Not all event planners are equally qualified. For the best leg up on your competition, you’ll want to make sure you have the best qualifications available. Ideally, potential clients would choose you from a crowded field based solely on your abilities. But, realistically, your qualifications on paper are one way your clients and employers will screen you for suitability.

For the best chance at success as a certified event planner, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree or a similar amount of work experience, and you’ll complete a certification course.

Get an education

Many certified event planners hold an undergraduate degree in hospitality management. Hospitality jobs employ those who work in hotels, resorts, catering, and events. Coursework for the degree path usually includes accounting, meeting planning, catering, and running a hotel. Additional relevant courses are marketing and promotions, as well as a broad range of computer skills. Regardless of your education level or degree, it’s best to have a few years’ experience in event planning or the hospitality industry before pursuing your certification.

Intern with a planner

While pursuing your education, take advantage of any opportunity to complete an internship. You’ll get hands-on experience and get a better understanding of the process. Internships will help you develop your communication and problem-solving skills, which every customer service position requires.

Many internships are designed to give you broad experience in different departments. Understanding how to book rooms, order food, receive deliveries, and stand up to the pressure of working the actual event are all critical skills.

Get broad work experience

Many planners start out in a related field, such as a catering coordinator or administrative assistant. The experience you gain in coordinating and managing a smaller event or one aspect of a large event is valuable. Take note of reliable contractors, and build a personal network of event rentals professionals that you trust.

Learn everything you can about video conferencing and A/V equipment and how to troubleshoot common problems. Join a professional organization like the Society of Government Meeting Professionals for access to education and other resources. Consider an additional certification program or professional membership in project management, as the organization and computer skills will come in handy for large events like conventions and corporate meetings.

Specialize in a type

Meeting and event planners specialize in different types of events. Wedding planners are accustomed to dealing with large family events with a specific one-day function. Corporate planners focus on shareholder conferences, program kickoffs, and team meetings. Non-profit planners focus on auctions, galas, and fundraising events. Convention service managers work for companies that regularly host large gatherings with speakers and sessions.

Pursue a professional certification

Potential clients or employers may screen for certification in event planning. Depending upon your employment path, you might consider sitting for the Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) exam. The CMP credential focuses on the skills necessary for convention, meeting and exhibition event planners.

Those who work with governments must learn about budgeting, goal-setting, and branding requirements that are unique to working on a public project. If this is your focus, you may prefer the Certified Government Meeting Professional (CGMP) designation, which includes an education and exam process.

It all adds up

Your education and experiences will prepare you to manage many occasions, but eventually, you’ll specialize in a role that best fits your strengths and preferences. Use every experience to gain a strong, dependable network of professionals who will help you meet your goals.