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Meeting, Convention and Event Planner

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Overall Score
(6.4 out of 10)

Number of Jobs

31,300

Median Salary

$45,810

Unemployment Rate

5.6 percent

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This Job is Ranked in
Best Business Jobs #9
The 100 Best Jobs #53

Some would call this a logistical nightmare: 49,000 registrants. 2,098 music festival showcases. 1,221 conference sessions. 1,096 exhibit spaces. 293 film festival screenings. But for Mike Shea, executive director of the popular South by Southwest (SXSW) annual conference and festival in Austin, Texas, orchestrating an event of this magnitude has become second-nature, though it’s not without its fair share of harebrained headaches. “One year, massive downpours turned a grassy park into muck and mire, threatening two days of free concerts,” Shea recalls. “We decided to blanket the park with hay, and we paced the park from end to end and arbitrarily determined that 10 steps equaled one bale of hay. To remove the muddy hay afterwards, our solution was [to use] homeless men with pitchforks – four words your insurance company doesn’t want to hear.”

As Shea can attest, an event requires considerable planning of details big and small – from choosing a venue and reviewing contracts to juggling guest lists and issuing name badges. Meeting, event and conference planners have to figure out their client's needs and requirements in terms of exhibit space, lodging, transportation, telecommunications, audio-visual displays, print- and Web-based materials and food and beverages, among other necessities. A lot of time will be dedicated to reviewing proposals and contracts, and negotiating with facilities and suppliers. Overall, an event planner should be a good task juggler and highly flexible, especially when problems arise with vendors, clients make last-minute changes or, in Shea's case, when a celebrity panelist locks himself or herself in a bathroom while wearing a live wireless mic. Ahem.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects meeting, convention and event planner employment growth of 33.2 percent between 2012 and 2022, adding 31,300 more jobs. Favorable job prospects help this profession rank No. 53.

Salary

The BLS reports the median annual wage for meeting, convention and event planners was $45,810 in 2012. The best-paid 10 percent in the field made $79,270, while the bottom 10 percent made $26,560. The highest-paid in the profession work on the East Coast in the metropolitan areas of Nassau, N.Y., Bridgeport, Conn., and Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Salary Range

75th Percentile $60,280
Median $45,810
25th Percentile $34,930

Training

A bachelor's degree is generally the preferred academic education. Some schools offer event and meeting management degrees, but real-world experience may be the most important factor in getting a job. In terms of job advancement, you might move from a small organization to a larger one, or gain additional certifications through continuing education that may help with finding higher-paying work. Over time and with experience, you could open your own meeting planning firm or become an independent consultant.

Reviews & Advice

"Back in the day, event planners usually had degrees in communications or public relations," says Shea, who's been event planning for SXSW for 25 years. "But anyone could be a planner if they have enough brass to make spur-of-the-moment decisions that impact thousands of attendees." Shea says certain degree programs teach the basics of contract negotiations, scheduling, risk management and insurance – any or all of which can help you lock down an internship.

Job Satisfaction

Upward Mobility good Above Average
Stress Level poor Above Average
Flexibility fair Average
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Last updated by Kimberly Castro.


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