In the meetings and events world there are many types of planners. If you know you like planning but are not sure what direction you want to go, how do you decide? Many times it comes down to the first job you get—if you like it, you stay, and if you don’t like it, you make a move in a direction closer to what you think you would like. However, it can be helpful in deciding what direction to move when you have an apples-to-apples comparison of what each type of planner role looks like. Below, I’ve compiled a generic list of what each planner does at a high level.

Corporate Planner: There is a higher pay range and planning can be just one responsibility of many. At this level, you don’t have to worry about your event being profitable; you are more vested in the program messaging. The work could revolve around meetings, incentives, trade shows and a variety of projects.

Association Planner: This is a lower pay range, but planning can also be just one job responsibility among others. You don’t worry about profit, but may be focused on fundraising. There is less program variety and more focus on messaging. Incentive events are not common.

Nonprofit Planner: Planning can be just one job requirement of many and it’s a lower pay scale. You don’t worry about profits, but absolutely need to fundraise. You would also be very vested in the message of the event, but have less variety of events. There are more galas, less meetings and no incentives.

Third-Party Planner: The pay range is lower, but planning is the primary job task. There are external clients, so making a profit isa bigger concern. You’re less vested in the message, and sometimes not vested at all. There is more of a chance for a variety of events and different destinations.

Independent Planner: The pay range can vary as the planner has control. To get business, you have to have a sales role in order to run the business side of the company, such as accounting. The profit is the income, so you’re more vested in the client overall. There is more control over the variety of events being planned.

Specialist Planner: Pay range can also vary. There is less variety, so you have to love what you do. For example, if you are a wedding planner, your events would be all weddings all the time and there would be little repeat business.

It is important to remember there are exceptions to every rule and there will be jobs that will not fit the descriptions above. However, these should help to guide you in the direction that you want to take your career path.

Julie Ann Schmidt, CMP, CMM, is the founder of the Global Emerging Leaders Community (GEL). GEL is a one-stop shop for all things in the industry geared towards emerging leaders. The organization is a portal that gives emerging leaders with zero to seven years in the industry help to embark on their career path. 

*Check out for more on planning from Julie Ann Schmidt.


When I first started in the industry as a corporate event planner, budgets were hefty and guest experiences were top-notch until they weren’t once the market crashed. Thankfully it seems as though now organizations are investing budget dollars back into events to boost customer and employee morale.



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