Comparing Vocational and University Courses in Event Management

event photoWorking in events management can be a gateway to an exciting and diverse career which can mean working for a company across a range of events; working within a sector, such as health or education and becoming a specialist in those types of events; working in a type of environment, such as hospitality or museums and specialising in the types of events they create. It’s also possible to become a specialist in a particular area of the industry, such as communications, IT, marketing and promotions – aspects which are really taking off in contemporary event management thanks to exciting innovations in technology, media and communications.

Looking ahead

Although working in events management can mean a high pressure, busy career, there are plenty of opportunities for promotion, progression and a life-long career. Contemporary event management is a growth industry, with firmly developing professional standards, with which comes the scope to earn good salaries with performance-related bonuses. For example, general event manager salaries can average around £25,000 per year, whilst event managers specialising in sales and marketing can earn up to £32,000 annually. Another perk is that event management is a rapidly growing international industry, with plenty of scope for travel and prospects in and out of the UK.

Learning about the learning

With the new professional standards for event managers being developed, training in the role is often readily available. Such training should encompass the foundation aspects of the role, such as business and management, marketing, accounting and finance, legal and risks, sustainability, sponsorship, organisation and logistics and communications. But one of the key things would-be event managers want to learn first is where and how they should study … at university or through a vocational course.

According to UCAS, 50% of UK students in 2013 went on to university. However, since fees and overall costs of living have risen since then, there has been a significant increase in the take-up of vocational courses. Both routes to graduating in event management are valid and of course the old adage “you get out of it what you put into it” still counts when it comes to making the grade … but what else can you get out of each route to graduation?

University degree

  • Kudos – going to university is still a significant achievement for many, which brings a certain additional kudos both from achieving the degree and completing a rite of passage into adulthood.
  • High level of versatility – university degrees are academically demanding and require study methods which demand versatility from those studying them. The focus on academic learning can add to the challenge and experience for some, but can be a limitation to learning opportunities for others.
  • University graduation job facilities – most universities run graduate job fairs and courses which include a year in industry, which can allow graduates additional opportunities to begin to network for a position once university is over.
  • Debts – unfortunately the cost of university study is a significant factor, which can see graduates coming away with a high level degree and a high cost loan to pay off. A lot of these costs include the cost of living due to the length of time a university course can take to complete – usually 3 to 4 years. All the time spent learning without earning can add to the size of loans or debts by the end of the course.

Vocational course

Of course, there are pros and cons for both qualification routes into event management so there is also plenty to consider about vocational courses for event management:

  • Job specific – vocational courses tend to be very job specific, which is great for stepping into a specialism but can mean that there is less versatility to show by the end of the course. However, the events industry offers plenty of volunteering opportunities and volunteering regularly whilst studying can help to build alternative skills and maximise professional versatility.
  • Job-relevant experience – vocational is in the qualification title, which means plenty of job-relevant and practical experience as part of the course. It’s also a chance to show what you know, as you go; a qualification route which many find more accessible – and quicker – than university study.
  • A faster route to earning – vocational courses generally do not take as long to complete as university degrees, so the route to earning is much quicker, whilst overall costs of study are lower because fees tend to be cheaper.
  • With the amount of volunteering and workplace experience which is an essential part of vocational courses, many students find their courses offer a good starting point for networking for job search, as well as giving students the chance to show that they are work-ready as they qualify.

Finally, it’s useful to know that the difference between a degree and a vocational qualification is the method of study and qualification – it isn’t necessarily that one is higher level than the other. Obtaining a degree level qualification (post-graduation) is possible via the vocational route, for example, level 4 NVQ is the equivalent of a Bachelor’s degree, whilst a level 5 NVQ, post-graduate certificate and diploma is the equivalent of a Masters degree, meaning that would-be managers have the best of both worlds to choose from, but with the option of high level qualification being available in an affordable and work-ready way through vocational routes. Find out more at eventcourse

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 Written by Justine Kane

Justine has spent the past 5 years as Course Director for an event management training Institute, placing hundreds of graduates into roles and tutoring them through to successful qualification.

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