Although event planning is not among the professions that require a license, earning one or more recognized certifications is still important for event professionals.
Among the many reasons for pursuing certifications such as the Certified Meetings Professional (CMP) designation (possibly the most widely recognized in the industry) are:
- As an independent planner, it enhances your personal brand and value by providing assurance to prospective clients that you possess extensive event industry knowledge and experience.
- If you're looking for a corporate event marketing position, certification can make your resume stand out—and an increasing number of enterprises actually require you be certified in order to even be considered as a candidate.
- Event planners often work with large budgets, making certification (and the experience and expertise it represents) very important.
- Event planners must be cognizant of attendee safety, making certification even more important.
- According to recent research, planners who hold certain certifications earn more than their non-credentialed counterparts.
So, even though professional event planners aren't required to be licensed—unlike funeral directors, tattoo artists, taxi drivers, animal trainers, and RV park managers—certification still offers many benefits.
Here the top 18 certifications for event professionals. Many experienced event industry pros will have more than one certification, though few find the need to have more than three.
The CAE credential is awarded by the American Society of Association Executives (ASEA), one of the top associations for event professionals. It identifies committed association professionals who have demonstrated mastery of the wide range of knowledge essential to manage an association in today’s environment. CAEs are required to renew their certification every three years.
The CCEP is offered by the Association of Collegiate Conference and Events Directors-International (ACCED-I) to provide professionals who work in collegiate conference and event management with a certification program that encourages expanded knowledge through individual inquiry, participation in the profession and the Association. This certification is ACCED-I's official designation of professional knowledge and maturity.
The CDME, from Destinations International, denotes high education achievement in the tourism industry. The CDME program prepares senior executives with experience and application of knowledge to help industry leaders thrive in a constantly changing environment. The program focus is on vision, leadership, productivity and implementing business strategies.
The CEM designation, conferred by the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE), is a globally recognized designation that demonstrates high professional standards throughout the exhibitions and events management space. Created in 1975 to raise professional standards in the event industry, it continues to be the premier mark of professional achievement. The CEM Learning Program is now offered in more than a dozen countries.
The CEPS credential from the National Career Certification Board (NCCB) is a great place to start for new event planners--it's an entry-level designation prepares individuals for a rewarding career as an Event Planning Professional. Event planning specialists arrange everything for an event, including venue, menu selection, entertainment, logistics, and decorations.
The CGMP, awarded by the Society of Government Meeting Professionals (SGMP), is designed for planners and suppliers whose work is governed by the rules and regulations of the federal government. Individuals who have earned their CGMP have obtained the highest designation available specifically for government meeting professionals. Certification offers benefits to meeting planners within government agencies, contract planners who work with the government, and event industry suppliers.
Managed by Meeting Professionals International (MPI) and delivered by Indiana University faculty, the CMM is an intensive, academically oriented three-phased executive education program. It's essentially a "graduate degree" in event management aimed at individuals aspiring to become strategic event leaders. There is no renewal requirement.
Administered by the Events Industry Council (EIC), the CMP program was launched in 1985 to enhance the knowledge and performance of meeting professionals, promote the status and credibility of the meeting profession, and advance uniform standards of practice. Today, the CMP credential is recognized globally as the badge of excellence in the events industry. The designation is held by 11,000 meeting professionals in 55 countries.
The CME/HC designation from the EIC is a specialist event planner certification specific to the healthcare field. The CMP-HC credential is designed to validate CMPs who have demonstrated a superior understanding and mastery of the specific regulations, laws, and best practices to follow when conducting a healthcare-focused meeting. Individuals seeking this certification must first pass the CMP exam.
The CPCE from the National Association of Catering & Events (NACE) recognizes excellence for catering and events professionals. Certification encompasses eight core competencies: accounting, beverage management, catering services, contracts & agreements, food production, event management, human resources, and sales & marketing.
The CQEP, developed and issued exclusively through the Management and Strategy Institute (MSI), is designed to show that an individual possesses the skills to effectively run a large corporate and professional event. There are no prerequisites, but the CQEP exam is designed to make sure those who pass have a strong understanding of event planning principles.
The CSEP designation was established in 1993 to recognize event professionals who have successfully demonstrated the knowledge, skills and ability essential to perform all components of a special event. The International Live Events Association (ILEA) endorses and manages the voluntary CSEP program for those who meet established standards. The program was developed to increase the proficiency of event professionals, elevate industry practices, and advance the special events industry.
Developed by the team at E|XHIBITOR magazine, the CTSM program covers a comprehensive set of knowledge and skills for trade show and corporate event marketers. Topics include: Measurement & Analytics, Planning & Execution, Marketing & Sales, Management & Leadership, Global Exhibit Marketing, Exhibits, Experiences & Events, and Personal & Career. Continuing education is offered but is not required to maintain certification.
Offered by the International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM), the CVE (formerly called the Certified Facilities Executive or CFE) demonstrates the holder is well-versed in all areas of venue management, invested in professional growth, and dedicated to the advancement of the venue industry as a whole. It prepares individuals to move from small-market to large-market venues and take on new challenges. Recertification is required every three years to stay current with industry trends and technologies.
Created and administered by the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), the DES certification is designed to help event professionals effectively plan, produce and measure the results of live stream and digital engagement events. It's helpful for event marketers who want to measure digital event ROI, as well as corporate planners, association event and meeting professionals, freelance event planners, and event sales team members. Recertification is required every two years.
Individuals who earn the DMCP designation, administered by the Association of Destination Management Executives International (ADMEI), demonstrate the highest level of knowledge and commitment to the destination management profession. To earn the DMCP designation, a person must have years of experience in the field, active involvement in continuing education programs and have passed an exam covering all aspects of destination management. Recertification is required every five years.
Overseen by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), the GTP certification is designed to raise industry standards, enhance work performance, and recognize individuals who demonstrate core competencies essential to the business travel management discipline. It helps to measure and maintain an industry body of knowledge in a valid, reliable manner, and elevates the status and credibility of professionals in the business travel industry. Recertification is required every three years.
Though not specifically geared toward event marketing professionals, the PCM designation from the American Marketing Association (AMA) can provide a valuable supplement to expertise in event planning. The AMA offers four PCM tracks each with its own specialty: digital marketing, sales management, content marketing, and marketing management.