Event Planning Education: Schooling, Certification, or None of the Above?

Welcome to EVENTful Ventures, the online publication that aspires to help you attain your goal of finding an EVENTful career!

"A ship in the harbor is safe...
but that's not what ships were built for."

~ John A. Shedd

EVENTful Ventures: Content for Issue #2

  • Editor's Note
  • New to the Website
  • Article: Schooling, Certification, or None of the Above?
  • Tip of the Month
  • In Case You Missed...

Editor's Note

Welcome to EVENTful Ventures! I hope your summer is going well, and that you took my advice in the previous issue and are getting event planning experience by volunteering! (If you missed the last issue and would like to read it, click here to read the previous issue.

**Please note that this page can only be accessed by those of you who subscribe to EVENTful Ventures. The password for this page is: success4u

One of the questions I get most often by people who are hoping to begin a career in event planning is, "What kind of schooling or certification do I need to begin a career in event planning?"

I touch on this "hot topic" on my website, but it is so important (and asked so often) that I felt it was worthwhile to spend some more time on it. If you've read the "Event Planning Courses" page on the website, congratulations for being ten steps ahead of everyone else! Some of this might be repeat information, but I go into greater detail in this newsletter.

Of course, this is all just my advice; take it with a grain of salt. Only you can know what's right for you. As with anything in life, trust your gut instinct above all else!

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Happiness and Success,
Sirena Evans

New to the Website

The Careers in Event Planning website is an ongoing, always changing, work in progress. There is a lot of important information that I feel you must know about, so I am constantly updating or adding pages.

Depending on when you last visited, the following pages might be new to you....be sure to stop by (click on the links - if you reading this in text format and not HTML, copy and paste the entire URL into your browser) and take a look!

Convention and Conference Planning: Conventions and conferences make up a huge portion of the event planning job opportunities. Check out this page to learn more about this very important niche.

Yes I am an Event Planner: This page is strictly for fun; an essay that is popular among planners. It's meant to be a humorous view of what meeting and event planners are REALLY thinking when their clients ask for the impossible (which happens every moment of every day). Be sure to check out this page for a fun look at the OTHER side to this not-always-so-glamorous job!

***Featured Article***

Schooling, Certification, or None of the Above?

One of the questions I get asked most often when I tell people about my job (other than "How can I do what you do?", which is why I started the Careers in Event Planning website) is.... "What kind of schooling or certification do I need to begin a career in event planning?"

As with anything worthwhile, there is no short answer to this. However, it is not as difficult to answer as you might imagine. If I absolutely, positively was forced to give a short answer to this question, it would be this:

Don't bother with either; experience, in this industry, is far more important than schooling or certification.

What??!!! you might be shrieking to yourself. That's far too easy an answer! What's the catch? What are you selling?

There is no catch. And I'm not selling anything. It's just the honest answer from someone who has been in this business for a long time. I, myself, do not have a degree in anything having to do with event planning; event planning courses didn't exist in those days (if you want to read more about my path and why I am qualified to give my opinions on this topic, read my About Me page).

Of course, there are some exceptions, and of course, they are worth discussing in greater detail.

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Clarification and Definitions
First of all, we need to clarify the difference between schooling and certification.

Schooling: For our purposes, we will assume that schooling refers to either a degree in event planning or some other equivalent degree, or at least some courses at a university or equivalent school.

Certification: This word's meaning is often confused by event-planner hopefuls, who mistakenly believe it might be a short-cut to education.

***Certification is NOT a short-cut to training or education, despite what many websites will try to sell you. True certification refers to a test that qualifies someone's experience and expertise.***

It is so important that you understand this concept, that I'm going to re-phrase it.

Certification is not a way to learn about event planning, certification is a way to test your expertise and knowledge that you already possess about event planning. Therefore, most certifications require that you have at least 3-5 years of experience in the industry before attempting to take their test or certification.

I often compare this to someone who would walk into an aviation school and hope to get their pilot's "certification" without ever having flown a plane. In the same way, you can not get "certified" until you have worked several years in events.

So yes, I know what you are thinking - "But I don't know anything! How am I supposed to get certified?"

That's just my point exactly. You don't.

But don't worry. Event planning is, literally, not brain surgery. I'm not saying it's easy, but it is one industry where your schooling and "certifications" are not necessary to start a great career.

Experience is far more important in event planning than any schooling, courses, or certification.

Shhhh..... I'll let you in on a little secret. I am a successful event planner who has been in the business for fifteen years; but I don't have any event planning certifications. I have often thought of getting my CMP (Certified Meeting Professional certification), but....why? I'm doing just fine without it. And, to begin with, so will you. If, after you have a few years of experience, you can decide whether a certification would benefit you.

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CAUTION!!! There are many websites out there offering "certifications" to help you learn about event planning. Be very, very cautious of these, as most of them are just trying to sell you their course.

Research the company carefully to find exactly what they will teach you. There are reputable businesses out there who might teach you some of the basics; however take these for the purpose of learning about event planning, not in hopes that the certification will give you a competitive edge.

At this time, there are not any "beginners certifications" that will mean anything when trying to land your first job.

* * * * * * *

Since you are most likely reading this newsletter because you want to get into event planning, then I am going to move on to a more applicable topic, schooling. If you would like to read more about the types of certifications in event planning, click here to go to Event Planning Certification.

