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Is AICP worth the cost?

mercdude

Cyburbian
Messages
235
Points
7
Here's what I'd like to know: if you had to pay for the exam fees, annual membership dues, etc., would you still be AICP?
 

OfficialPlanner

Cyburbian
Messages
930
Points
22
That's the wrong question, in my opinion. Does AICP fit in with your career goals, and will it be valued by your current and future employer?

(And to long-time Cyburbians, I'm trying very hard to leave my well known and unpopular opinion about AICP out of this.)
 

glutton

Cyburbian
Messages
393
Points
11
Do you anticipate changing jobs or positions in the next two years (particularly if that entails a move across the country)? Then it might be helpful in your job search. If not, then it might not be worth the money right now.
 

MD Planner

Cyburbian
Messages
1,845
Points
23
I have some views about AICP that are certianly not positive. That being said, AICP is the only credentialed program for planners. (I know there are speciality things with economic developement etc, but for a regular "jack of all trades" planner this is it). If you're early in your career or if you have aspirations of management and directorship at some point I think it is a worthwhile investment in your career. I've always said that AICP allows you to knock on some doors that otherwise you would not be able to.
 

mercdude

Cyburbian
Messages
235
Points
7
Right now I'm a senior planner at the state level with about 5 years of experience and a couple graduate degrees behind me. My employer does not formally value the AICP, but some individual planners and departments do. So there's some rub/opportunity there. Personally, I come from a LA background, so I do not have warm feelings for APA and its undervaluing allied professions. BUT, I do like license/certifications as a way to demonstrate my SKA (skills, knowledge, abilities). I do not anticipate leaving my employer in the next year or two, but it's always on my mind to either hop to the federal or local level - the AICP could help with that since the economic downturn left the LA industry high and dry.

However, I would be left paying the almost $1000 out of pocket and then the annual fees on top of that + continuing education credits. When you start adding it up, that's a lot of coin for an elective certificate that, quite frankly, is not institutionally important for my current or foreseeable success. So the question remains because I really would like to add AICP behind my name but I'm very sensitive to unnecessary professional expenses. So put another way - if you (personally) had to pay all the fees for the AICP, is the ROI acceptable?
 

OfficialPlanner

Cyburbian
Messages
930
Points
22
That's one the AICP fallacies that irks me the most: it helps with the job hunt. In my opinion, experience trumps AICP any day of the week. If an employer values AICP, they'll pay for their employees to obtain AND maintain it. The folks that pay for AICP out of pocket usually end up disgruntled because it does not open up the opportunities that thought it would.

Lastly, if you're not in local government doing current or long range planning, it's unlikely to be of much value.

Well, I tried.
 

MacheteJames

Cyburbian
Messages
930
Points
19
Lastly, if you're not in local government doing current or long range planning, it's unlikely to be of much value.
I disagree. If you want to consult and advance beyond an entry-level position, AICP is a very valuable. Planning firms bill out AICP planners at a higher rate than non-AICP. This alone makes the credential valuable.

That said, my current (public sector) employer has a history of de-emphasizing the importance of AICP, and many of the higher-level staff with tenure are not AICP. However, this is changing ever-so slowly. IMO, and this is only an opinion, but I think many planners dislike sitting around a table with AIA, PEs, ASLAs, and JDs without something of their own. I find credentialism of any kind to be lame, but in a small, competitive industry, it's a real thing.

AICP and a high level of skill in this profession don't necessarily correlate. What it does indicate, however, is the willingness to keep learning new material to help avoid falling into the type of siloed niches for which civil servants are notorious.
 

luckless pedestrian

Super Moderator
Moderator
Messages
10,872
Points
31
For me, it's valuable because I don't have my Master's degree- in the 80's when I started working, there was plenty of work to be had so I didn't go to grad school and just started working but the profession has changed such that a master's degree is necessary - so for me, it adds some credibility to my 30 years in the profession - also, for me, my undergraduate degree was in environmental studies with a double minor in economics and law, so again, it adds credibility where my degree might be missing

There are problems assuredly with the system - but I think having a national certification works and it works best of we as planners take it more seriously
 

mercdude

Cyburbian
Messages
235
Points
7
^ Okay, so it's valuable to you. Would you (did you) pay $1000 out of pocket to take the exam, and would you (have you) paid the almost $500 annually out of pocket to maintain the certificate? My suspicion is that almost no one would pay that amount, and the people that have AICP (and see value in maintaining it) get at least some of the costs paid for by their employer. If my employer paid for me to have the AICP, there'd be no question in mind - I'd get the AICP. But having to pay for everything out of pocket makes me re-evaluate it's value.
 

