Studying for an event planner degree

Event Planner Certification or Event Planner Degree?

Choosing to study something new is exciting, but there are a few decisions to make before you start. Look into schools or programs that offer the type of training you need at a price you can afford. You can narrow your search and make an informed choice about where to study if you know what kind of qualifications you need to reach your career goals.

You know that you want to become an event planner, so assess whether your smartest choice would be a formal degree or a certification program.

In places with a booming tourism industry, local universities have large travel and tourism or hospitality programs that offer a degree in event planning, coordination, or management. In places where the hospitality industry is smaller but where planners are sought after by locals, community colleges and online programs that prepare students for the planning industry quickly are a smart choice.

Here is a comparison of the average college certification and most college or university degrees. Consider facts like these and make the choice that is best for you!

Type of qualification

Event Planner Degree: At the end of your studies, you’ll receive a Bachelor’s degree in event planning and management.

Event Planner Certificate: Students receive a certificate of completion as proof of their professional training. Only occasional employers might regard a college certification less highly than a Bachelor’s degree in travel and tourism or events management. Professional certifications qualify you for most events jobs and to start your own planning business.

event planner organizing her time and money

Program length

Degree: The most thorough and well regarded degree programs usually last four years, but some associate degrees last two.

Certificate: Certificate programs vary in length depending on whether they include classes or practical training. Programs that require class attendance and hands-on training with an instructor take up to two years. Programs based mostly on theoretical classes last one year. Shorter programs can be beneficial because you enter the industry more quickly.

Cost and funding

Degree: Some universities offer students financial aid, scholarships, or funding, but degree programs are often much more expensive than shorter certificate programs. Some government sectors also offer financial assistance to certain students to attend university. However, tuition fees for these degree programs will be significantly higher than your average college certification program.

Certificate: Most certificate programs will be significantly less expensive than degree programs. Not every school provides scholarships, but many certificate programs offer manageable payment plans. Some government programs offer financial assistance for college programs. Check out the options in your province or state and whether you qualify for them.


Degree: Most degree programs require students to attend classes. Even if course materials are available online, there is often an in-class component that is mandatory for graduation.

Certificate: Certificate programs can be more flexible than long university degrees. If you’re a parent or full time employee, a college course might be preferable. Many colleges offer online courses that let you access materials and lessons anywhere for more flexible studying. This makes event planning trainings accessible to students even if no programs exist in their area.

event planner brainstorming ideas

Course structure

Degree: Degree programs involve assignment deadlines and exam dates so that the level of training is consistent with other schools. Some schools offer extensions for a fee, but you are usually required to graduate in a specific timeframe. Classes can be large, so getting one on one support from instructors can be difficult. In this case, however, students usually have access to tutors or TA’s for extra help.

Certificate: Colleges with in-class training often have deadlines and attendance expectations, but some allow more flexibility than university programs. Evening classes and part time attendance options are common. Many online colleges, however, let you work at your own pace. Certificate classes also tend to be smaller than classes at large universities. Instructors might have more time to dedicate to your specific needs. In online programs, you’re often paired with a specific tutor, individualizing the feedback you receive even more.

Access to internships

Degree: Degree programs are more likely to organize internships with hospitality and events management companies, especially in cities with large tourist industries.

Certificate: Some certificate programs include hands on internship as part of the training. Others offer job postings, resume writing services, a database of professional connections, and other job search resources to help students find work after the program when an internship isn’t specifically offered.

Job readiness

Degree: Unless an internship or practical component is part of your program, many degrees are very theoretical. You’ll be very knowledgeable and prepared, but you’ll gather hands-on experience after you graduate. You’ll start in an entry level position and advance through the industry in a fairly structured way.

Certificate: Rather than gearing your knowledge toward the hospitality or tourism industries, you’ll be trained to organize various events for a wider range of clients. Depending on your personal career goals, this might actually make you more job ready than a degree program.

certified event planner working on catering job

Type of work

Degree: Many event planning degrees are based in hospitality and tourism. You might be trained to coordinate the planning of all sorts of events for a specific hotel or resort. You sacrifice some of the control freelance planners enjoy, but you enjoy reliable employment and the prestige of your degree during the hiring process.

Certificate: Depending on the size of your local industry, you could also work at a travel agency or hotel. Alternatively, you might work as an assistant to a freelance planner or small business owner, start planning independently as a freelancer yourself, or perhaps even start your own business down the line.

Make an informed decision!

Before you enroll in any event planning program, think about your career goals, budget, and scheduling needs.

Is your dream to work in a big city managing the events staff at a prestigious hotel? Perhaps a university degree is your best choice.

Is your goal to become an independent wedding or event planner? A college program that will set you quickly on the path towards building your own brand might be best.

Are you interested in starting a career as an event & wedding planner? Check out QC’s Online Event Planning Certification Programs to see if one is right for you!

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