Should You Get Certified in Exhibition Management (CEM)?

Should You Get Certified in Exhibition Management (CEM)? Jacoby Expo

If you are on the fence about whether or not you should take continuing education courses, welcome to the club.  It can be a big decision. There are so many factors to take into consideration like cost and time. And is it really worth the brain stamina?

Unfortunately, there is no “right” answer – this isn’t a question for the old magic eight ball – it’s something to wrestle with.

What I can do is challenge you to answer the following…

When is good enough good enough?

Are you settling for less than your best?

If you have come to a place in your professional career where you feel stuck or you aren’t being challenged, then developing new skills or sharpening the ones you have, can be a step in the right direction.

Moving Forward

As a Show Manager (or contractor), there are certifications available that can build your confidence and elevate your potential.  One such certification is in Exhibition Management (CEM), which will be our focus; it is globally recognized and the upper crust of designations.

Let’s dig a little deeper into the program and uncover what you really want to know…the details.


If you are like me, you want to skip everything and get to the nitty-gritty details that could be potential deal-breakers.  Why bother with all the other stuff before revealing what everyone really wants to know in the first place?

It’s like the door-to-door salesperson who is demonstrating how superior their vacuum is to yours and forty-five minutes later you finally get to hear the price tag.  And that price is not even close to your budget and everyone has wasted their valuable time for nothing (except for a cleaner rug).

Getting certified will take commitment.

It will take time.

You might have to cancel Friday night’s rumba lessons.

The Nitty-Gritty

  1. The program is 12 courses long.  You only have to pass 9 of them. If that’s not a huge selling point, I don’t know what is. Check out the program brochure.
  2. You have 3 years to complete the course.  Go ahead and keep that rumba class on the calendar.  
  3. A candidate must have 3 years of experience in the event show industry to be considered.
  4. There is an exam following every course that must be completed within 90 days of finishing the course.
  5. Some of the major areas covered are housing and registration management, security and event operations.  
  6. The program is offered through IAEE, but you don’t have to be a member to apply.
  7. Depending on when you signed up you might have to wait for some courses to be available.  
  8. Many Employers encourage furthering education programs and might cover some (or all) of the costs.  According to IAEE eighty-five percent of employers pay for the program.
  9. To stay certified there are continuing education credits and PD opportunities after certification.
  10. Online or in-person classes are available.  Hooray for flexibility!

The Part Where I Dazzle You

Here are all the awesome reasons why becoming certified can change your life.

  1. Becoming certified shows those that matter that you care about your career and that you take it seriously.  Employers will notice your motivation and desire to be the best.
  2. It gives you a leg up.  People are willing to pay more for accreditations.  Being certified isn’t a requirement for companies, but it is a bonus.
  3. It’s an achievement and one that you can be confident about.  
  4. There is the possibility for greater earning potential.  Seventy-four percent of CEM’s expect a salary increase.
  5. It gives you the insight you didn’t have before.
  6. You can flaunt all your newly acquired skills and depth of knowledge.


If you want to be an overachiever you can also become a Certified Meeting Planner.  It is more intense and there are more requirements, however, if you get both, then you will have received the highest level of certifiability that there is in the industry.  

Make Your Mark

There is no time like the present to do what you have been putting off.  Whether it’s becoming certified or just taking some self-improvement courses, the future isn’t going to wait for you.  Ditch that pro’s and con’s list (there are always excuses to not do something) and go make your mark in the world.