luckless pedestrian

Super Moderator
Moderator
Messages
10,872
Points
31
^ Okay, so it's valuable to you. Would you (did you) pay $1000 out of pocket to take the exam, and would you (have you) paid the almost $500 annually out of pocket to maintain the certificate? My suspicion is that almost no one would pay that amount, and the people that have AICP (and see value in maintaining it) get at least some of the costs paid for by your employer. If my employer paid for me to have the AICP, there'd be no question in mind - I'd get the AICP. But having to pay for everything out of pocket makes me re-evaluate it's value.
It's a fair question - I was able to negotiate all costs everywhere I have worked since getting the certification - the initial prep course and exam I outright firmly asked for it to be paid by my employer who did and then the following 3 jobs thereafter I negotiated it as part of my taking the position

I would not have taken those jobs if they didn't pay for it because yes, it's pricey and I don't know how I would have done it otherwise

If everyone negotiated it as part of the budget for their position or in their own firm's budget then it would become more of a standard practice
 

mercdude

Cyburbian
Messages
235
Points
7
^ I assume that means: no, you would not get / maintain AICP without employer contributions. Which is the scenario I'm in right now. And the more I think about it, the more I'm leaning towards no - the cost is just too high. I already have graduate school student loans that suck my blood, another credential that I have to pay for doesn't seem worthwhile.
 

MacheteJames

Cyburbian
Messages
930
Points
19
If everyone negotiated it as part of the budget for their position or in their own firm's budget then it would become more of a standard practice
Not an option for all of us, sadly. Here, the municipality's union will pay for positions that have a licensure requirement directly linked to your ability to the job. i.e., a Land Use Attorney could probably get their state bar dues taken care of, and a civil engineer could get their P.E. test and ASCE dues paid for. For planners, we don't necessarily need AICP to do our jobs effectively. Therefore, we are on our own. When I was in the private sector, *all* of my APA-related costs were paid by my employer. It is a hard pill to swallow to shell out $550 in dues plus the costs to attain the necessary CM credits, but as I don't have a master's degree in planning, I'll never give mine up. I just wish APA/AICP did me for me from a professional standpoint aside from (supposedly) signaling that I'm competent to do my job.

"Emerging Professionals" do get a break from APA/AICP, I believe.
 

mercdude

Cyburbian
Messages
235
Points
7
the cost is dependent upon salary so you can get a break - also new members I think get a break?
Starting July they do, yes. But the deadline for Fall's AICP exam is June. Convenient, eh?

Not an option for all of us, sadly. Here, the municipality's union will pay for positions that have a licensure requirement directly linked to your ability to the job. i.e., a Land Use Attorney could probably get their state bar dues taken care of, and a civil engineer could get their P.E. test and ASCE dues paid for. For planners, we don't necessarily need AICP to do our jobs effectively. Therefore, we are on our own.
This is the same for my employer... and it sucks.
 

OfficialPlanner

Cyburbian
Messages
930
Points
22
I disagree. If you want to consult and advance beyond an entry-level position, AICP is a very valuable. Planning firms bill out AICP planners at a higher rate than non-AICP. This alone makes the credential valuable.

That said, my current (public sector) employer has a history of de-emphasizing the importance of AICP, and many of the higher-level staff with tenure are not AICP. However, this is changing ever-so slowly. IMO, and this is only an opinion, but I think many planners dislike sitting around a table with AIA, PEs, ASLAs, and JDs without something of their own. I find credentialism of any kind to be lame, but in a small, competitive industry, it's a real thing.

AICP and a high level of skill in this profession don't necessarily correlate. What it does indicate, however, is the willingness to keep learning new material to help avoid falling into the type of siloed niches for which civil servants are notorious.
Yes and no. It's true that consultants bill out their AICP planners at a higher rate, and AICP makes planning contractors more attractive when responding to bids. But any firm worth their salt will pay and support AICP credentialing for their staff. Again, the folks paying out of pocket for AICP with hopes of a big promotion or transferring to a high-paying consulting gig are in for a big disappointment.

The annual cost of AICP along with time and expenses required for CE credits will be a big headache if an employer isn't supportive. There's no way a consultant is picking up someone on AICP alone. They're going to look at your experience and professional contacts if you had a high enough position in public sector. We present these false scenarios that if all things being equal, a planning firm will select an AICP over a non-AICP candidate, but in the real world things are never exactly equal. The applicants experience, attitude, and work ethic are going to be the deciding factor.

