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Thread: Thoughts on the proposed new AICP candidate pilot program

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Thoughts on the proposed new AICP candidate pilot program

    https://www.planning.org/aicp/candidate/

    Feedback Invited

    The AICP Commission invites you to comment on the proposed AICP Candidate Pilot Program. Please review the program overview below and provide feedback by responding to a brief survey no later than September 1. Direct any questions to APA at AICPCandidate@planning.org. The Commission will value and consider all input.

    Take the Feedback Survey
    Are you going to take the feedback survey ? or have you ?

    if you are already AICP would you participate in the mentor portion of this ?

  2. #2
    Sounds like they are trying to get more AICP members. I wouldn't mind mentoring someone. It would give them a idea of what life is like in the profession.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

  3. #3
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    I took the survey, and I'm willing to mentor someone, but I'm not sure that I agree with the premise of the program. Students in PAB programs already have an advantage when it comes to AICP. I'm fine with the idea of a candidate program, but I don't think it should just be limited to students that graduate from accredited planning programs. I think the program should be available to anyone that wants to enter the profession or is new to it.

    I came from an allied field and I work in a locality where I was the first person to have a job as a planner. There was no one I knew to help me through the process of applying for and studying for the AICP exam. I would've benefited a lot from having a dedicated program to help with mentoring and networking. If they want to increase the number of AICP planners, I think they're missing an opportunity by limiting it just to students in certain programs at certain schools.

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    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    Meh, sounds like a membership drive that somewhat undercuts the value of AICP. You don't think I had a mentor in the 3 years I had to wait before I took the test? You don't think I didn't go to conferences to get educated? Now if only I could have logged my credits in that time I could have done it in 2 years? That makes the difference? At the same time, if a student wanted it I would always mentor them. Why would I hold any advantage back from them?
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by dvdneal View post
    Meh, sounds like a membership drive that somewhat undercuts the value of AICP. You don't think I had a mentor in the 3 years I had to wait before I took the test? You don't think I didn't go to conferences to get educated? Now if only I could have logged my credits in that time I could have done it in 2 years? That makes the difference? At the same time, if a student wanted it I would always mentor them. Why would I hold any advantage back from them?
    It almost sounds a little bit like the EIT and the PE program.

  6. #6
    I also got a degree in an allied field. My mentor was the prof who influenced me to go into planning. This does sound like a membership drive. APA has done this before and it blew up in their face.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

  7. #7
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
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    Some thoughts:

    1) Eligibility will be limited to students in and graduates of Planning Accreditation Board - accredited programs (both graduate and undergraduate).

    This sounds to me like APA wants to move toward phasing out the concept of moving in to planning from a degree in an allied field. Otherwise, why would this restriction exist?

    2) Use the “AICP Candidate” designation in an APA Profile, on resumes, and in job or internship applications.

    What? Who would do this?

    3) Apply for the AICP Comprehensive Planning Exam one year earlier than non-AICP Candidates.

    IMO holding AICP certification, to me, has always meant that one has done a stint in the planning trenches, so to speak. There is 'tribal knowledge' that can only be gained by actually doing the work, day in, day out, for years. Should 23 year olds be running around with an AICP credential?

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    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    It could be part of moving towards an EIT style program like Gtpeach is saying and I'd support that, especially the idea of slowing some of the "other" degrees.
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Pegguy11's avatar
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    As someone who has looked into becoming a planner, this Candidate system is very similar to the process I would need to go through in Canada. Here the profession is regulated by the Canadian Institute of Planners, the most common process to join is
    - graduate with an accredited degree,
    - become a candidate member of the CIP
    - work as a planner under a mentor, completing 2 years of panning of work,
    - take some related CIP courses
    - sit exam

    However I'm not sure of the differences between CIP and AICP, as professional bodies. Though I do know CIP offers other routes to membership, the candidate route though seems most common.
    Without geography you're nowhere - Jimmy Buffett

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    Cyburbian Salmissra's avatar
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    I took the survey. I made it clear what I didn't like, and what was OK.

