Recently I attended Event Huddle, a monthly debate about industry topics, this time it was about experience vs. education. It’s a very popular topic and always comes up for discussion among industry professionals and students.
While the panel and audience had divided opinions, the conclusion of this debate was that both are equally important. To be successful in this industry – today’s recruits need event education AND experience. It’s not about education vs. experience anymore.
It took some time but event students and industry bodies are voicing their support of event degrees and degrees are getting recognised by more and more companies so graduates have higher chances to land lucrative jobs in the industry.
I did a 3.5 years event management degree and it helped me get into the industry so I’m a big supporter of education. Event degree wasn’t my first choice though. I first studied hospitality and tourism, worked on several events and did an internship at an events company before I decided to study events. I was lucky when I found out that Regent’s University London offers a full scholarship for the duration of the degree and therefore applied and got it.
My route was experience – education – experience.
So I agree that today both are equally important. Also important where you get your education from, as the choice of universities offering this degree can be overwhelming. Besides university rankings, there are other questions to consider before choosing your course:
Universities which are located in major cities, such as London, give students the opportunity to attend events in the evenings and start building their network from the very beginning. Also major associations, such ISES or MPI hold their events in London and if you, as a student want to get involved it’s worth choosing the university based on location.
Tuition & finance
On the other hand, big cities are pricier to live in, so another consideration will be planning your finance for the duration of the course. In the UK, event management degrees can cost from 8k – 16k per year and to that you need to budget your living costs.
Alternatively, it’s worth looking for a university which offers a scholarship or work placement during the degree which can cover some of the tuition fee or living costs.
You need to think about your career as you start your degree because you will need support. Job market is very competitive and as a graduate you’ll need to find out how to stand out. Look for universities that offer good career services, ones that have a dedicated career department or where course leader forwards jobs to students or invite companies to recruit.
The advantage of a universities with strong career departments is that they can help you improve your CV, cover letter and guide you for interview questions or guide you how to improve your LinkedIn profiles. Not all career department will have job databases, that research you’ll need to do by yourself.
Course leaders also need to work closely with industry professionals and get contacted by event companies to offer placements to students.
Some universities have ISES, MPI, ICCA or other association membership for students. The membership can give students access to database of resources and get invited to attend or volunteer at events.
Duration of the course
Some courses can be as short as six months, others can take three to four years. Unless you have industry experience already, I wouldn’t recommend you opting for the short course. If you do a longer course see what is included in the duration of the course, e.g. – obligatory or optional industry experience, study period abroad, external seminars etc.
My degree for example was 3.5 years, one year of which was study period abroad in one or two universities, or we could swap one semester with work experience. I spent two semesters at the same university in Germany and between semesters did an internship. That was the best time of my degree!
One of the major arguments in the debate experience vs. education is that universities don’t expose the students enough to the real industry and that courses are taught by lecturers not from the events industry. Some universities try to bridge the gap by inviting industry professionals to speak to students.
Try to find out how often guest lecturers are invited and whether it’s for all students or last semester only. It’s recommended that you’ll pick a university that has good connections to the industry and brings external lecturers to share their event world.
Some courses offer to study a language, that will look excellent on your CV, and in addition you maybe try and get work experience abroad.
Study period abroad
Does the university have partnerships with universities abroad? Going abroad was the best experience I had during the degree and can highly recommend choosing a university that offers this option.
There are many benefits in going abroad, e.g. – improving your language skills, gaining international work experience, making new friends and future employers highly value candidates with international experience.
Choice of electives modules
Every course will have a selection of elective modules. Check out if these are event related modules or general which you will study with business students. In my case for example, we had just few options for event students so most of my electives were with business students.
Graduating is just the beginning and in order to make most out of your time and money at the university you need to stay in touch with your alumni association. Find out how strong the association is, do they invite alumni to speak to students, do they organise events, do they publish a magazine or newsletters featuring their alumni? You can get in touch with your alumni association when in your last semester and keep up with their news and share yours.