Obtaining a professional certification may seem like a daunting task for any employee, especially for young professionals who may not feel that they have the experience, knowledge or understanding needed. For urban planning, there are also multiple fields and backgrounds which practitioners may have been trained apart from traditional planning programs, such as geography, anthropology or political science.
The American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) provides the only verification process for a planner’s qualifications and understanding of the profession. Similar to other professional certifications, such as Professional Engineer (PE) or Certified Public Account (CPA), any planner passing the AICP examination process can be identified quickly as a thought leader within the profession. AICP certified planners can also be identified easily by recruiters, employers and local officials as a professional having extensive understanding of the history, law, and ethics needed to function competently within the urban and regional planning practice.
As with obtaining advanced degrees, AICP credentials may open up opportunities that were previously not available. These opportunities include not only advancement to jobs that may not have been accessible but also opportunities for higher salaries. According to the American Planning Association (APA), AICP-certified planners receive on average $17,000 more annually than non-certified planners, along with a more positive reputation and greater recognition by local decision-makers in the field, such as planning commissioners or city councilmembers.
Apart from the initial requirement of passing the test, AICP certification also carries the responsibility of continuing education with regard to new happenings, laws, and other events within the planning field. The certification maintenance (CM) requirements are different from those in other professional fields, such as engineering, where continuing is not required in all states. The AICP CM process ensures that AICP planners learn and uphold the high standards of practice expected of certified planners. Furthermore, the continuing education requirement also allows planners to network with others within the region and across the nation. By knowing other AICP planners, certified individuals are able to reach out for support when daunting or new issues arise.
The Central Section as well as the California APA Chapter provide educational training opportunities, resources, and guidance for planners willing to make the commitment to become certified. See the Central Section web site at https://www.cencalapa.org/aicp
for on-demand training opportunities.
Any planner at any career level is encouraged to reach out to their Professional Development Officers with questions, concerns or general comments about becoming AICP certified.
Jerome Keene was elected as the Central Section Professional Development Officer for AICP in February 2021. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.