|Number of Jobs:||31,300|
|This Job is Ranked in|
|Best Business Jobs||#14|
|The 100 Best Jobs||#66|
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, although 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," recalls Shea. "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 will have to figure out their sponsoring organization's needs and requirements in terms of exhibit space, lodging, transportation, telecommunications, audio-visual requirements, 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 very 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 (BLS) projects meeting, convention, and event planner employment growth of 43.7 percent between 2010 and 2020, adding 31,300 more jobs. Favorable job prospects help this profession rank No. 66.
The Labor Department reports the median annual wage for meeting, convention, and event planners was $46,020 in 2010. The best-paid 10 percent in the field made approximately $78,530, while the bottom 10 percent made approximately $27,410. According to the BLS, the highest-paid in the profession work in the metropolitan areas of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Framingham, Mass., and Lowell, Mass.
A bachelor's degree is generally the preferred academic education. Some schools offer meetings 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 or credentials 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.
"Back in the day, event planners usually had degrees in communications or public relations," says Shea, who's been doing event planning for SXSW for 23 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 will teach the basics of contract negotiations, scheduling, risk management, and insurance—any or all of which can help you lock down an internship.
|Upward Mobility||Above Average|
|Stress Level||Above Average|