Phew! That was a really long-winded way of saying "don't worry about certifications for now, at this point in your career." But if I would have just told you that, you wouldn't have believed me, would you? :-)

* * * * * * * *

Schooling and Event Planning Courses
Ok, now on to Part Two of the question...is schooling necessary to begin your event planning career?

Again, the short answer: if you have already graduated from college and are in any kind of work field, then no. If you are still in (or about to enter) college, then...it's not necessary, but it might not hurt and could be a good start.

Here's a short checklist to help guide you. But please remember that whether you are able to check off only a few items or all of them, only you can decide what path is best for you.

  1. You should consider taking event planning courses if you:
    • are young and have not yet finished college, or are a recent graduate and are not sure of your career path
    • have no event planning experience at all
    • are seriously considering a life-long career in event planning
    • know that you want to work as an event planner (and not just one of the many support roles in event planning)
    • think that you might want to start your own event planning company someday
    • need a structured environment in which to learn
    • have the time and money to invest

  2. You might not need to take event planning courses if you:
    • have already graduated from college and been in the workforce for a few years
    • have any event planning experience
    • only want to "dabble" in event planning to see if you like it
    • are only interested in working for a DMC, a catering company, or as an on-site event manager, and are most likely not interested in starting your own event planning company
    • are a good self-taught learner
    • have no time or money to spare

Important Note:
As I mentioned on the website, event planning has only recently been accepted as an actual career choice; and therefore very few universities offer "event planning" degrees. Many offer "hospitality management" or something similar, but be very cautious of these as they might not offer any "event planning" classes at all, and might be geared more toward restaurant or hotel management. Be very careful when doing your research to make sure you are investigating actual event or meeting planning classes.

To learn more about this and to see a list of schools and universities that offer actual event planning courses, click here to go to Event Planning Schools.

If you are self-motivated and learn easily by reading, then you can learn the basics from a number of books about the industry. To get a list of suggested books, click here to go to Event Planning Books.

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Here's a bare-bones recap of what I just covered:

  1. Certifications: don't worry about getting certified unless you have 3-5 years of experience in event planning. If you find any on-line companies that offer beginner certifications, research it carefully, and only take the course for the sake of learning - not in hopes of getting a certification that will give you leverage when applying for jobs (because in most cases, it will mean nothing).

  2. Schooling or Event Planning Courses: only pursue this if you are not yet out of school, or have the time and money.

Your best bet for getting started is to just get out there and get experience. You can save months, or years, of time by heeding this advice. In the event planning industry, nothing is more important than experience.

But how do I get started without any experience, and without any schooling or certification?
Great question, and the question upon which the entire Careers in Event Planning website is based upon! I suggest you start at the beginning; but for a short-cut, click here to go to the Career Planning page.

So get out there and get started; your event planning career is just around the corner!

Tip o' the Month

If you missed last month's issue, then here is a summary in three words: VOLUNTEER FOR EXPERIENCE!

The event planning industry is a competitive one; and, as I discussed above, schooling and certification do not matter as much as good ole' experience. But, how do you get experience without any experience? VOLUNTEER.

There are always events going on in your town or city; do some research, find an event, and find the people in charge of planning it. Call and offer to help, in any way possible; no job is too menial in event planning (the entire job is based on menial tasks and organization).

Not only will you gain valuable experience and resume material, but you more than likely will make some great contacts that will open up doors for job opportunities in the future!

In Case You Missed....

The Careers In Event Planning offers a lot of information....a lot. But, it is all important information...otherwise I wouldn't have taken the time to put it there!

If you haven't already, be sure to read through each and every page, starting with the Home page. And don't forget to click on the links within the pages; these very important links lead to other pages that aren't listed on the side menu!

But they are easy to miss...so here are a few pages that I think are really, really important, and want to make sure you read (again, if the entire URL does not show up as a link, copy and paste it into your browser).

On-Site Event Management

Event Planning Employment

I welcome your input and ideas!

Do you have a question, an idea, or a topic that you would like for me to address on either the website or in the newsletter? What are your frustrations or obstacles? Your dreams and aspirations? My goal is to help you on your path, so please tell me how to help you! Click here (or copy and paste this URL into your browser: www.careers-in-event-planning.com/ezine.html ) and fill in the "I'd like to see...." box.

**Please note that this box alone does not subscribe you to EVENTful Ventures ezine; you must also fill in the box above that if you have not subscribed.**

That's it for now...so get out there, volunteer, and get your career started!

And please, feel free to pass this newsletter along to a friend.

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Learn More

One of the first steps necessary to becoming an event planner is to learn everything you can about events. I have three products to help you learn different aspects of the industry:

Learn about my online "Event Planner Course"
By high demand, I have created an online, step-by-step course on how to plan events. You can take this online course at your own pace; and it will show you the essential elements of planning special events and corporate meetings, incentives, and events.

Travel and Get Paid for It
In this eBook, learn how to travel the world while working great events!

Event Planning Checklist
My own personal Event Planning Checklist and Conference Planning Checklist in one; this eBook lists just about every general "to do" that you might need for your event. (Note: this is included as a free bonus with the Event Planner Course and my eBook, Travel and Get Paid for It.

Subscribe to my Newsletter

It's free, it's chock full of important, helpful information, I won't spam you, and you can unsubscribe at any time! My weekly installments will give you priceless tips and hints on how to start your career in event planning; everything from understanding the industry to how to get your foot in the door.