    Overall, thumbs down on the proposal as is. With some major changes it could be supportable.
    "We do not need any other Tutankhamun's tomb with all its treasures. We need context. We need understanding. We need knowledge of historical events to tie them together. We don't know much. Of course we know a lot, but it is context that's missing, not treasures." - Werner Herzog, in Archaeology, March/April 2011

  11. #11
    I took it as well, in as much as it's going to matter. Like Sal, I voiced my concerns, especially about the PAB schools and the allied fields.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

  12. #12
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Fundamentally good idea, but terribly executed. Very tone-deaf and oblivious to what experienced, AICP professionals are witnessing on-the-ground as far as student readiness. And PAB accreditation is the most overrated thing in our profession.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  13. #13
    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Pegguy11 View post
    As someone who has looked into becoming a planner, this Candidate system is very similar to the process I would need to go through in Canada. Here the profession is regulated by the Canadian Institute of Planners, the most common process to join is
    - graduate with an accredited degree,
    - become a candidate member of the CIP
    - work as a planner under a mentor, completing 2 years of panning of work,
    - take some related CIP courses
    - sit exam

    However I'm not sure of the differences between CIP and AICP, as professional bodies. Though I do know CIP offers other routes to membership, the candidate route though seems most common.
    AICP is similar, except there is no candidate membership. It's open to anyone with:
    - A PAB masters and 2 years experience
    - A PAB undergrad and 3 years
    - A related field or not PAB and 3 years
    - A degree and 8 years.

    So all this does is cut a year off if you decide to play their game which says nothing about the experience. I really think 2-3 years is a good minimum requirement. 1 year is way to short. Now if they would like to set this up more like an EIT thing make the planning degree a requirement and anyone else will need 8 years experience. I know the planning degree requirement is harsh, but it does make it a more exclusive club. I also believe in time in the trenches so 8 years works for that. Maybe put in a mix of time and associated degree to be nice for the non planners, but make it substantial to encourage more people to want to be planners.

    I did take the survey and put all my odd thoughts in there. I'm sure they'll listen about as much as my elected officials.
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian MD Planner's avatar
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    "AICP Candidate"??? My comment to them was they'd be better off spending their efforts promoting what AICP is and means and the value of it before trotting out the "candidate" moniker.
    He's a planner, he's a dreamer, he's a sordid little schemer,
    Seems to think that money grows on trees . . .

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    I came into planning the long way. After an undergraduate degree in horticulture, three years of graduate work in landscape architecture, and two years at a landscape architecture firm, I found myself working in a joint city/county planning department and for the past two years in the planning department of a very large town. That was almost ten years ago and I've spent all of that time working in current planning with duties ranging from site/sub plan review, zoning enforcement, site compliance, text amendments, presenting to council, etc. Even coming from a somewhat related field, I felt like I needed a great deal of on-the-job, in the trenches time in the planning field to demonstrate the level of experience that was expected for AICP application acceptance. I've always thought of AICP as a capstone achievement in planning, similarly to licensure in other fields. I also believe that many job descriptions are written such that, for higher level positions (basically Planner II's and up) that AICP certification is required and/or preferred.

    I recently submitted my application for AICP certification and just found out that I was approved to take the exam this coming November. (I would have applied several years ago but I was waiting for the prep courses to catch up with the new exam and I was also changing jobs.) After going through the process, I find it difficult to image that planners who are new to the field would be able to demonstrate the experience required by the essay criterion unless they were lucky enough to get a job right out of school that exposes them to enough facets of planning to provide more comprehensive experience than what typical entry-level positions might offer. Understandably, some of my perspective comes from the ethical position that you should be able to write about your actual experiences without having to put a drastic spin on things to get it through the process.

