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Professional Development
4 May 2023 

Top 12 Event Planning Certifications You Need To Propel Your Career

Bizzabo Blog Staff
Bizzabo Blog Staff
Top 12 Event Planning Certifications You Need To Propel Your Career

Ever wonder how the alphabet soup of CMP, CSEP, CPCE, and CGMP can prepare you for a successful career in event planning? Curious whether event planner courses and event planning certifications are worth it? Not sure how to become an event planner?

This is the article for you! Read on to learn about the most popular event planning courses, event management courses, event planning certifications, and more to turn your passion for gatherings into a lifetime career you’ll love.

Want even more event planning certificates and certifications? Read “The Best Virtual and Hybrid Event Planning Certificates and Certifications.

1. CMP: Certified Meetings Professional

certified meeting professional

What Is CMP Certification? 

According to CIC (Convention Industry Council), the main goal of the CMP program is to standardize best practices, establish credibility to the profession, and boost the performance of event planners. The CMP exam is developed by planners from around the world, and the event certification itself is held by professionals from 55 countries. With more than 14,000 meeting professionals having received CMP Certification, the CMP program has led the way in standardizing event industry best practices throughout the globe.

How To Become CMP Certified

The exam covers various event industry topics, from strategic planning to site management, to event design and marketing. CIC recommends that those interested first consult the CMP International Standards document and then focus on studying the areas that planners are least familiar with. For those interested, CIC offers a Healthcare specific CMP certification, which is designed to educate planners in the healthcare industry.

2. CSEP: Certified Special Events Professional

CSEP Event Planning Certification logo

What Is CSEP Certification? 

This particular event management course and license, endorsed by ILEA (International Live Events Association), is meant to improve industry performance by providing professionals with the opportunity to develop professionally and gain expertise in the events industry. The CSEP program is also meant to respond to the growing complexity of maintaining a standard of practice among events professionals in a constantly changing industry.

There are a variety of benefits that come with CSEP Certification. For example, this event certification is globally recognized, so planners will be connected to a global community of other professionals in the industry.

How To Become CSEP Certified

To be eligible for the CSEP program, offered four times a year, event planners must have at least three years of full-time professional employment in the special events industry. To keep up to date with industry best practices, those with CSEP certification must re-certify every five years. For details on the structure of the exam and testing periods — and to learn more about the online event planning classes — check out the ILEA website.

3. CPCE: Certified Professional in Catering and Events

What Is CPCE Certification? 

Organized by NACE, the National Association for Catering and Events, the CPCE Certification is a nationally recognized event planner course meant to provide organizers with the opportunity to be recognized as an expert in the catering, hospitality, and events industry.

How To Become CPCE Certified

The exam structure is comprehensive and consists of 175 multiple-choice questions, covering domains ranging from accounting to beverage management and marketing to human resources. Planners can be sure that by preparing and succeeding in this exam, they will have a strong grasp of a wide range of industry knowledge.

4. CGMP: Certified Government Meeting Professional

CGMP Event Planner Certification logo

What Is CGMP Certification? 

Becoming a certified event manager is not only relevant for the private sector but the public sector as well. The CGMP program is the highest designation geared toward government planners and suppliers. The certification is meant to provide planners with a strong understanding of the rules and regulations surrounding government meetings, and to “increase the exposure/importance of the government market” within the events industry.

The CGMP Certification is excellent for government meeting professionals because it not only provides planners with expert knowledge on the details of rules and regulations but has the highest level of certification for this specific industry. It also better positions certification holders for growth within their company.

How To Become CGMP Certified

The program comprises a 100 multiple-choice-question exam and a three-day course consisting of instruction within various areas, specifically ethics, Federal budget and appropriations, Federal travel regulations, and contracting.

5. GTP: Global Travel Professional

What Is GTP Certification? 

According to the Global Business Travel Association, the GTP Certification is meant to raise the standards of the business travel management industry. GBTA also claims that not only do industry professionals benefit from the CGB program by facilitating professional growth, the program also benefits the business travel industry itself by helping employers choose personnel who are knowledgeable.

