Studying Event Planning and Management
Event planners use their communication and preparation skills to plan, execute and manage meetings and conventions. These specialists work in a variety of settings, including non-profit organizations, casinos, government agencies, hotels and corporations. Experience and reputation are important components of performing successfully in this role, so event planners should enjoy talking to different people.
Colleges and universities usually offer event planning and management degrees through a school of hospitality management. The associate's degree program can prepare you for entry-level opportunities in gaming, accommodations or food service. The bachelor's degree program offers the foundation required to begin a career as an event planner.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that event planners were expected to experience a 44% increase in jobs from 2010-2020, which was much faster than the average for all occupations (www.bls.gov). You may face keen competition for jobs, which makes your reputation and work history a key factor in maintaining employment as an event planner.
|Who is this degree for?||Individuals interested in entry-level positions in meeting or event coordination||People who want a career with significant responsibility or those eventually seeking an upper-management position|
|Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary)|| - Casino catering coordinator ($37,000)*|
- Casino banquet set-up supervisor ($30,000)*
| - Meeting, convention or event planner ($46,000)**|
- Conference coordinator in higher education ($44,000)*
|Time to Completion||2 years, full-time||4 years, full-time|
|Common Graduation Requirements|| - General education courses|
- About 10-12 courses in event planning and business concepts
| - General education courses|
- Roughly 15-20 courses in event planning
- Internship/work experience
- Capstone project
|Prerequisites||High school diploma or equivalent||High school diploma or equivalent|
|Online Availability||Hybrid programs available||Yes|
Sources: *Salary.com (July 2012 figures), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).
Associate's in Event Planning and Management
The associate's degree program provides you with a foundation in quality service principles, hospitality operations and special events planning. Programs combine general education coursework with core courses focused on the development of business, customer service and management skills. You'll learn how to select an appropriate venue, develop location proposals, manage crises and identify sponsorships or fundraising prospects. Schools typically structure programs to provide marketing and finance training and may offer internships at world-class hotels and other businesses that hold large events.
Pros and Cons
- Only takes 2 years to complete and offers similar courses to bachelor's degree programs
- Solid job growth expected in the industry (projected 44% increase in jobs for event planners between 2010 and 2020)**
- Internship opportunities are comparable to what you'd get in a bachelor's program
- Competition for jobs will be keen
- Programs may not offer much coursework covering technology, which is essential to your marketability
- Most employers prefer event planners who have a bachelor's degree
Source: **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2010-2020 job growth projections).
Courses and Requirements
After you complete some of the general education course requirements, you'll be able to take courses focused on business principles and event planning. Internships can prepare you to enter the workforce and teach you job search techniques that can be useful when you graduate. You'll usually learn negotiation and contracting during your internship. Here are some common courses you might have the opportunity to take:
- Sustainable events
- Business law
- Designing special events
- Communication skills
- Meeting management fundamentals
- Meeting coordination
- Social media campaigns
Online Degree Options
The associate's degree program is available in a hybrid format, but you'll have a difficult time finding programs offered strictly online. You can usually find the business courses and a few of the event planning courses online, but the amount of online courses will depend on the school. The material in the online courses is typically identical to on-campus courses, so you won't have to worry about missing out on important concepts if you go with the distance learning options. You'll want to ensure than any schools that claim to offer a completely online associate's program are accredited by an agency approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or the U.S. Department of Education.
Stand Out with This Degree
Employers usually prefer to hire skilled candidates with at least 2 years of experience. If your program does not happen to require an internship, find out if you have options to participate in one. You may consider focusing your coursework on gaming, non-profit or government event planning and management. It could benefit you to find out what elective options are offered at each school, that way you can pick a program that caters to your desired area of expertise.
The Society of Government Meeting Professionals (SGMP) confers the Certified Government Meeting Professional (CGMP) certification. The CGMP validates your knowledge of the regulations that govern meetings and gives you an industry-standard credential. For general meetings, you may consider the Certified Meeting Professional program offered by the Convention Industry Council (CIC). Each certification has different requirements, but you'll generally need a certain number of years of experience to qualify for certification.
Bachelor's in Event Planning and Management
Event planning and management programs at the bachelor's level are often found as concentrations within a bachelor's degree in hospitality management. The program gives you an in-depth education through advanced event management coursework. Programs usually require an internship as well. The BLS reported that the number of event planners with a bachelor's degree was increasing due to the complex nature of the job. You can expect to learn how to plan, budget and carry out large events throughout the bachelor's program.
Pros and Cons
- Employers are seeking job candidates who have a bachelor's degree
- Can give you an advantage over other applicants who have a bachelor's degree in a different field of study
- More in-depth elective options than an associate's program
- Relatively low median salary compared to the national median for bachelor's degree holders (event planners earned a median salary of about $46,000, while the national median for bachelor's degree holders was roughly $55,000)**
- Unstable job security in periods of slow economic growth means you may have to find part-time work for periods of time
- High competition for jobs means a bachelor's degree is not enough for many positions (you'll probably need a few years of experience on top of the 4 years you spent in school)
Source: **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).
Courses and Requirements
The bachelor's degree program covers modern technologies, hospitality management, marketing and event planning. You'll learn to use social media, electronic communications and problem-solving skills to plan and execute events. Course options may include destination planning, tradeshow management, public relations and marketing, event supervision, desktop publishing, business communications and task management. In addition, some programs require learning seminars, apprenticeships and degree-related projects to enhance your classroom learning.
Online Course Info
Several schools offer the bachelor's program as a complete online experience. Some schools that offer online programs may want you to complete an associate's program before you enroll in the bachelor's program. Schools design online degrees to encourage frequent communication and collaboration between students and instructors. You may be required to travel to the campus for a residency week or weekend each year, which allows you to meet with professors and fellow event planning students.
Stand Out with This Degree
Technology plays an important role in planning and managing events and conventions. Using online resources, such as social media, can help you market events, engage guests and distribute invitations. Taking supplemental courses in social media, marketing and networking may give you an edge in the job market. In addition to certifications offered by the SGMP and the CIC, you may want to consider a professional certificate program to broaden your skill set. A professional certificate program is typically offered to students who already have a bachelor's degree.
Since experience is so important to employers, you may want to go beyond the standard internship requirements of most programs. Schools may offer multiple work experience opportunities on top of the required internship, which can make you more appealing to employers after you graduate.