If you’re certain you want to go into event planning—and don’t already have an Event Planning Degree or and Event Coordinator Degree—what’s the best educational background to possess?

Event planning is a highly dynamic field, with the demands and knowledge requirements that vary wildly depending on what specific event industry you’re in.

Unfortunately, because of that, it can often be difficult to determine the best path to take so you can break into event planning.

On the surface, the answer seems rather simple: many colleges offer event planning degrees and/or event coordinator degrees (they’re basically the same thing), so why not end up at one of those schools? Unfortunately, costs, nearby schools offering the program, or a whole host of other reasons, may complicate your plans or limit your options.

Another option if you don’t want to go for a full event planning degree (which is usually a 2 year bachelor program), is to go for an event planning certificate.  An event planning certificate will take much less time, and wont go in nearly the same detail that a degree would, but it will help with landing clients.

A third option, though with much less success of being impactful, is an online event planning course.  With online event planning courses, you’ll usually get only primers, and not in-depth knowledge about all the various aspects. They’re great if you just need a refresher, or want a basic understanding of the event planning industry—however, if you’re wanting to make a career out of being an event planner, then one of the other two options above are likely to be more impactful for you.

You may also like: Why Scheduling Should Come Second Nature to Event Managers

So, which degrees can actually help you, without getting an event planning degree?

If event planning is something you’re interested in, but you’re not sure you want to seek out an actual event planning degree, what’s some other choices that might offer you some flexibility? That’s what we’re discussing below.

All of the degree programs below offer knowledge and you build skill-sets integral to event planning. And if you get one of these, and realize that you do want to be in event planning, you can always go for the certificate—or depending on the school, you might be able to have credits count towards a dual degree.

1. Hospitality

First on our list is hospitality. The opportunities for an event planner in this field are near limitless, and it brings with it the added benefit of opening up a number of jobs in hotel and restaurant management.

Experience in the hospitality industry complement an event planning job quite well, and provide a great fallback if you decide event planning isn’t for you. Plus, while you’re picking up a degree in hospitality, or working in the industry at first, both will help you learn a great deal about caring for your attendees.

We have more thoughts on how the Event Planning and the Hospitality Industries Intersect, if you’re interested in diving in deeper.

2. Marketing

Next up is marketing. Taking this major will give you a good understanding in promotions, and help you develop a business sense for when you decide to open up your own event planning business. On top of that, a background in marketing will help you better understand what’s involved in promoting your event, while better equipping you to keep guests engaged.

3. Public Relations

Although public relations and marketing are very similar fields, they’re distinct enough that I’ve included them here as separate entries. Marketing is the act of selling a product; Public Relations (PR) is the process of improving a brand’s reputation.

Branding is important not only for events, but also businesses in general.

It’s not terribly surprising that, with the popularity of social media, public relations is a growing industry. This means that even if your job as an event planner doesn’t pan out, you’ve still got a great career lined up—one with a number of near-limitless opportunities.

4. Communications

Next up on our list is communications—which might seem like an odd choice, given the clear business-oriented angle of the other entries here. It’s not all that strange when you stop to consider what a degree in communications involves, though.

An understanding of media and popular culture can be integral in working out how guests are going to engage with your event. While the oratorical side of this degree can help you plan out some downright ground-breaking presentations.

And of course, communications is all about people.

5. Business Administration

Running an event can be a logistical nightmare—which is precisely why a degree in business administration is so valuable for a budding event planner.

Learning business administration will teach you how to better manage a team, while equipping you with the necessary skills to handle the logistical challenges of event planning. And again, it’s a solid degree program as far as job security is concerned—even if your event planning career falls through, you’ll have little difficulty landing yourself a job elsewhere.

These are great options, so do you even need an event planning degree?

With any of these five university majors, you’ve a very good chance of breaking into the event planning field. And if you’d rather just go for an event planning degree from the start, there’s a number of online resources that can point you in the right direction.

Here’s a few colleges with event planning majors:

And there’s a ton degrees for event planning here

TLDR: here’s how to become an event planner

  • If you’re not sure if you’ll want to stick with event planning, but you’re very interested in it, then you might do well getting a degree in one of the above listed adjacent careers (Hospitality, Marketing, Public Relations, Communications, or Business Administration).
  • If you’re certain this is a field that you want to be in long term, then attending one of the colleges above that have programs specifically for event planners would be a great choice. This is a multi-year commitment though, and so this may not be for everyone.
  • The final option if you you’re leaning towards the event planning field, but want to test the waters and learn more about the industry and how it works would be to consider enrolling in an online program.

    There’s several short term courses (think weeks instead of years) available on:

    • Skillshare* (until October 21st, get 40% off by using code FLASH40), or
    • Udemy* (courses are up to 85% off through this link)

* Full disclosure: these are affiliate links, but they’ll actually save you money on the courses.

So, whether you decide to get a real-deal event planning degree, an event planning certificate, or pursue one of the fields listed in this article, the real test isn’t what you get taught from a program, but from learning from actually doing.  And when you get ready to actually do, we have some articles to help you get started with creating your own event management firm, too.