Obtaining GTP Certification can go a long way in developing one’s professional image and career. As hundreds of leading professionals in the business travel industry have earned the GTP Certification, participating in this program will give organizers credentials that match these leaders.

How To Become GTP Certified

GTP Certification requires applicants to complete a comprehensive exam that covers domains from strategic business planning, buyer/supplier relations to data, analytics, and finance. The GTP program also offers a variety of ways to help applicants succeed through the program, from study guides and resource lists to online prep courses.

6. DES: Digital Event Strategist

DES Event Planner Certification logo

What Is DES Certification? 

The DES certification is a direct result of the growing importance and integration of digital technology within the events industry and is meant to respond to the growth of events powered by virtual event software. DES Certification provides effective instruction in strategies to maximize digital engagement practices, from the planning stage to measuring results.

The main goal of the DES event planning certification is to improve the skills event organizers need to excel in the digital events industry. The benefits of certification range from career development through obtaining professionally recognizable skills and qualifications to recognition from peers that you are engaged in the future of the events industry.

How To Become DES Certified

DES event certification consists of three processes: demonstrating previous professional experience in the industry, the DES Online Learning Program, and the exam. The curriculum and exam cover user experience, content development, product launches, audience acquisition, and monetization techniques. The exam is based on this curriculum, as detailed on the DES Certification page. Upon completing this process, event managers officially hold the title of being DES-certified event managers. 

7. CMM: Certification in Meeting Management

CMM Event Planner Certification logo

What Is CMM Certification? 

The CMM Certification is an excellent training program that focuses on instructing participants on business management skills. The CMM program qualifies participants in topics related to business management and has also developed a “global standard of excellence” in this industry.

The major objectives of the program are to instruct future leaders on ways to develop and analyze business data, explore the skills necessary to succeed in managing teams, and gain exposure to finance, risk analysis, and other components of managing a business. The CMM program is particularly important for the events industry, as event organizers must understand and utilize data, learn to mitigate risks, and develop management and leadership skills for events to succeed.

How To Become CMM Certified

This event management course and license program offers a customized training and study program. It is led by University of Virginia professors who cover important business management topics like strategic negotiations, business analytics, and risk mitigation. In addition to this training, the program includes a case study project that conjoins what you’ve learned to your role in the industry.

8. CEM: Certified in Exhibition Management

CEM Event Planner Certification logo

What is CEM certification? 

This event certification, provided by the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE), is meant to signify the highest professional standard throughout the exhibition and event management industry.  The certification program spans a variety of topics within the event industry, such as:

  • Conference & Meeting Management Principles
  • Consumer Show Management
  • Event Marketing
  • Event Operations
  • Exhibition and Event Sales Fundamentals

The CEM program strives to provide holistic education to event professionals to set them up for success within their respective areas of expertise.

How To Become CEM Certified 

Candidates must choose nine out of the 12 courses offered and pass an exam after completing each course. Candidates are given three years to complete all nine courses and exams. Through an extensive process, the CEM program provides a thorough and detailed education of the event industry, and graduates of the program not only benefit from the newfound knowledge but the valuable network of fellow CEM professionals.

9. CTSM: Certified Trade Show Marketer

CTSM Event Planner Certification logo

What Is CTSM Certification? 

Created by Exhibitor Magazine, the CTSM program is designed for event professionals looking to elevate their mastery of trade shows and corporate event marketing. Becoming a certified event manager within the trade show industry will open doors to further propel one’s event management career. 

How To Become CTSM Certified 

To obtain this event management license, candidates must complete a 28-session core curriculum encompassing a wide range of topics, including Global Exhibit Marketing, Measurement & Analytics, and Management & Leadership. Upon completing the course, candidates will take a final exam that requires a minimum score of 75%. After passing the exam, candidates are expected to build a portfolio of real-life trade show projects they were responsible for. These are the three steps that are necessary to become a Certified Trade Show Marketer.

10. CEPS: Certified Event Planning Specialist

Certified Event Planning Specialist CEPS

What Is CEPS Certification? 

This certification is provided by the National Career Certification Board, which specializes in entry-level certification for the career training industry. Receiving the CEPS certification is not as extensive as the other certifications on this list. However, it still provides proof of expertise that can be helpful when starting out in the events industry.