    If more people are getting certified earlier in their career it seems like it may reduce the perceived value of the AICP certification if it is no longer a reflection of a certain amount of experience in the field. On the flipside, I can see job descriptions starting to require/prefer AICP certification for lower level positions if it is possible to get certified soon after graduating from an accredited program.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian
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    Interesting perspective luckeeesmom. I have a very similar background (guess that MLA didn't help as much as we thought/the LA field isn't as good as we thought!), and I have maintained, and continue to maintain, that in some respects allied professions actually have a great advantage over traditional planning degrees. For example, Landscape Architecture is (basically) a 21st century environmentally sensitive physical planning degree; by contrast, many planning degrees are policy-driven (of which I also have a graduate degree also). So, when you go to start working in current planning, guess what, planners need more training than their design counterparts. Same could be said for designers that don't understand public policy, but for the day-to-day operations of plan checking, etc., a physical planning background is very useful. That's obviously not all that planners do, which wildly varies, but I have a hard time comprehending the APA rationale for why an accredited graduate degree in landscape architecture/architecture/engineering/real estate development lumps you into the AICP experience category of 4 years - the same category as, say, as an undergraduate philosophy degree. So if we're talking about making new categories for AICP, the first change should be a reduced time frame for closely-related allied professions; because, the inequity of that system seems pretty apparent to me.

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    Cyburbian
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    To be honest, to work in a locality that reviews submitted projects (as opposed to doing any actual design work), I don't even know that a planning degree is all that helpful. Maybe I'm biased, but my undergrad in engineering certainly prepared me to be able to review technical documents like plats and site plans, which I have learned aren't even really discussed in any detail in a lot of planning programs. We seriously had a session at our last APA conference titled "What the heck is a site plan, anyway?" My M.S. in policy did a good job preparing me to evaluate policies, problem solve solutions, understand impacts of changes to the ordinances, understand the complexity of multiple stakeholders, apply state and local regulations, and to a lesser degree, navigate some of the political dynamics. Those two elements are the majority of my job in local government.

    Planning history and theory are interesting, and it's not that I think it's not useful to have some understanding of it. But it's useful more in the realm of philosophically discussing with citizens that want to give you a hard time on the necessity of zoning regulations. On a day-to-day basis for what I do, those topics aren't going to help me do my job well.

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    I actually didn't finish my thesis so I don't have my MLA but did all the coursework. I decided to finish from afar after three years and went to work and then never revisited the thesis. Honestly after working at a firm for a few years and then seeing how the recession hit the industry I didn't think the cost was worth it and I was already working in Planning by that point. I saw many instances where civil engineers are doing the work that LA's typically did and felt it was too risky unless you happen to live in an area that values the more innovative design that a LA can offer.

    But back to the topic at hand, I don't believe that everyone needs to wait 9-10 years to try to get AICP like I have. I can just foresee situations where you have two people applying for a mid level planning job. One is a fresh out of school candidate who did the pilot program and got their AICP certification early. The other candidate has 3-4 years of experience in the field and doesn't have their AICP because they came from another field and haven't met the experience requirement. With the prevalence of HR employees sorting out candidates based on the preferred requirement of AICP certification, would it result in the first person having an advantage over someone with years of on the job experience?

    In general, I feel that reducing the work experience required prior to applying for and receiving the AICP certification decreases the prestige and/or achievement of having the certification for the people who have already jumped through the hoops. But then again, I see it more as a capstone achievement that you get after x amount of experience rather than celebrating the fact that you passed an exam. Anyone can study and do that, it's the years of experience along the way that really count. In fact, I would argue that those freshly out of an accredited planning program would have a much better chance at passing the exam since the material is fresher for them. If they truly wanted to do a pilot program, I could see them reversing the order of the requirements where new graduates could complete a provisional application and go ahead and take the test but then would still have to complete the required years of work experience before being able to complete the application with the essay criteria. Just a thought.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian
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    luckeeesmom - your analysis of the MLA is spot on. After the recession, the Land. Arch. / Land Planning field took a nose dive and hasn't recovered. I unfortunately went into the MLA program right at the beginning of the recession thinking that it'd have passed by the end of the 3 year program - it didn't. And, after doing some fairly innovative southwestern project work on green infrastructure for my thesis (which got adopted by the City), I finally got a LA draftsman job a year later and was reduced to making parking lot layouts. No thanks. That type of LA work / most of LA work is actually less creative than planning, ironically, and doesn't really address why I wanted to become a LA in the first place - to make the world a better place. So planning it is for me.