Ok, my two cents. (Which probably adds up to at least $90 bucks by now:p)

AICP and a high level of skill in this profession don't necessarily correlate. What it does indicate, however, is the willingness to keep learning new material to help avoid falling into the type of siloed niches for which civil servants are notorious.
Are you sure this isn't just a myth AICP-holders perpetuate so that they feel better about paying their dues to APA while receiving minimal in return? :p
 

The One

Cyburbian
Messages
8,283
Points
29
Blah Blah Blah

The main reason AICP isn't supported by public/private employers....drum roll please.....:8::8::8:........

because APA/AICP conduct ZERO outreach at ANY LEVEL on the importance of having a common foundation for planners, to begin with, including continued education during their careers!! They have not supported or pushed for State certification standards and they don't show up to support membership at ANY level. There is ZERO education about the level of education and experience needed to maintain certification.

No, don't tell me that's the member's responsibility.....BS! You try to convince the AICP less (many times disgruntled) director your AICP is worth more.

I've kept mine because my employer pays for it. No way I could justify paying $1,000+ a year out of pocket to keep it.
 

MD Planner

Cyburbian
Messages
1,845
Points
23
The main reason AICP isn't supported by public/private employers....drum roll please.....:8::8::8:........

because APA/AICP conduct ZERO outreach at ANY LEVEL on the importance of having a common foundation for planners, to begin with, including continued education during their careers!! They have not supported or pushed for State certification standards and they don't show up to support membership at ANY level. There is ZERO education about the level of education and experience needed to maintain certification.

No, don't tell me that's the member's responsibility.....BS! You try to convince the AICP less (many times disgruntled) director your AICP is worth more.

I've kept mine because my employer pays for it. No way I could justify paying $1,000+ a year out of pocket to keep it.
Well said. And entirely true. I've said similar things about planning in general and APA. They do NOTHING to elevate the professional profile of planners among the general public, let alone our employers. And honestly, it's not like APA really solicits member opinion on things like this. They should really have a town hall style meeting at the National Conference every year. But they won't.
 

dw914er

Cyburbian
Messages
1,308
Points
16
^ Okay, so it's valuable to you. Would you (did you) pay $1000 out of pocket to take the exam, and would you (have you) paid the almost $500 annually out of pocket to maintain the certificate? My suspicion is that almost no one would pay that amount, and the people that have AICP (and see value in maintaining it) get at least some of the costs paid for by their employer. If my employer paid for me to have the AICP, there'd be no question in mind - I'd get the AICP. But having to pay for everything out of pocket makes me re-evaluate it's value.
Based upon your posts, it sounds like you already had made up your mind...
 

glutton

Cyburbian
Messages
393
Points
11
ugh

So I just found out that my employer only covers AICP exam costs on a "case by case basis" and that too only for senior level and principal level people, even though it was written in the employee handbook that we are all "expected" to get licensed/certified, that the firm would cover the costs, and that we would even get a bonus if we passed.

ugh I hate ambiguous HR policies....guess who is no longer going to apply for AICP this year :(. On the plus side though, this frees up my summer at least?
 
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mercdude

Cyburbian
Messages
235
Points
7
Feel your pain. My employer only briefly mentions a HR policy for work related professional society's - aka CPA license. But that policy only gives you $200 annually. So I'd still be out the, what, $1000 for AICP exam and $300 annually + classes. Just on the off chance I could get the AICP qualified under that policy, I asked my boss who promptly replied "no". Game. Set. Match. Maybe next time AICP.
 

glutton

Cyburbian
Messages
393
Points
11
I think actually it's more like $550 for the exam (plus however much your prorated annual APA membership rate is). I wasn't planning on taking any classes, just brushing up on reading material from planning school and whatever free resources/study materials the state chapters offer.

But yeah, doesn't matter anymore I guess...screw this. I think I'd rather save up to go see some cool bike infrastructure in the Netherlands instead ;)
 

mercdude

Cyburbian
Messages
235
Points
7
Yeah a bit over $500 for the exam + (for me) $400+ for the membership. Even if you get the cert you have to get continuing education credits, which cost another $3-500 each course. So annually, probably around $1000 which includes the APA membership fee. Just ludicrous.
 

luckless pedestrian

Super Moderator
Moderator
Messages
10,872
Points
31
I wish I could make the time this year to run for AICP commissioner because the costs of the exam are pretty crazy - considering a person takes the exam likely in the beginning of their career, they likely have to pay for it themselves so I do get that
 

MacheteJames

Cyburbian
Messages
930
Points
19
I wish I could make the time this year to run for AICP commissioner because the costs of the exam are pretty crazy - considering a person takes the exam likely in the beginning of their career, they likely have to pay for it themselves so I do get that
I wanted to run as well, had a talk with folks from my chapter, and started on putting my materials together, but there just was not time to do my candidacy justice (especially with home life being a mess due to a baby).