How To Become CEPS Certified

There is no work experience or course requirement for this certification. The only requirement is to pass a 30-question exam after taking a few practice exams. The certification and exam cost $175 to complete. Again, this certification is meant for entry-level event professionals and can open up more career opportunities upon receiving it.

11. CQEP: Certified Quality Event Planner

What Is CQEP Certification? 

Becoming a Certified Quality Event Planner signifies expertise across a wide range of event industry best practices. Organized by the Management and Strategy Institute, the CQEP is a good entry-level certification that introduces fundamental topics to those who are new to the event space. Some of these topics include:

  • Risk analysis
  • Planning and budgeting
  • Defining objectives
  • Storyboarding

How To Become CQEP Certified

The CQEP certification requires candidates to pass the online exam after completing an online training course. Upon completing the training course and passing the exam, graduates will receive 30 Professional Competency Units from the Management Strategy Institute and an official MSI Certification in the mail. 

12. American Marketing Association PCM: Professional Certified Marketer

PCM Markting Certification logo

This may go without saying, but being a successful event professional requires a deep and expansive knowledge of marketing strategies. Some event organizers may not even realize how much marketing knowledge they possess until they’ve been in the industry a few years. Being an expert marketer is very much in line with being a skilled event marketer, so it only makes sense to seek marketing certifications on top of event planning classes.

What Is PCM Certification? 

The American Marketing Association is known for its highly respected Professional Certified Marketing program encompassing various tracks. The program offers three different certifications.

  1. Digital Marketing: This certification signifies expertise in various digital marketing topics such as email marketing, SEO, metrics, conversions, and more. Being a PCM in digital marketing will help expand one’s knowledge of digital event promotion strategies.
  2. Content Marketing: An event itself is a form of content for attendees to consume, so it only makes sense for event professionals to have a firm grasp on content marketing. Receiving this certification will result in a deeper understanding of key topics such as multi-channel content creation, using content for lead generation, and content marketing ROI.
  3. Marketing Management: This may be the most relevant certification for event professionals as it encompasses an overview of various marketing ideas such as value creation, marketing evaluation, communication, and understanding the marketplace. Earning a PCM certification in Marketing Management provides a solid foundation of marketing skills for event organizers

How To Become PCM Certified

The certification process for each track is the same. Candidates take must study for and take an online exam that will grant the certification upon passing. Each of these exams covers the respective area of expertise. Depending on what one wants to improve upon regarding their skill set, these certifications provide a solid marketing foundation to elevate one’s event organizing capabilities.

Bonus VEMM: Virtual Event & Meeting Management

Virtual Event & Meeting Management

Today’s event and meeting management professionals must have the skills necessary to plan and execute live and virtual events. Issued by the Event Leadership Institute (ELI) in partnership with MPI, this six-week course and certificate are for current event management professionals who would like to broaden their knowledge of event planning in the virtual space.

Top 8 Websites With Event Planning Courses

If you’re not quite ready to pursue a certification or certificate in event planning or management, you can start your journey in the events industry by taking event planning courses. The following sites offer a variety of event planning courses, from beginner to advanced. They also offer a variety of formats, such as video, audio, and text. You can choose the website and format that best suits your needs and learning style.

  1. Skillshare
  2. Alison
  3. Coursera
  4. EdX
  5. Event Academy
  6. ClassCentral
  7. Udemy
  8. LinkedIn Learning

How To Become an Event Planner

Event planning is a dynamic and rewarding career that can lead to a variety of opportunities. If you’re interested in how to become an event planner, there are a few things you can do to get started.

