Event planners have a variety of educational backgrounds, and many enter the profession after gaining experience working in other occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For example, some administrative assistants become event planners after gaining experience planning company meetings and other events for their bosses. Some organizations offer event-planner certifications, and college courses on meeting and convention planning are available, but the BLS indicates that most skills needed for the profession are developed through job experience.
Previous job experience at hotels and other businesses in the hospitality industry may be your best teacher if you want to run an event-planning business. A certification isn't required to run such a business. Nonetheless, training in writing and negotiating contracts can be particularly important because a planner can lose a significant amount of money due to a poorly written contract.
Some event planners enter the field after working in hotel sales or as coordinators for hotel marketing and catering departments, according to BLS data. Hotel salespeople and coordinators often work with meeting planners to schedule events and plan guest accommodations. They also participate in negotiating with vendors to purchase products and services for meetings and conventions held at their hotel. Event planners who want to run their own businesses will need similar sales and negotiation skills to handle their clients’ events.
College courses on event planning may be useful if you're unfamiliar with contract negotiations. Event planners enter into contract agreements with suppliers, convention centers and other facilities, and the BLS indicates that contracts for events could be drawn up as much as a year in advance. Therefore, contracts should include clauses addressing cancellation fees to protect the planner from losing money on advance preparations if a client cancels an event. Planners also need to understand how to negotiate discounts to offer their clients competitive pricing, while earning a profit for themselves.
The International Special Events Society offers a Certified Special Events Professional designation, but planners must have at least three years of full-time professional employment in the industry to be eligible for the certification. Qualified candidates must pass an exam that lasts about 4 1/2 hours to earn the certification. Colleges in your area may offer event-planning certificate programs, such as the one available at San Diego State University. The SDSU program includes courses in event marketing and promotion, event site selection and contract negotiations.