Special Events Coordinator Careers: Salary & Job Description

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Special events coordinators earn between $25,000 and $51,000 a year. Is the pay worth the education requirements? Read real job descriptions and learn more about the career outlook to discover if becoming a special events coordinator is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Being a Special Events Coordinator

Special events coordinators manage all types of events, such as charity functions, trade shows, conventions, annual meetings, parties and government functions. Read this list of pros and cons to decide if you want to become a special events coordinator.

PROS of a Special Events Coordinator Career
Very fast-growing career (33% job growth from 2012-2022 for all meeting, convention, and event planners)*
A variety of educational backgrounds are adequate for this job*
A good role for those who like to work independently or want self-employment*
Opportunities to travel to exotic locations*

CONS of a Special Events Coordinator Career
Long, irregular hours are usually required*
Employers may require several years of experience*
Job stress can be high since an event's success rests on your shoulders*
Standing, walking and lifting during events is often needed*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Special events coordinators take care of all the details of an event, including booking meeting locations and hotels, managing budgets, negotiating contracts, arranging transportation and hiring vendors. You might also perform public relations tasks related to the event, such as creating brochures, negotiating sponsorships and alerting the media. Special events coordinators can work for agencies, which generally offer services for specific types of event planning, or as planners for conference centers or large corporations.

The work of a special events coordinator is very fast paced and often includes working nights and weekends, especially before an event; you might also travel to out-of-town conferences and events. Physical activities, such as setting up exhibits, carrying supplies and patrolling the event space, are often necessary.

Specializations

Many special events coordinators focus on a specific area, such as corporate event planning, government meeting planning or trade show planning. If you work in government planning, you're required to follow laws and policies while remaining sensitive to possible ethics violations. As a meeting planner for a hotel or convention center, you could be responsible for assisting clients in selecting food, beverages and other services for meetings and events.

Job Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), meeting and convention planning jobs, which include special events coordinator positions, were expected to grow much faster than average, increasing about 33% from 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov). The need for event planners was expected to remain high as businesses become more global, which makes periodic, personal interactions more crucial.

The BLS reported that as of May 2014, meeting, convention, and event planners earned an average annual salary of about $51,000. PayScale.com statistics showed that the majority of event coordinators earned between $25,000 and $51,000 a year as of 2015. As of 2012, the BLS specified that the majority of planners were employed by private organizations that host meetings and events, while about one in six planners were self-employed.

Career Requirements

Education and Experience Requirements

Most employers prefer that you have a bachelor's degree in hospitality management, business, marketing, public relations or communications, as well as some prior work experience. Many workers enter the event planning field after having worked as an administrative assistant or a marketing coordinator.

A variety of hospitality management and event management associate's and bachelor's degree programs are available. These programs generally offer classes in international meeting planning, event design, trade show planning and event catering. Certificate programs in meeting and event planning are also offered through community college continuing education programs.

Useful Skills

Special events coordinators must have strong communication, interpersonal, marketing and public relations skills. In addition, you must be able to work under tight deadlines and remain flexible when event plans suddenly change. Depending on the position, you may need sales knowledge in order to market and package events. Other helpful skills include:

  • Exceptional organization
  • Attention to detail
  • Knack for juggling many activities at once
  • Talent for creative problem solving
  • Aptitude for planning and following budgets
  • Ability to work independently

Jobs Posted by Real Employers

Willingness to work weekends and evenings is necessary for most event planning jobs. You must have outstanding communication and organizational skills, and some experience with event planning is usually required. Many companies may want you to have a degree in a field related to event or meeting management. Here are some examples of real jobs posted in March 2012:

  • An event planning agency in Chicago, Illinois, is looking to hire a high-energy event coordinator with at least two years of experience and a bachelor's degree in hospitality, marketing or business. Proficiency in Microsoft Office is a must, and social media knowledge is helpful. You need to travel, as well as work evenings and weekends.
  • An international association located in Dallas, Texas, is seeking a meeting manager to oversee planning of conferences and exhibits. You should have a bachelor's degree and a minimum of seven years of experience in meeting management. Travel is required, as well as experience with budgets and management.
  • A trade show management company in Virginia wants to hire a meeting planner with a bachelor's degree and 1-2 years of experience in event planning. You should be qualified to become a Certified Meeting Professional and have experience with contract negotiations.

Standing out from the Crowd

Advanced Skills

Being able to speak a foreign language fluently could give you an edge as a special events coordinator, especially if you wish to enter international meeting planning or find yourself travelling frequently for different events. Computer and social networking skills are often important, as well as the ability to negotiate contracts and manage budgets.

Certification Options

While certifications for special events coordinators are optional, many planners choose to earn their credentials. You generally need industry experience to be eligible for the certification programs and exams.

One commonly earned certification is the Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) from the Convention Industry Council (www.conventionindustry.org). If you have over ten years of industry experience, you could also qualify to earn the Certification in Meeting Management credential offered by Meeting Professionals International (www.mpiweb.org). The certification requires you to successfully complete a 5-day learning program. Government meeting planners might consider pursuing the Certified Government Meeting Professional designation through the Society of Government Meeting Professionals, which is available to those who have at least one year of meeting management experience (www.sgmp.org).

Other Careers to Consider

Wedding Planner

Being a wedding planner requires skills that are very similar to those of a special events coordinator. You should have excellent organization and be detail oriented, as well as have a large dose of creativity. The hours are long, and work is often performed on the weekends. Salaries in this field fluctuate greatly and may vary by region. PayScale.com reported in May 2012 that most wedding planners earned between $19,000 and $107,000 per year.

Lodging Manager

If you have a degree in hospitality or hotel management, you could become a lodging manager and work at a resort, hotel or inn. Some managers in this career also oversee conventions and meetings. The BLS reported that job opportunities for lodging managers were predicted to only increase eight percent from 2010-2020. The average annual salary for lodging managers was about $55,000 as of May 2011.

Public Relations Specialist

If you like the promotional aspect of special events coordination, you might want to become a public relations specialist. You would be responsible for working with various types of media professionals to communicate a positive image about an organization, an industry or a public figure. You generally need a bachelor's degree in public relations, marketing, journalism or communications.

According to the BLS, the expected job growth for public relations specialist positions was 23% from 2010-2020, which was faster than average. It's a competitive field, and the best jobs often go to those who have a degree and experience. As of May 2011, public relations specialists received a mean salary of about $60,000 per year.

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Colorado State University Global

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What is your highest level of education?

Kaplan University

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  • Bachelor of Business Admin
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Herzing University

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  • B.S. - Business Management: Business Admin Concentration
  • Associate of Science - Business Management

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American InterContinental University

  • Master of Business Admin: Management
  • Bachelor of Business Admin: 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

What is your highest level of education?

Penn Foster Career School

  • Career Diploma - Certified Wedding Planner

What is your highest level of education?

Everest

  • Business
  • Business Administration

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Southern New Hampshire University

  • MBA in Marketing
  • BS in Business Studies - Business Adminis
  • AS in Business Administration

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