Why "Event Planning Certification" is so misleading
In many industries, there are set standards that are accepted across the industry and to which all certifying organizations must adhere. For example, all lawyers must pass the bar, which is a set standardized test that all potential lawyers must pass. If someone wants to become a Certified Public Accountant, that is also a standardized test that is the same for all applicants within the accounting industry.
You see, there are three types of certification in the professional world.
- Corporate or "Internal" Certifications: These certifications are created by a company to use internally; for example, a company might create a one-day sales training and the employees must pass the test to "get certified." This certification means nothing to anyone outside the company.
- Product-Specific Certifications: This is used to show a person's understanding of a product; for example, if an IT person gets certified on certain software.
- Profession-Wide Certifications: In this case, a certain organization must create a certification program that is universally accepted across that specific industry. For example, there are universally-accepted certifications in real estate, aviation, or accounting.
In the event planning industry, almost every single "certification" program that you come across is an "Internal" Certification; it doesn't mean anything to anyone outside of that company. However, these companies have discovered that they can make a lot more money if they convince beginners that you need this certain "certification" in order to begin your career.
In other words, just about anyone can create their own "certification" and say it's legitimate; even if it really means nothing to others in the industry. There aren't any industry-wide standardized requirements for someone to declare you as "certified" (other than the two I will list below), and therefore most "certifications," especially for beginners, don't mean much more than proof that you took an online course and passed a test.
The main exceptions in the event planning industry are the following two certifications. These are the main two certifications that are recognized by everyone in the industry; however since they are true "certification" designations, they require that you first must have at least 3-5 years of experience in event planning and currently be employed before event attempting to take the test.
Certified Meeting Professional (CMP)
The CMP is the most recognized certification n the meeting and event planning industry; and is the only certification that is widely recognized and reputable. Candidates must have three years of event planning experience and currently have a full-time job in the industry in order to apply.
Certified Special Events Professional
The CSEP is the only other openly recognized certification in the event planning industry; and focuses more on special events than meeting planning. Just like with the CMP, candidates are required to have had three years of experience in the industry and must be currently employed or have been employed in the special events industry in the last twelve months.
There are a few other certifications that apply to specific industries within event planning; such as catering, hotel management, etc. However, the CMP and the CSEP are the two main, accepted certifications for event planners. Any other certifications are just pieces of paper from different organizations that may or may not mean anything to your potential future employers or clients.