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AICP or not?

Slideruler

Cyburbian
Messages
116
Points
6
Hello all,

I haven't posted in this forum for a while and so haven't entirely kept up with discussions. I am very inquisitive about getting AICP certification. A lot of my friends and former planning school classmates who work in actual planning agencies are already AICP certified. Problem is, I am a Transportation Planner working at a convention center and I deal primarily with transportation logistics and transportation operations planning. I have done this for over three years. I am not sure if any of this suffices for AICP in the first case and beyond that, I am not sure if AICP certification can actually help me advance my career. That is why I want to ask the following before I pay my $70 and submit my application for exam consideration:

- Generally speaking, how important is AICP certification in the planning field?
- Will AICP certification lead to career advancements, especially in actual planning agencies?
- Are planners without AICP certification at a disadvantage compared to those that have?
- How hard is it to prepare for the exam if I am considered?

I have read a lot of online literature with opinions ranging from AICP is a necessity in the planning field to it being a complete waste of time and money. So who is right and where do I fit in? Any feedback is appreciated.
 

gtpeach

Cyburbian
Messages
1,972
Points
15
You're probably going to get a wide range of responses on this forum, too. For me, it was important to get my AICP certification because I don't have an educational background in planning. It was also a requirement to promote, which was well worth it to me. I was in a very fortunate position where my employer allowed me to study at work during down time and also paid for me to take the test, so for me, it was a no-brainer. I was able to pass on my first attempt.

I don't have experience as a transportation planner, but I've heard from several sources that those that focus on transportation have a harder time with the exam. A lot of the questions are really geared towards municipal planning and there are a lot of situational questions (as the planning director of City X, what would you do if...). So the experience you have won't translate as directly to the types of questions that will be asked.

If you want to go from transportation planning to more general municipal type planning, it's probably helpful to have it. There's also an advanced transportation certification you can now get after you pass the AICP. That's pretty new, so not sure how much weight that carries.
 

hallstot

Cyburbian
Messages
44
Points
2
I'd say go for it. Being a generalist is a good thing. You might find yourself applying for a more traditional planning job in the future and in that case it will be mighty handy. I've also come to realize that AICP, like a Masters, is a way for HR people (who don't know anything about planning) to cull applicants from the herd.
 

flbeachgirl

Cyburbian
Messages
61
Points
4
I encourage getting the AICP. I and other Planning Directors I know will not hire Planners without an AICP, unless it's for entry-level jobs and then they are expected to get their AICP within a certain period of time. The AICP can never hurt, it can only benefit your career.
 

Hink

OH....IO
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
14,695
Points
38
There are fewer and fewer jobs that require AICP. I think a lot of it has to do with the perceived value that the AICP carries. I think APA is trying to bring value to it, but until they require certain degrees (like City Planning, geography, or related degrees - sorry engineers, architects, etc.) or limit the type of people who can get AICP (more progressive experience, more years of experience, etc.), the designation isn't that prestigious. A code enforcement officer with a high school diploma and 8 years of experience can get the letters. This isn't to say that they might not deserve it, but it just opens the door up to A LOT of people. Try getting your PE license without an engineering degree. Many people say that isn't the same, but personally it should be more like the PE than an online minister degree.

I would say get AICP if you are looking in the private sector for sure. Public is much less likely to matter. It will be a feather in your hat, but if you are a good candidate, no one is going to look over you because you didn't get some letters after your name. I certainly don't think it means you are a more qualified candidate, only that you know how to memorize questions that have little to no relationship to your actual job. But that is me. Some people will use it as a way to limit the number of applicants. So you may be on the side before you can even prove your talents.

If you can get more money at an agency, or if it is known that the place you want to work gives extra bonus credit to AICP holders, then get it. Otherwise, sit it out and wait to see if the agency wants to pay for your testing and annual bill.

