For some industries and organizations, coordinating conventions, meetings, nonprofit and celebratory events is a full-time job. In fact, 116,700 business and finance workers in the United States are part of the occupation of meeting, convention and event planners, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). To work in these exciting and logistically challenging career roles, you can start out by earning a specialized hospitality and tourism degree in a field like meeting and event management, or you can choose a more general and prevalent major like business or communications.
Event Planning and Management Careers
If you’ve ever planned even a small party or get-together, then you know that there are a lot of matters to organize. The bigger and more complex the event, the greater the challenges of planning it. Event planners do the work of coordinating all of the details and logistics of an activity, from the location and schedule to food service, transportation and lodging. Negotiating, problem-solving and communicating are all essential roles an event planner has to fill over the course of orchestrating an event for a client or organization.
Professional planners generally specialize in organizing one type of affair – meetings, conventions or events – rather than planning all kinds of activities. Specializing allows them to develop their skills and networks of contacts in services that are relevant to their type of event. Meeting planners, who coordinate large meetings on behalf of organizations, often further specialize in healthcare meeting planning or corporate planning, the BLS reported. Convention planners are responsible for planning all kinds of conferences, trade shows and other conventions and often work for professional associations or directly for hotels and convention centers. Event planners can specialize in celebrations and social events, nonprofit fundraising events and corporate events beyond onsite and offsite meetings.
In addition to traditional face-to-face events, online events may now fall under the purview of a professional planner, especially one who specializes in corporate meetings, according to the BLS.
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Degrees in Meeting and Event Management
Most roles in meeting and event planning require a bachelor’s degree, according to the BLS. The college degree program that most directly corresponds to this career path is meeting and event management, a major within the tourism and hospitality field that is often housed within a business school or department. Students in an event management program often take classes such as Introduction to Event Management, Fundamentals of Hospitality Management, Menu Planning, Hospitality Marketing and Food and Service Fundamentals. Courses focusing on different types of events, including weddings and social events, conventions, corporate meetings and banquet operations, are common, as are studies in hospitality laws and ethics.
Because hospitality programs are typically part of the business field, most meeting and event management programs include core coursework in business subjects. Students might take classes in managerial and financial accounting, economics, business communications, organizational behavior and management. Learning about sales, networking, human resources and training and development in the hospitality industry can help these workers promote themselves and their organizations.
A major benefit of earning a degree in hospitality is that students often have the opportunity to cultivate their skills in a real-world setting by working in conference facilities, restaurants and hotels owned by their college and intended for training purposes.
Other Degree Options for Event Planning Careers
What if a specialized program in event management isn’t an option at your intended school? Not every college or business school has a program in hospitality and tourism. Degrees in business administration, business management and communications can all suffice to prepare students for this career path, but there’s a catch, according to the BLS. These general programs of study won’t offer the hands-on work experience or specialized knowledge that a hospitality program would. As a result, candidates for event management jobs with non-hospitality background often must start out with fewer responsibilities – and as a result, lower wages – than their peers with a specialized background and will have to work their way up to higher-level and higher-paying roles.
If you approach an event planning career from a business or communications background instead of a hospitality background, it may help to earn a certificate, a master’s degree or non-degree continuing education credit in meeting and event planning.