Certification is not mandatory, but it will enhance your resume and provide a testament to employers of one’s dedication to the profession of urban and regional planning.
Individuals contemplating certification need to start their research at the AICP or The American Institute of Certified Planners. It is the only nationwide and independent organization for planners to become certified as a means to display assurance of their qualifications.
An integral component of the AICP is the American Planning Association (APA), whose mission is to boost all communities’ quality of life. Its philanthropic endeavors help achieve this goal through educational offerings, social equality, and participation by each community’s members. Other duties of the APA Foundation are to assist in disaster recovery and concentrate on underprivileged neighborhoods.
Future urban planners should consider joining the APA, free for students enrolled in any college or university program. One of the benefits is the Career Center that has tactics and tips for prospective employees. Another feature of the student membership is access to the Career Reality Webinars – a hiring information source.
As a member, you receive two free subscriptions: Planning-the Journal of the American Planning Association and Zoning Practice. In addition, you may search through the archived Planning Advisory Service publications, the Research KnowledgeBase, and E-book Collection.
The student membership may pay dividends as you approach graduation and begin seeking employment. Members can network with other students, practicing planners, mentors, and community officials in your area. The annual National Planning Conference is an option for individuals willing to travel and learn about the field’s latest developments.
What is involved in certification?
With only one choice for certification, you do not need to consider alternatives. Therefore, with this in mind, we will examine the AICP process.
Long before you reach the stage of becoming certified, as you perform a search of schools offering urban planning (and related) programs, there is one crucial criterion. Limit the list to those endorsed by the Planning Accreditation Board (PAB). They supply a directory of 76 master’s and 16 bachelor’s programs at 80 universities in the U.S. and Canada. Their affiliation with the Council for Higher Education Council ensures students that the selected degree meets or surpasses the educational standards set by these accrediting agencies.
The first step is to become a member of the APA, if not already, as a student. Second, you must be employed before you can apply for certification. The required years of planning experience vary according to the level of your planning degree. These are:
- Graduate degree: 2 years
- Bachelor’s degree: 3 years
- Graduate degree in a non-PAB accredited program: 3 years
- No college degree: 8 years
According to the AICP site, volunteer work, internships, and part-time work may qualify as experience.
If you meet the certification criteria, you complete the APA application, which it accepts twice a year: in June and December, The former is to sit for the November exam, and the latter refers to the May examination date. The non-refundable fees associated with the test are:
The APA has a wealth of information, including a list of the 47 state chapters where individuals can connect with resources. By contacting the nearest branch, you will find various topics concerning leadership, networking, training workshops, and more.
There is also a study plan to gain an understanding of the exam content. The area shows where to focus your studies based on the percentage of questions on specific topics. The APA stresses the need for ample study time and exam preparation through protracted sessions of practice.
The Professional Development Officer (PDO) or chapter has exam tips and resources, such as two-hour video workshops. The six-part video links cover Fundamental Planning Knowledge (25% of exam), Areas of Practice (30% of exam), and Plan Making and Implementation (25%), for example.
An alternate means to certification is known as the AICP Candidate Pilot Program. This track is available to students currently enrolled in a PAB accredited degree or recent graduates who lack the required experience, as noted above. As an APA member, you can apply for the Pilot Program at any time of year by submitting education verification documents. Commitment to the AICP Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct is mandatory; pay a $35 fee, and then complete the 16 Certification Maintenance credits. Further details are on the AICP site.