Event Planning Courses: Which One Is Right for You?

Key Questions to Help You Choose

Florist is making the final touches in preparation to an event
••• Eva-Katalin / Getty Images

Event planning courses abound – at colleges and universities, as part of marketing programs, through industry associations and online. So how do you decide which one is right for you? These five key questions will help you select the course that best meets your needs.

What Is Your level of Experience?

There are event planning courses for every type of student – whether you are new to event planning and need an introduction with the basics or someone who has experience in the industry but never took a formal class. Make sure you meet any course requirements and read the course description carefully before registering. Determine the target audience to see if it is a good fit.

What Is Your Objective?

This one is an easy one. Why are you considering enrolling in an event planning course? What is it you hope to accomplish? Are you looking to gain general industry knowledge or learn about the latest event management software? Knowing what you want in the end will help you figure out what to do at the beginning. The more specific you are in your goal, the more likely you will achieve it. Think carefully about which areas of event planning you want to learn about and find a course that covers those topics.

Are You Seeking Event Planning Certification?

Those event planners with a few years of experience may want to explore gaining certification. Programs typically discuss contract negotiation, food and beverage planning, site selection, financial management, event promotion, and social media marketing. Event planning certification is a measure of your industry knowledge and experience, and most legitimate certifications require at least three to five years of event planning experience before you can even take the test. 

Two different event planning certifications are offered: Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) or Certified Special Events Professional (CSEP). CMP is the most widely recognized certification in the meeting and event planning industry. Candidates must have three years of event planning experience in addition to current full-time job in the industry. CSEP differs from CMP in that it focuses on special events and is the only other openly recognized certification in the event planning industry. Those seeking this certification are required to have three years of experience in event planning and must have had employment in the special events industry in the last twelve months. Once obtaining certification, you may use this designation after your name and title to reflect your knowledge of the industry.

Do You Have a Specialization?

If you have some experience and want to focus on a particular type of event planning such as corporate meetings, special events, fundraisers or weddings, then explore courses that are specialized in your area of interest. These courses will provide knowledge specific to your area and may also present opportunities to meet others who are working in the field.

What Is Your Availability?

Are you free to enroll in a daytime course at a college or university? Or do you need something more flexible such as an online event planning course that you can complete on your own schedule? Both options are available to you so select the one that is best for your individual needs.

Ask for Recommendations

Most people ask for referrals for doctors or a mechanic. Why not ask for recommendations for an event planning course? Ask folks in your event planning network – particularly those currently doing the work you would like to be doing – if they have come across any courses that they would recommend. Local organizations for event planners can also provide a list of courses in your area and often offer classes to members. Be diligent in your research. There are plenty of event planning courses that offer a lot and deliver a little; you don’t want to waste your money or your time.