The Truth About Certification in the Event Planning Industry

What Event Management Certification Should I Get?

One of the biggest misconceptions in the world of event planning is the concept of event management certification.  

If you're like most people, once you decided that you wanted to become an event planner, you started to research what type of event planning training you need in order to be successful.  After all, it is vitally important that you learn as much as you can about event planning if you want to make this your career.  

But as soon as you hit the internet and started researching, you get bombarded with websites offering "event management certification."  These websites convince you that you need "certification" in order to land a job or start an event planning business.  They tell you that you need to take their program in order to "become a certified planner."  And this makes sense to you; because, after all, certification is often a way to learn what you need to learn and then take a test to prove you understand the material.   

So, naturally, you start comparing all of the certifications; until soon you are completely confused, overwhelmed, and ready to give up.  You want to make the right decision and get the right certification that will make the most sense for your career goals, but which one is the best?  And, because of this confusion, you start to question whether any of these online courses are legit at all.  

So first of all, if you're confused, don't worry; it's not your fault.  There is a lot of misleading information, but I am going to clear it up for you!  

There are three reasons why it's easy to get confused.:

  • First of all, in event planning, the term "certification" means something different than what a lot of people think it means.  
  • Secondly, there is a very important distinction between the words "certification" and "certificate."  
  • Thirdly,  it's imperative that you are clear on what your expectations are.  

Let's look at these reasons a little more closely.  

The Term "Certification" Means Something Different Than You Think

Probably the biggest source of confusion is that many beginners misunderstand what "certification" means.  In many industries, as a beginner you can take a course that teaches you about a specific topic that you'd like to learn more about, and then upon passing a test you "become certified."  For example, if you decided you wanted to become a health coach, there are a number of programs that offer certifications in nutrition; and by the end of the course you will "become certified."  

I think that many people assume that this applies to event planning too.  Many people (mistakenly) believe that in order to become an event planner, you merely need to take a certification course, get certified, and you can start your career with a nice little title after your name.  

Unfortunately, in the event planning industry, it's not that easy.  Event planning is one industry where the true definition of "certification" applies.  

The true definition of certification is an accredited designation that you have 
proved yourself to be an expert in event planning; and that you have the experience to back you up.  

In other words, event planning certification is reserved for people who are considered experts in the field; who not only have take a test but also have experience.  . Therefore, the very concept of  event planning certification for people just starting out in the industry is contradictory; because you can't get certified as an expert  in something you've never done before.  

Event management certification is not a course to help beginners learn event planning; but is a designation that indicates you're extremely experienced and could be considered an expert.

Therefore there is no such thing as a legitimate "certification" for beginners, because you can't be considered an expert in something you've never done before.

Therefore, there are three recognized event management certification programs, including the CMP, the CMM, and the CSEP (for more info on these, keep reading below).  However, you can't even begin to apply to take these tests unless you have at least 3-7 years of experience (depending on the certification); and some of them require that you're currently employed as a planner at the time you take the test.

Naturally, there are plenty of companies out there that offer event planning "certifications."  However, anyone can create their own "certification" and many companies did exactly that; then prey upon unsuspecting beginners like you, just to make a sale.  It's important to understand that these certifications don't mean tanything to anyone in the industry; again the only certifications that matter are the CMP, the CMM, and the CSEP (but again, you can't take those tests for many more years).  You can read more about this concept below under the "Expectations" section.  

So your best plan of action is to forget "getting certified" for now; take a course for what it can teach you (not for the fake "certification"), and get out there and start planning events!  

It's Important to Understand the Difference
Between The Term "Certification" and "Certificate"

So, now that you understand why you shouldn't fall for a "certification" program, it's time to clarify something. While there aren't any true "certification" programs on other than the three designations for experts, it's still imperative that you learn about event planning.  In these competitive times, you simply can not become an event planner without first learning the basics; and the best way to do that is by taking an online course.

As I mentioned earlier, nothing matters in the event planning industry more than your knowledge and experience.  Therefore, your best course of action is this: learn as much as you can as efficiently, thoroughly, and as quickly as you can; and get out there and start planning events!  

Your Recipe for Success

Learn as must about event planning as you possibly can; 
as quickly, as thoroughly, and efficiently as possible.

Then, get out there and start planning events!  

Many people think that there just isn't that much to learn about event planning. After all, if you want to start small, you can just "fake it til you make it," right?  After all, how hard can it be to pick out some food and decor?

The problem is that this kind of thinking will be fatal to your career.  Even party planners need to understand contracts, how to chose a venue, how to work with attrition and EOs and guarantees and budgets and billing and insurance (and if any of this sounds foreign to you, then that's a good indication you could use some training).  And if you ever hope to plan larger events, it's vital that you lay the foundation down now and truly understand event planning before you begin.  

But you can't take a certification program as a beginner, so what are you supposed to do?

A perfectly legitimate compromise is to find a course that teaches event planning and offers a Certificate of Completion.  A certificate (not "certification") is a document that proves you've taken a course for the knowledge and for the purpose of learning about event planning; and that you've passed that particular program's requirements for showing that you understand the material.  There is no industry-wide requirements for certificate programs; anyone can create their own standards and requirements for passing.  

