business Admin - Management
      • Doctor of Business Admin - General Business
      • Doctor of Business Admin - International Business
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Human Resources Management
      • PhD in Business Admin - Marketing
    Master's
      • MBA - Marketing
      • Master of Business Admin - General Business
      • Master of Business Admin - Accelerated General MBA
      • MBA - Management
      • MBA - International Business
      • Master of Business Administration - Strategic Management
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Saint John's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration: Interdisciplinary Business
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Winthrop University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    6. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Admin: Management
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Business Admin: Management
      • Bachelor of Business Administration - Generalist
      • Bachelor of Business Admin: Operations Management
    Associate's
      • Associate of Arts in Business Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Widener University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration
      • Master of Business Administration - Business Process Innovation
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration - Management (Spanish)
    Bachelor's
      • B.A. - Business Admin: Management
      • Business Administration, BA - Management
    Associate's
      • Associate of Arts - Accounting
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Management (DM) - General Concentration (Executive Format)
    Master's
      • Master of Business Admin
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Business Administration - Management
      • Bachelor of Science in Business Administration - Organizational Behavior
      • Bachelor of Science in Business Administration - Business Development
      • BS - Business Administration - General
    Associate's
      • Associate of Science in Business Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Business Mgmt & Project Mgmt.
      • MBA Dual Concentration: HR & Project Mgmt.
      • MBA Dual Concentration: BS Mgmt. & HR
    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Business Management With No Concentration
    Associate's
      • Associate of Science - Business Management
      • Associate of Science - Business Studies

Featured Schools

Purdue University

  • Master of Science in Hospitality and Tourism Management

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Benedictine University

  • Accelerated Masters in Business Administration
  • DUAL MBA-MSN
  • Bachelors in Management

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Northcentral University

  • PhD in Business Admin - Management
  • Doctor of Business Admin - General Business
  • MBA - Marketing
  • Master of Business Admin - General Business

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Saint John's University

  • Master of Business Administration: Interdisciplinary Business

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Winthrop University

  • Master of Business Administration

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American InterContinental University

  • Master of Business Admin: Management
  • Bachelor of Business Admin: Management
  • Associate of Arts in Business Administration

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Widener University

  • Master of Business Administration
  • Master of Business Administration - Business Process Innovation

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Keiser University

  • Master of Business Administration - Management (Spanish)
  • B.A. - Business Admin: Management
  • Associate of Arts - Accounting

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