Many employers prefer applicants who have a bachelor's degree and related work experience in hotels or planning. The proportion of planners with a bachelor's degree is increasing because work responsibilities are becoming more complex and because there are more university degree programs. If an applicant’s degree is not related to hospitality management, employers are likely to require at least one to two years of related work experience.
Event planners come from a variety of academic disciplines. Some related undergraduate majors include marketing, public relations, communications, business, and hospitality management. Planners who have studied hospitality management may start out with greater responsibilities than those from other academic disciplines. Students may also gain experience through an internship or by planning meetings for a university club. In addition, some universities offer continuing education courses in meeting and event planning.
Some event planners enter the profession by gaining experience in a related occupation, such as a catering coordinator. For example, catering coordinators may begin planning smaller events, including weddings. As they gain experience and establish their reputation, they may start their own wedding planning business.
Once hired, event planners learn many skills through experience. Entry-level planners generally begin by performing small tasks under the supervision of senior meeting professionals. Those who start at small organizations have the opportunity to learn more quickly because they must take on a larger variety of tasks.
As they establish themselves, they are given greater responsibility. This may mean taking on a wider range of duties or moving to another planning specialty to gain more experience. For example, a talented planner may be promoted from conference coordinator, with responsibility for meeting logistics, to program coordinator, with responsibility for speakers and event programming. The next step up may be to meeting manager, with responsibility for supervising all parts of the meeting. Entry-level planners tend to focus on meeting logistics, such as registering guests and setting up audio/visual equipment, while experienced planners manage interpersonal tasks, such as client relations and contract negotiations. With significant experience, event planners can become independent consultants or executive directors of associations.