What is an Event Planning Degree?

Event planners plan and execute events of all kinds and all sizes. While corporate conventions and incentive travel or corporate reward programs form a large part of this field, the sector also includes events like concerts, tradeshows, speaker programs, and festivals.

Event planning certificate and degree programs cover the diverse logistical components of the profession.

Students learn about contract negotiation, site selection, transportation and activities logistics, food and beverage planning, venue and décor selection, guest speaker and entertainment bookings, event registration, event marketing, meetings and events budget management, and on-site operations. And they learn that the devil is indeed in the detail, and the detail is everything.

Program Options

Certificate in Event Planning – Varying, Typically Short Duration
Associate Degree in Event Planning – Two Year Duration
Both of these education programs provide students with training in the areas outlined below. At the associate level, however, the curriculum also includes some general education and liberal arts courses in subject areas like English, mathematics, and science. Depending on their specific duration, certificate programs may cover core subject matter in less depth.

Here is a snapshot of the event planning courses that typically make up the core curriculum:

  • Introduction to Meeting and Event Planning – event planning concepts, components of meetings and events, duties of an event planner, selecting a venue, selecting transportation options, event management and execution, event planning industry associations and certifications
  • Site Selection / Negotiation / Law – site selection, third-party (destination management) planning companies, selling and professionalism, meeting venues, trade shows, negotiation and contracts, legal issues
  • Transportation and Lodging – assessing needs, transportation and lodging specific, communication and logistics, accounting procedures, post-event responsibilities
  • Event Registration – registration timelines, assessing needs, types of registration, pre-conference registration, registration web site development, registration set-up
  • Food and Beverage Management – catering and meal functions, food and beverage decisions, room and table set-up, staffing requirements, vendors, contract and negotiations
  • Hotel Sales and Operations – hotels sales and yield management, hotel marketing concepts, request for proposals (RFPs), rate quotes, hotel contracts and operations, building relationships
  • Special Event Planning – special event venues, special event budgets, vendors and contracts, even design and décor, event registration, on-site event management, marketing and communication, international events, exhibits, trade shows, weddings
  • Non-Profit Event Planning – non-profit organizational concepts, event selection and timelines, fundraising budgets, revenue, solicitations, marketing, post-event responsibilities
  • Budgeting for Event Planners – event planning and money management, preparing a budget, collecting and evaluating bids, establishing revenue streams, accounting and cash management, event planning fees and contracts, post-event analysis
  • Event Production Software – training on one or more of these software programs specific to the events industry: Eventbrite, Whova, Cvent, Trello, Social Tables, DoubleDutch

Bachelor’s Degree in Event Planning and Management – Four Year Duration
Bachelor’s programs specific to the event planning field are rare. However, some schools may offer an event planning and management concentration option in their hospitality management or business program.

Degrees Similar to Event Planning

Culinary Arts
Culinary arts are the arts of preparing, cooking, and presenting food. Food that is as pleasing to the eyes as it is to the taste buds is the goal of the culinary artist. Degree programs in the field prepare students for a variety of roles within the food and hospitality arenas. The typical curriculum covers professional cooking techniques, world cuisines, how to balance flavors, food aesthetics, and menu planning.

Food Service Management
Degrees in food service management are targeted at individuals who wish to combine their passion for food with an interest in managing a food-related business.

Hospitality Management
Degree programs in hospitality management teach students how to operate hotels, restaurants, and other businesses that serve business travelers and vacationers. Coursework may vary from one curriculum to another, depending on whether the program offers general hospitality management training or is focused on a specialty area, such as travel agency operations, restaurant management, or hotel management.

Hotel Management
Degree programs in hotel management prepare students for careers as managers of hotels, motels, resorts, and other lodging businesses. The typical curriculum includes an internship, during which students have an opportunity to work in the field and learn from seasoned professionals. This hands-on experience is preceded by coursework in areas such as human resource management and hospitality operations, sales, marketing, and accounting.

Public Relations
Degree programs in public relations (PR) teach students how to deliver information from a business, organization, government body, or individual public figure to a target audience. The curriculum differs from that of other communication sciences. In advertising and marketing programs, students learn how to design and develop communication pieces that clients seek out and pay for.