There is no good answer to the question. It is completely up to you. If you have extra cash around and lots of time to study random materials, go for it. :D
 

MD Planner

Cyburbian
Messages
1,908
Points
25
APA's own salary survey and worksheet pretty much proves that AICP does't help that much generally. Plug in your info in the worksheet with and without AICP and the difference is generally not that great. Like many of us here have said, APA does a shitty job of advocating and advancing the profession. That said, if you're young and you get your AICP, I think it may allow you to knock on certain doors that may not otherwise be available to you. And if you and another candidate are the finalists and one has it and one does, well it certainly can't hurt.
 

The One

Cyburbian
Messages
8,289
Points
29
Ha!

Around here, AICP means you want more money and won't be willing to join the ole' boys club.....hence only a very few people have it.....
 

OfficialPlanner

Cyburbian
Messages
930
Points
22
For what it's worth, I would not get it if in your situation. Unless your current employer is willing to pick up the tab, it's going to cost you personally a small fortune in time and energy to obtain and maintain. And that's if you're found eligible to sit for the exam in the first place. It's unlikely to be a career booster at your current employer. I agree partially with flbeachgirl in that if you do join a planning shop that supports AICP, there is usually a grace period for entry level candidates to obtain certification, maybe a mid-level planner position for the right applicant.

I've only once seen AICP required for a job posting and it was basically a bogus advertisement by an overzealous planning director paying only ~30k a year. I usually see AICP preferred or a plus on job announcements. There also seems to be great variety between planning shops on the amount of value they place on AICP. If an employer isn't willing to pay for the exam or to take CE, they're not serious about the certification IMO.

Planning consultants are a little different in that RFPs are always going to be written to call for AICP (why is a topic for another thread). Planning consultants will usually offer a grace period to obtain AICP for the right applicant. Any planning consultant that doesn't provide for an allowance for AICP dues or CE, and expects their employees to pay it out of pocket, isn't worth their salt (IMO).

What I believe to be the big fallacy is the belief that getting AICP will lead to a better planning career or more job prospects. There is a lot of time and energy given to pursue AICP on this belief and people are disillusioned when it doesn't work out that way. Focus on obtaining planning experience and build a good name for yourself as that's the real key. If a potential employer wants you to obtain AICP certification, they will grant a grace period to earn it and pay for it. Just having AICP without the years of practical work experience is benefiting no one. (except for the folks at APA cashing the checks, I suppose.)

*Disclaimer. I work with folks that have AICP, but I do not personally have it. It's not supported by my employer. While local training for CE is supported, the dues and APA conference expenses are normally not reimbursable nor would it equate to an increase in salary or promotion potential. It's something I toy with earning from time to time just to say I have it, but I have never submitted an application.
 

Whose Yur Planner

Cyburbian
Messages
10,429
Points
32
A very mixed review from a lifer civil servant and long time blue shirt. I sat for and passed the AICP exam a while back. I did a pretty intensive study for it and found value in relearning what I had forgotten. Plus, it made me stretch because I've only done land use. That being said, my employers have always paid my dues. Further, the last several public sector jobs I've gotten, have the AICP did help. But then again, they've been for planning director jobs. The way my employers have explained it, was that it gave them bragging rights that their PD was AICP. The downside to it all, is that the dues are not cheap and until they started offering free CM webinars, the national conference is not cheap. If your employer is willing to foot the costs of the dues and conferences, then go for it. There is no harm in having it. As a PD, I would not require AICP for an assistant planner job.
 

MacheteJames

Cyburbian
Messages
931
Points
20
I've found that in my area, you can't really advance beyond mid-level without AICP. It is a form of protectionism and if you want to advance, you join the club (I did, last year). That said, there are a lot of folks at city agencies who never bother to get their certification because it is seen as irrelevant, given the test's focus on township and regional planning vs planning for a global city.

