One of the great things about the events industry is that you don’t need higher education, formal training, qualifications, or profession certifications to start working in the business.
While some of these can be advantageous, they are not a requirement. Which means a career in event planning is accessible to anyone who can develop the necessary skills and has sufficient commitment and drive to obtain relevant experience.
To begin to understand the types of training available, and which is going to be most suitable for you, it helps first to understand a little about the evolution of the events industry and where it is currently at.
The events industry is still relatively new. It evolved from the entertainment, catering, and hospitality industries on one side and the marketing and communications industry on the other, to create a diverse industry that encompasses corporate events, hospitality, meeting planning, brand marketing and experiential, and special events.
Before event planning became an established profession, events were organized by administrative staff, marketing and communications executives, catering and hospitality staff, and travel agents who specialized in group bookings and tours.
As those people organizing events came from such different industries and backgrounds, and were organizing events for so many different reasons, there was no formal training available that unified the process of planning an event. They learned by doing. Often it was just a case of trial and error, making mistakes and learning from them.
As events became more common across different industries and companies began to hire dedicated event planners, basic principles and procedures common to all events began to emerge that could be taught in a classroom environment. This led to programs, modules, and classes on event planning being incorporated into Travel and Tourism, Catering and Hospitality Management, and Marketing and Communications courses.
In the early 2000s, entire courses dedicated to event planning began to emerge and, particularly in countries such as the United Kingdom, it became possible to earn both undergraduate and post-graduate degrees in event management from respected universities. In recent years, particularly in the United States where there are still very few bachelor’s degree courses in event management, there has been a flood of both online and classroom-based ‘diploma’ and ‘certificate’ courses emerging—some of which are of very questionable value, which I’ll go into later.
Because of the fairly recent emergence of training courses and degrees, the event industry is at a unique point in its evolution.
The majority of event planners working in the industry—particularly those in senior or management positions—probably didn’t have any formal training or classroom-based education specific to event planning. Many of them may not even have a college degree. Instead, they learned on the job through experience and worked their way up.
At the same time, we are now seeing the first generation of people entering the industry who have obtained degrees, certificates, and diplomas in event management.
This poses an interesting dynamic where the people doing the hiring, who achieved success in their event-planning career without formal training, may not fully value the qualifications of those entering the industry who have studied in the classroom.
In the future, I think it will be the norm for event planners to have some type of formal training, whether that’s a diploma, certificate, or degree. However, the value of that formal training might not be fully recognized until the current generation at the top of the industry, those who didn’t study, have retired—which could be another 20–30 years or longer.
With that in mind, I think it’s worth pausing to consider whether you should take a course in event planning at all and, if so, how much time you should invest in a formal classroom-style education versus how much time you should spend obtaining relevant experience where you can learn on the job.
1. Rennette Grace, Event Planning & Event Management - the 1st Group for Event Professionals, LinkedIn Group
There are three ways you can train for a career in event planning: study, experience, and certification. However only one of these options, experience, can be pursued on its own.
You can either:
Regardless of whether or not you take a course, in order to become certified as an event planner, you must first obtain a significant amount of experience. In the event industry, certification is not something you need, or can even obtain, before you start work.
Many online event planning courses claim they will make you a certified event planner—however, this is most definitely NOT the case. Be sure to read the next article on event planning certification to avoid being mislead before parting with any money for an event planning course.