However, what this does is show your potential future employers or clients is that you took the initiative to learn the basics of planning.  It shows that you take the future of your career seriously enough to enroll in a course and learn about planning events.   It shows future clients that you took a program and passed their particular test or requirements and received their certificate.  This is a great thing to have on your resume or on your website portfolio if you want to open your own business to show your clients;. 

A Certificate of Completion certifies that you took a course and passed the test,
which is great to put on your resume or on your portfolio.

Therefore, nothing is wrong with finding a course that offers a Certificate of Completion, as long as it is aligned with what you want to do with your career.  

It's Important to Be Clear on What Your Expectations Are

And the final point in understanding event management certification is to be clear on what you hope to get out of your "certification" or certificate program.  

So  many beginners get so focused on getting a certification because they are convinced that with this designation on their resume or portfolio, they will be guaranteed a job (if they are looking to work for a company) or that the clients will just come flooding in if they are starting an event planning business.  They get so intent on doing whatever it takes to win over the future potential employer or the future potential client that they forget one very important thing:

The most important thing is to truly learn about event planning;
therefore you need to take a course not for the credentials

but for what it can teach you about your future career.

While event planning is not difficult to learn, you do have to learn the basics before starting your career; and taking a certificate course is the quickest, most affordable, and efficient way to do that.  

Therefore, since you are choosing a program for the knowledge that it provides and not for the sole purpose of saying you're "certified," it's important to choose a program based upon your goals for your career.

The only important thing is to ensure that you are taking the right certificate course for you.  If you want to be an event planner but you find a course that teaches "Weddings and events," then automatically you know that half your time and money is being wasted.  Also make sure that you are clear on what format the course is taught in; many courses appear to be online instruction but are nothing more than a few PDFs.  Do your research and find a course that works for you.  Then, when the time is right, you will be ready to take one of the industry-accepted certification programs.  

The Three Main Legitimate Event Management Certifications

As we've discussed, in the event planning industry there are three main legitimate certifications that you can pursue after you have a few years of experience

The main exceptions in the event planning industry are the following three certifications.  These are the main certifications that are recognized by everyone in the industry; however since they are true "certification" designations, they require that you first must have at least 3-7 years of experience in event planning before event attempting to take the test. Therefore, you can't take these event planning certification tests as a beginner; but they are excellent goals to strive for in a few years!  

  •    Certified Meeting Professional (CMP):  The CMP is the most recognized certification n the meeting and event planning industry; and is the only certification that is widely recognized and reputable.  Candidates must have three years of event planning experience and currently have a full-time job in the industry in order to apply.
  •   Certificate in Meeting Management (CMM): The CMM is an MBA-level executive education program for meeting professional with more than seven years of experience, including a minimum of three years in management positions. 
  •   Certified Special Events Professional: The CSEP is the only other openly recognized certification in the event planning industry; and focuses more on special events than meeting planning.  Just like with the CMP, candidates are required to have had three years of experience in the industry and must be currently employed or have been employed in the special events industry in the last twelve months.  

Other Legitimate Certifications
There are a few other certifications that apply to specific industries within event planning; such as catering, hotel management, etc.  However, the CMP, the CMM, and the CSEP are the three main, accepted certifications for event planners.  Any other certifications are just pieces of paper from different organizations that may or may not mean anything to your potential future employers or clients

Event Planning Certificate Courses

Eventful Ventures offers two main event management courses that will help you begin your career more quickly and with more knowledge and expertise than just about any other course out there.  If you truly want to sound like a professional and plan your first events with the confidence of a seasoned expert, then you must invest in yourself and lay the foundation of your career.  

I never had any intention of creating online event planning courses; but when I started researching the available courses out there, I got angry.  If you read the course outlines carefully, you will find that the majority of the courses available teach you things like "how to fill out invitations" and "how to buy your own decor;" there's even one course that teaches you "how to shake hands."  Seriously?? I think you're more intelligent than that, and you deserve to learn legitimate information that is truly going to help your career.

Therefore I purposely designed my courses with your end goal of getting CMP,, CMM, or CSEP certified in mind.  I can guarantee you that the questions on the CMP exam don't ask you how to fill out invitations.  They want to know how well you understand things like attrition, and guarantees, and concessions, and contracts and licenses.   My courses teach you everything you need to know in order to become an event planner; including BEOs, RFPs, budgeting, AV, attrition, guarantees, setting up event space, etc.  This is all information you must know in order to succeed, and is information that the CMP, CMM, and CSEP will quiz you on when you get to that point.

So if you are serious about becoming a professional planner and want to sound and plan like a pro, then you owe it to yourself (and your future career) to start off on the right foot.  

My two courses are designed to give you as much information as efficiently and quickly as possible.  Click on either one to read more.

Event Planning Essentials
This is my "main course"  and teaches you, step by step, how to plan any event from the concept through to on-site execution. You could literally have this course guide you through your first event. It includes dozens of downloadable documents, such as sample contracts, event planning checklists, and budget grids.  

Complete Event Planner Toolkit
This is not a separate course but instead is a bundle of every one of my event planning courses that I offer (including Event Planning Essentials), packaged together at a discount rate. This is designed for the person who is ready to stop wishing and start living their dream of becoming an event planner!  

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