Some even go a step further and get their NJ planning licensure, so that they can practice throughout the tri-state region. I think it's the only state that forces planners to jump through an additional hoop beyond AICP.
 

nasiamin

Member
Messages
1
Points
0
Hello everyone

I am an international student in the US and I have my bachelor degree in urban planning from my home country, I was wondering is it possible to apply for AICP with an international degree? Thank you.
 

OfficialPlanner

Cyburbian
Messages
930
Points
22
I came across a five-year old article from Stronger Towns: To AICP or not to AICP.
Below is an excerpt - the full read by Charles Marohn can be found at https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2013/11/6/to-aicp-or-not-to-aicp.html


Last week I received a notice from the American Planning Association that I needed to complete my Certification Maintenance (CM) by the end of the year in order to maintain my American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) certification. I checked and while I have 20 more credits than are necessary, I am lacking the three required ethics and law credits. I thought about it for a minute and then realized something:

I don't care enough to go get them.

Now, when I posted that personal revelation on Facebook I heard from The Final Edit (my wife) and she let me know that I would be getting those final three credits. Still, it didn't change my lack of enthusiasm for something that a decade ago I intentionally pursued. Why?

The first answer is the easiest: I don't really identify with the modern planning profession. The tools of the modern planner -- use-based zoning codes, planned unit developments, comprehensive plans, projections, superficial public input -- are the relics of process-driven era. Every planner working for a municipality today can name more than one absolutely idiotic thing that came about in their city because of adherence to the established rules. In my early planning days, I tried to build a better system. Call me cynical, but I've simply concluded that it's the wrong approach, even if it could be reformed.

The second answer is the APA itself. What do they do besides constantly trying to sell me books I can buy cheaper on Amazon? Now I realize they do a lot of things -- again, a lot of process things -- but what are they doing to address the things that I care about, the issues that are urgently relevant to our time?

Where is the APA on the finance of our places? What are they saying about the public's return on investment? Where are they talking about building the wealth of a community incrementally over time? Heck, where is there even a debate going on in APA on any of these issues, let alone the planning profession's role in the bankruptcy of America's cities? I'm looking for leadership and I'm getting a bunch of over-hyped planning fads watered down with "best practices" addressing last generation's problems.

The third answer is the annual APA national conference, which I admittedly stopped attending three years ago after going to about seven in a row. One can only take so many presentations by consultants telling you about their fantastic, mixed-use, green, LEED-certified, transit-oriented, bio-diverse project and all the public input they heroically spearheaded tolerated to make it happen. Towards the end there I found myself looking for speakers I thought might be interesting -- not topics -- and feeling free, since I was paying a near-criminal sum to attend the conference, to walk out of anything that didn't provide any new ideas (not very Minnesota nice, but I got over it).
 

DVD

Cyburbian
Messages
13,556
Points
36
That sums it up pretty well. I keep going back to what is APA doing for me that lone county planner in the middle of nowhere with no support. I don't need a lot of mixed use garbage. I need basic support material. When I get the next weird land use I should be able to go to APA and get ideas about what impacts and ideas should be considered, but no I go to the internet and research the idea myself.
 

queenOdawg

Member
Messages
22
Points
2
dvdneal: Does anyone from AICP or APA ever discuss the new emerging uses of micro-cell wireless telecommunication facilities for 5G networks? Or the rapid electric vehicle charging stations? These are new land uses for the future that need to be discussed.
 

DVD

Cyburbian
Messages
13,556
Points
36
I haven't seen anything on micro cell, but I haven't really looked. Not an issue in our area especially after the state declared them a free for all. I've seen charging stations come up a few times. Another thing that's not an issue in the middle of Kansas. We're still debating if a gas powered truck is good enough and sticking with diesel. I generally find more information about trending topics from ICMA over APA. It just makes me a sad planner.
 

SlaveToTheGrind

Cyburbian
Messages
1,235
Points
22
Many positions will require AICP. My employer has always paid the dues and conference fees for me to keep up my CM. But honestly, I don't see the value of AICP on a day to day level. They take my money once a year and that is it.
 
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