How to Become a Certified Event Planner: Step-by-Step Guide

June 24, 2024 Mario Stewart

For many event planners, it's a career that began with a passion and a love for organizing something exciting. However, having the enthusiasm to see an event through from start to finish is only one piece of the puzzle if you want to advance your career.

Event planning is like many roles that rely on organizational skills - there are frameworks and best practice models that will help you excel. There are also certifications you can secure.

In this guide, we'll explain how to become a certified event planner.

Why You Need Certification

Being an event planner requires professionalism and organizational skills. Certification shows the world that you have those qualities.

It also distinguishes you from other planners, highlighting your expertise in a trusted, objective way. That's useful when you are pitching your services to potential clients.

Certification could also give you access to more significant or prestigious projects. These often specify relevant qualifications when they hire event planners.

Most importantly, certification is your chance to learn a framework you can apply to every event project. So you can work to best practice from day one and make a name for yourself in the industry. That's going to help your event planning career flourish.

Types of Event Planning Certification

To become a qualified events planner in the US, you have several certification options and certified event planning courses. Here are some you should know about.


CMP, or Certified Meeting Professional, is a certification granted by the EIC (Events Industry Council). It is a specialist qualification in meeting management.

It recognizes professionals for excellence in event environments, including meetings, exhibitions, and conferences. To get this certification, you'll need proven industry experience and to complete some learning hours on the subject.


CSEP certification, which qualifies you as a Certified Special Events Professional, is an international qualification. The International Live Events Association oversees it.

The CSEP is for those who want to specialize in the more creative side of event planning. For example, you might specialize in designing weddings or corporate conferences. This certification will help you create events using a rigorous and repeatable framework.

The certification also comes with an exam. This is where you can demonstrate your knowledge and readiness for any demanding events project.


The SGMP (Society of Government Meeting Professionals) offers the CGPM certification. It's also known as the Certified Government Meeting Professional.

As the name suggests, this qualification is aimed at those working in the government sector. It includes a final exam. Its framework helps guide students through the more complex side of government events. For example, you may need to navigate specific regulations or security.


CPCE is for those who want to focus on the catering side of event planning. It stands for Certified Professional in Catering and Events.

It covers event management, people management, catering services, finances, and beverages. To achieve this certification, you must have experience in the industry. And in the training, you'll face a final exam.

However, the advanced knowledge gained can place you as an expert in the field of event catering.

Online Certification Programs

Various online platforms sell a framework for event management. These are less recognized in the industry, but they are helpful.

They are a good starting point if you want to learn about every aspect of event management. And the certification provided can be a good launchpad for your career.

Educational Criteria for Securing a Certification

All certifications differ, so there is no set rule about what qualification you need beforehand. However, some certifications do have criteria you'll need to fulfill. Check these before booking yourself onto a certification course.

Some will ask for a relevant degree. If you don't hold a degree in events management or hospitality, you may need a sustainable number of years in the industry instead.

Before an event planning course, you may also benefit from other qualifications. That might include training in practical specialist skills like project management and communication.

Gaining Relevant Experience

It's essential to have some industry experience before securing a certification. However, this might feel like a catch-22 if you want to use certification to enter an event planning career.

Nevertheless, it is possible. Focus on entry-level jobs, internships, or volunteering opportunities.

Even a day helping at a small event can give you practical experience. That will be invaluable when starting a certification program.

Look locally for charity fundraisers or small corporate conferences.

You may even find some festivals where you can approach the organizers to offer your services. That will also help you gain some valuable industry contacts, which may be helpful later in your career.

Studying for the Certification

When you've selected a certification, you'll need to set aside some study time.

First, you need to know how much time you can commit. Review the scope of the course, buy the study material provided by the certification body, and make a list of topics.

For each topic, allow sufficient study time and revisit and revise that subject. Take the time to find some supporting books and online guides - they can often be valuable alongside the mandatory texts.

Be consistent with your study schedule.

It's always best to have some study time each day rather than leave it for a week and try to absorb too much information in one go. An online study group or forum can also be valuable to those who prefer to revise with others.

Exam Registration

Check the administration side of a certification. Specifically, most will need you to register yourself before the exam. So always allow plenty of time to check the exam date, registration deadline, and fee.

You will also need to note the time and location and work backward from that with your study schedule.

When you arrive at the venue, many exams require formal identification, so ensure you have something to hand. Check the travel route for the exam venue and allow extra time to get there.

What To Expect on Exam Day

Arrive early to your exam to give yourself time to settle in and mentally prepare yourself.

Have your identification ready. Ensure you know the exam rules, such as the times and whether there will be any breaks between papers. Check the format, too.

Some may have open-ended questions, others longer written answers, and some multiple choice. You could also have exam formats offered online. It's important to know this ahead of time to tailor your revision.

Finally, remember that the key to excellent exam performance is timing. Watch the clock and allow yourself enough time to answer all the questions.

After the Exam

Check the dates for receiving your exam rules. Ensure you have your address so the organizers can send you your certification.

When you are certified, update your resume, LinkedIn profile, and any other online place where you advertise your event planning services.

If you have a website, you may be able to add a formal badge showing your certification. Check the exam body to see whether they have a badge icon.

Remember that this new professional qualification should open doors for you. So, it's a good time to put that to the test and apply for some more challenging events than you worked on in the past.

Maintaining Your Qualification

Remember that certification is only one step in your long-term career as an events planner. It's crucial to maintain and build on your knowledge, which might mean renewing your certification from time to time.

Check the exam body for details on when the certification will expire and how to renew it, and keep notes in your calendar. Depending on the qualification, that renewal could require taking a refresher exam.

You might also want to consider some additional certifications to help bolster your resume. If you want to specialize, it's worth considering courses in specific areas of event management, such as sound and music.

Certifications and Career Advancement

Don't allow your hard work securing a certification to go to waste. Use it to advance your career faster and into more exciting events. Make sure you get your profile listed in any directories for that certification.

Often, a company looking for an event planner will use these directories to find qualified people. Start networking, too. Have a business card ready with your certification listed and hand it out at conferences.

Don't forget that certifications are only one aspect of advancing your career.

Getting mentors, applying for jobs, and getting internal career promotions will also help. So, continue to look at ways you can make a career move, such as taking on a more challenging event or shadowing someone more experienced.

How to Become a Certified Event Planner

Certification is a smart route whether you are at the start of your career or looking to advance. Use this guide on how to become a certified event planner to help you get started. And let your career soar to new heights.

Networking is crucial to your career path, too. Attend this year's Event Planner Expo for countless opportunities to connect with some of the best in the events industry. Get your tickets today!

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