Public relations courses focus on how to achieve image management, generate publicity, and earn positive media attention through press releases, press conferences, blogs, and a social media presence.

Skills You’ll Learn

Business acumen
Event planning involves soliciting bids from vendors, securing quality products and services, negotiating and verifying service contracts, reviewing event bills, approving payments, and other related tasks.

Computer literacy
Fluency with project management software and spreadsheet and database software is essential for event planners.

Coming up with inspired ideas and solutions – in consultation with the right vendors such as audio-video providers, destination management companies, and furniture and floral suppliers – calls for a creative sensibility.

Extraordinary attention to detail
Event planning is detail planning. Identifying potential issues or problems before they occur is a significant part of an event planner’s work.

In event planning, change is more the rule than the exception. Delayed flights mean delayed attendees. The client changes his or her mind onsite. Weather necessitates that an outdoor event be moved indoors. At some level, the job of an event planner is to foresee the unforeseen and be prepared to handle it.

Organizational skills
Handling logistics concerning meetings, transportation, activities, and other aspects of events calls for exceptional organizational skills.

Relationship-building abilities
Students of event planning learn that being a competent builder of relationships is key to their success, because the work involves coordinating so many different players to come together to produce a successful event.

Stress management, composure, and troubleshooting
Event planning is consistently listed as one of the top ten most stressful jobs. The work is fraught with immovable deadlines and pressure situations that demand calmness, quick thinking, and resolution.

Team, project, and operations management
Taking ownership of project planning and operations and coordinating a team of staff, guest speakers, entertainers, and event attendees is an integral part of the job.

Time management
Event planners must be comfortable prioritizing and reprioritizing multiple responsibilities over long periods of time. The job is deadline driven.

Verbal and written communication
Event planners are the liaison between multiple parties, from clients to venues to local vendors. This means that they must be able to respond to a variety of requests and needs.

What Can You Do with an Event Planning Degree?

Meetings, Events, and Incentive Travel Companies
This is the primary employment sector for event planning grads. It includes independent event planning companies – which create and manage events for multiple clients – and in-house corporate event planners – who plan events for the company that employs them, on their own or with the help of an event planning company that they contract.

Conference, Convention, Exhibition Centers, and Event Venues
These facilities are central to the events industry and employ significant numbers of people, many of whom have a background in event planning and management.

Cruise Lines and Luxury Rail Services
Cruise ships and high-end/luxury trains have an event component and may also hire individuals with event planning education and experience.

Destination Management Companies
In most major cities there are destination management companies. These businesses coordinate items like local ground transportation, meeting venues, tours, and private restaurant events for companies that hire them to help organize conferences and/or incentive travel programs for their employees or customers.

Food and Wine
A degree in event planning can lead graduates to positions in the food and wine industries, especially with higher-end restaurants and wineries that host culinary tastings and other events.

Hotels, Resorts, and Casinos
Opportunities for event planning graduates exist with hotel chains, independent boutique hotels, business hotels, casino hotels, and resorts. Within these sectors, positions in departments such as conference services and concierge/guest services and relations are most connected to the events planning field.

Luxury Brand and Experience Management
Luxury brands target their luxury products and services to luxury consumers. These brands come from high-end retail sectors like yachts, private jets, jewelry, fashion, spas, cars, wines, spirits, and private wealth management services. They are more recent employers of event planning graduates, as they recognize the value of creating upscale buying experiences and exclusive events for their exclusive clientele.

Luxury Retirement / Senior Living Homes
In many ways, luxury retirement and senior living homes operate like luxury hotels and resorts. They offer their residents 5-star accommodation; fine dining; and high-end facilities that require personnel to plan and manage events.

Private Clubs
Private clubs such as golf clubs, tennis clubs, and business clubs can benefit from the skills and knowledge gained by event planning graduates.

Tourism Boards and Chambers of Commerce
Tourism boards and chambers of commerce around the world hire people with the know-how to plan promotional events and community festivals.

Tourism Sector
Event planning and management jobs may exist with museums, art galleries, historical monuments and buildings, national parks, theme parks, aquariums, zoos, and landmarks.

In addition to the sectors described above, event planners can apply their education in roles with:

  • Non-profit organizations
  • Political campaigns
  • Professional sports teams
  • Professional sports tournaments
  • Public relations firms
  • Wedding planning


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