  1. Get a degree or certification. While not required, a degree or certification in event planning can give you a competitive edge when applying for jobs. Many different programs are available, so you can find one that fits your interests and budget.
  2. Gain experience. The best way to learn event planning is by doing it. Get involved in as many events as possible, whether volunteering, interning, or working part-time. The more experience you have, the more marketable you’ll be to potential employers.
  3. Network. The event planning industry is all about who you know. Get involved in industry organizations, attend networking events, and connect with other event planners. The more people you know, the more likely you will hear about job opportunities.
  4. Build a portfolio. As you gain experience, start building a portfolio of your work. This will show potential employers your skills and abilities. Be sure to include photos, videos, and testimonials from past clients.
  5. Be organized and detail-oriented. Event planning is a detail-oriented job. You need to be able to juggle multiple tasks simultaneously and stay on top of deadlines. You also need to be able to think on your feet and handle unexpected challenges.
  6. Be creative and have a vision. Event planners need to be creative and have a vision for their events. They need to develop unique ideas and concepts that will wow their guests.
  7. Be a good communicator. Event planners need to be excellent communicators. They need to communicate effectively with clients, vendors, and staff. They also need to be able to speak in public and present their ideas clearly and concisely.
  8. Stay passionate about events. Event planning is a demanding job, but it can also be very rewarding. If you’re passionate about events and have the skills and qualities listed above, then a career in event planning may be right for you.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Event Planning Training FAQ

Q: What is event planner courses should I start with?

There are many different event planning training courses available for event planners, so it’s essential to choose one that fits your interests and budget. Some popular options include:

  • Event Planning Certificate Programs: These programs typically take one to two years to complete and cover topics such as budgeting, logistics, marketing, and event design.
  • Event Management Degrees: These degrees typically take four years to complete and offer a more comprehensive education in event planning.
  • Online Event Planning Courses: These courses can be an excellent option for busy professionals who want to learn event planning independently.

Q: What qualifications do you need to be an event planner in the USA?

There are no specific educational requirements to become an event planner in the USA. However, many employers prefer to hire candidates with lots of event planning training, including a degree or certification in event planning. Some other qualifications that may be helpful for event planners include:

  • Strong organizational and time management skills
  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills
  • Creativity and problem-solving skills
  • The ability to work independently and as part of a team
  • A passion for events

Q:What are the different types of events do event planners plan?

Event planners can plan a wide variety of events, including:

  • Corporate events: conferences, trade shows, and product launches
  • Social events: weddings, birthday parties, and graduations
  • Fundraising events: galas, auctions, and concerts
  • Charity events: walks, runs, and other fundraising activities
  • Government events: town hall meetings, ribbon cuttings, and other public events

Q: What are the challenges of being an event planner?

Event planning can be a challenging but rewarding career. Some of the challenges that event planners face include:

  • Dealing with unexpected challenges: Things don’t always go according to plan, so event planners need to be able to think on their feet and handle unexpected challenges.
  • Managing multiple tasks: Event planners often have to juggle multiple tasks simultaneously, such as budgeting, marketing, and logistics.
  • Working long hours: Event planning can be a demanding job, and event planners often have to work long hours, especially in the days leading up to an event.
  • Dealing with difficult clients: Not all clients are easy to work with, and event planners need to be able to deal with challenging clients professionally.

Q: What are the rewards of being an event planner?

Despite the challenges, event planning can be a very rewarding career. Some of the rewards of being an event planner include:

  • Seeing the fruits of your labor: Event planners get to see the fruits of their labor when their events are successful.
  • Meeting new people: Event planners meet people from all walks of life.
  • Traveling: Event planners often have the opportunity to travel for work.
  • Making a difference: Event planners can make a difference in the lives of others by planning events that raise money for charity or bring people together.

Putting Event Planning Courses and Certifications Into Practice

Once an event planner has obtained an event planning certification,  it’s essential to leverage it to advance one’s career. In our article on LinkedIn Profile tips for planners, we discuss how displaying an event planning certification or certifications in the header of your LinkedIn profile is a great way to immediately attract attention from potential clients or employers. Here are some other places to place your certification upon receiving it:

  • Business card
  • Resume/CV
  • Personal website
  • Email signature

Certified event managers who have received one or multiple certifications should also stay up-to-date with the organizations responsible for granting them. Organizations like ISES maintain active local chapters where event planners can come together to network and share best practices.

Certification is the first step to becoming a better event organizer. Once a planner has obtained certification, it’s time to use the new credential to full effectiveness to grow professionally.

Editor’s note: This blog was published in March 2016 and has been updated for relevance.

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