    gtpeach - that's absolutely 100% my experience with planning and why I went into LA, to get substantial and marketable skillsets that are also very very useful for the actual duties of a planning dept. It's interesting, but I'm starting to see that planning agencies are giving preference to landscape architecture/engineering backgrounds. Naturally APA turns a blind eye to the situation because we didn't play ball with their prescribed program, but it doesn't change the fact that the way APA organizes their AICP credential requirements is a blatant disservice to the industry.

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    In general, my big beef with the AICP certification process is that it seems very geared toward those working in long range planning vs. the ones who work in current planning and are responsible for many of the everyday tasks that ultimately support the ideas and policies that are approved in the long range and comprehensive plans. While you might not have to know all of the philosophies of planning to work in current planning, you can't discount the fact that those people are the ones who enforce the ordinance through rezoning, reviewing plans, and after the projects are built through inspections and follow up to make sure no violations exist.

    Like I mentioned, I was just approved to take the exam and recently did the criterion essays. The last one regarding influencing public decision making was especially tough because all of the public hearings that I present at are quasi-judicial. That means that staff opinion and preference are not considered because it does not meet the criteria of "evidentiary testimony." I had to make the point that by preparing the staff report and clearly presenting the facts for each case that I set up Council to make the most appropriate decision at the QJ hearing. That is the most I could do since staff does not recommend or discourage approval of such cases. I also believe that those who work in smaller municipalities where there are fewer staff are better prepared for the AICP than those who work in larger departments. In a larger planning department you tend to do a larger quantity of the same or similar tasks vs. in a smaller municipality where you wear many hats.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    I tend to think the test is set up for a small to mid size public planner (you overweight guys don't qualify). You need to touch a little bit of everything in a department like that so you might have better odds of getting the necessary experience and passing some of the test questions. You also need a degree to know the theory, history, and some of the law or you can just study a lot more. I remember after my test thinking how some of the questions seemed to be geared toward different sections of planning like transportation, management, development, long range, etc. and only a city planner would really have a chance to touch all those things in just a couple years.
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

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    Yes - I plan to do a lot of studying because I don't have a planning degree! I'm doing the Planetizen prep course, the questions on planningprep, and taking a class at our state NCAPA conference in Sept. Hopefully that will bring me up to speed.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by luckeeesmom View post
    Yes - I plan to do a lot of studying because I don't have a planning degree! I'm doing the Planetizen prep course, the questions on planningprep, and taking a class at our state NCAPA conference in Sept. Hopefully that will bring me up to speed.
    Just to give you some confidence, I passed with a 63 on my first try when I took it a few years ago. I didn't know anything about the history, theory, or legal sections when I started studying. I did take the Planetizen course, and the PA APA has some really good study notes, too. Or at least they used to. Not everything is 100% correct, and the statistics information goes into way too much detail, but that also helped fill in a lot of gaps. I did study a LOT, and I was not at all confident when I submitted my answers, but I pulled through!

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    Thanks for the info. I was all set to apply for the exam a few years back but then I heard the test was changing so I wanted to give the prep course time to catch back up with the latest exam format/info so I waited. And then I changed jobs and interviewed for a different position so it's taken some time to settle back in.

  25. #25
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    I plan on taking the AICP exam fall 2017 and I'm not worried, at all. Maybe I'm being over confident, but it just seems like a lot of theory/academia to review. I mean, by comparison to a national licensing exam for a profession (architecture, engineering, etc.), how bad can it be? It is an elective, private certification afterall.

    And I'm not sure I'd consider the certification the pinnacle achievement of your career. As I recall from a lecture by LARB, the license (aka certificate) is just the legal attainment of competence - it is the beginning of becoming an expert, not the achievement.

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