Event planners coordinate social events that bring people together to achieve a specific goal or goals. Contrary to popular belief, this position is not the same as being a party planner. Party planners merely arrange and coordinate social events that have no underlying purpose other than to entertain and enable attendees to mingle. In contrast, event planners coordinate significant events that serve a more in-depth purpose, such as business meetings, conventions, seminars, conferences, trade shows, incentive programs, corporate retreats and weddings. Each of these “events” is linked by a similar focus on accomplishing high-priority social and business needs within a specific time frame, making the event planner salary sizable in comparison. Event planners must ensure a smooth transition between segments of an event’s itinerary and attend to minute technical details. Some typical details that event planners oversee include:
• Arranging for the appearance of guest speakers
• Securing venues
• Video/audio equipment rentals and placement
• The printing of supplemental or educational materials to be passed out at events
Event Planner Educational Requirements
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the government defines event planners as “Meeting and Convention Planners” and considers event planning a legitimate and serious profession. Event planners can be found working for non-profit organizations, hotels, corporations, professional associations, the government, or as sole proprietors. Some work independently, while others belong to event planning firms. Although education level varies amongst those holding event planner positions, employers prefer the completion of a four-year degree program and some experience in the field prior to hiring. In addition, each particular event planner salary is dependent upon the highest level of schooling obtained by the planner. In 2007, Convene Magazine conducted their 17th-annual salary survey to determine how salaries correlate with educational levels. The average event planner salary varied depending on geographical location:
• Vice President- $112,500
• Director- $84,400
• Manager- $55,500
• Vice President- $83,200
• Director- $83,700
• Manager- $56,500
• Vice President- $113,200
• Director- $75,800
• Manager- $58,800
• Vice President- $125,000
• Director- $87,200
• Manager- $57,100
The survey revealed that top professionals averaged 16.4 years of experience. 48 percent of those at Vice President-level obtained a four-year degree major in event planning, 24 percent had some post-graduate experience, and eight percent completed post-graduate degrees. This data is highly suggestive that a combination of higher education and experience are key to obtaining a higher event planner salary. Recommended degree programs for event planner employment include a bachelor’s in hospitality management, business administration, marketing, public relations or communications. Many event planners begin their careers by entering through another administrative position upon degree completion and networking within their companies.
Special Event Planner Career Certifications
Certified Meeting Professional
A certified meeting event planner is more likely to snag high-paying jobs and work for big-name corporate entities and professionals, even celebrities. The Certified Meeting Professional Credential, or CMP, was launched by the Convention Industry Council to promote the status of the event planner job, give credibility to event planning as a career, and to educate and improve performance of event planners across the United States. The CMP is earned via acceptance of an application followed by a formal written examination. A possible 150 points may be awarded to an applicant dependent upon his or her ability to meet key requirements, while a minimum of 90 points must be met for acceptance.Requirements are broken down as follows:
• Experience in meeting management – 35 points
• Management responsibility – 50 points
• Education & continuing education – 25 points
• Membership in a professional organization – 10 points
• Professional contributions to the field – 30 points
The written exam is held generally twice per year and consists of 165 multiple choice questions. The exam covers five domains of knowledge topics: They are strategic event planning, financial and contract management, facilities and services, logistics, and programs. There is a $225 application fee and a $450 exam fee, and credentials must be renewed every five years by completing a new application that meets a 60 point minimum.
With successful certification comes an increased event planner salary. Suggested preparation for the CMP includes performing volunteer work such as sitting on the committee of a church or school event, networking during volunteer or paid events, joining an association and participating in continuing education programs, and joining a study group through a local chapter of the CIC.
Certified Professional Wedding Consultant
The Association for Certified Wedding Consultants, or ACPWC, offers training in the form of a four to five day virtual classroom experience followed by an examination. In addition, a home study program is offered that includes a 10-DVD instructional video series and an instruction reference binder. The home study program allows participants up to three months for course completion.
Event Planner Salary
The national average base salary for professional event planners as of March 2010 lies between $47,000 and $64,000 annually. The 25th percentile of earners grossed $46,958, the 50th percentile earned $54,800, and the top earners (75th percentile) earned an average of $63,940.
The average event planner salary as of January 2012 is reported to lie between $15,600 and $109,800 for the self-employed, and $14,100-$73,891 for those under company employment.
Event planning employment continues to rise as the number of employers remains consistent; event planning is a challenging and competitive field that, according to reported salaries can be quite rewarding.