AICP desperately needs reform. It could add so much more value than it does currently, and the cost of keeping the certification are flat out onerous if one's employer won't step up.
 

southern_yank

Cyburbian
Messages
134
Points
6
I recently reinstated my AICP cred after letting it lapse. It cost me a pretty penny and the actual educational value it brings is questionable. I did many of the CE webinars and meetings on my own even without the credential incentive. Having regular maintenance exams (every 3 or 4 years perhaps) would add more actual value to the designation in lieu of CE requirements, but I'm sure there's less money in that for APA.

The perceived value of AICP is another issue. Having applied for jobs with the same resume with and without the designation, I noticed interview callbacks increased noticeably with AICP. If you think of it more as a professional club and less as a professional certification, the costs are easier to swallow and the benefits make more sense.
 

mercdude

Cyburbian
Messages
235
Points
7
I recently reinstated my AICP cred after letting it lapse. It cost me a pretty penny and the actual educational value it brings is questionable. I did many of the CE webinars and meetings on my own even without the credential incentive. Having regular maintenance exams (every 3 or 4 years perhaps) would add more actual value to the designation in lieu of CE requirements, but I'm sure there's less money in that for APA.

The perceived value of AICP is another issue. Having applied for jobs with the same resume with and without the designation, I noticed interview callbacks increased noticeably with AICP. If you think of it more as a professional club and less as a professional certification, the costs are easier to swallow and the benefits make more sense.
So you're saying that the $1000 for a new APA member/AICP candidate is worth it???
 

southern_yank

Cyburbian
Messages
134
Points
6
I'm saying if you're searching for jobs (public or private), AICP will help you get your foot in the door. Depending on the pay bump of a new job, the certification costs may be worth it.
 

mercdude

Cyburbian
Messages
235
Points
7
^It sounds like you're saying that unless you are looking for a new job, then AICP is not worth the cost. Is that right?
 

DVD

Cyburbian
Messages
13,133
Points
31
I pay something like $455 a year for my AICP/APA/KSAPA memberships. It has given me:

A job (at least I'll credit it for edging out the competition - truth is the guy they wanted failed their psych eval).
The respect of my piers :lmao:
Planning magazine (used to start the fireplace)

What I would like to see:
An online knowledge base that doesn't cost.
How to handle the latest legal problems, how others have handled whatever problem we all share.
Some kind of education series on how I can become a better planner that doesn't involve the latest trendy thing only happening in your city.
Information for planners that aren't doing the latest TND, road diet, or other big city trendy thing (I happen to work for a rural county).

You know, I'm looking for knowledge and support for what I do.
 

Richmond Jake

Cyburbian
Messages
18,206
Points
41
If you intend to remain in California, it's not worth it. When was the last time you saw a California recruitment list AICP as "required, preferred, or desirable?"
 

OfficialPlanner

Cyburbian
Messages
930
Points
22
Does perceived value of AICP correlate to population of the municipality?

I was speaking to several NYC planners with DCP and HPD, along with private sector last week. There was universal bashing of the AICP and brutal crtisim of APA that would make even me blush. I know many AICP supporters here are directors in small and midsize communities. Just a thought. Anyone else have a similar experience during APA national conference?
 

MacheteJames

Cyburbian
Messages
930
Points
19
Does perceived value of AICP correlate to population of the municipality?

I was speaking to several NYC planners with DCP and HPD, along with private sector last week. There was universal bashing of the AICP and brutal crtisim of APA that would make even me blush. I know many AICP supporters here are directors in small and midsize communities. Just a thought. Anyone else have a similar experience during APA national conference?
This is a City thing. Agency staff here shun AICP. The biggest reasons I've always heard for this are lack of perceived value for the cost and too much emphasis on town planning versus the realities of city planning. NYC's zoning regime is highly idiosyncratic and is probably more complex than anything else in the entire country. APA has little to offer in helping planners navigate the challenges associated with planning in extremely dense areas.

Go 15 minute outside the city, though, and AICP is everywhere. Especially Jersey, where you'll get both your AICP and your PP if you want to rise above entry-level status.

I would be curious to hear some of the things you heard about AICP by attendees at the national conference.
 

mercdude

Cyburbian
Messages
235
Points
7
If you intend to remain in California, it's not worth it. When was the last time you saw a California recruitment list AICP as "required, preferred, or desirable?"
Often, actually. Admittedly this is for a Senior Planner job, but check out this vacancy in Santa Rosa as an example. https://planning.org/jobs/ad/9125226/

As another data point: In CA, AICP only seems to be desirable for senior/management positions at local or consulting firms (not state, MPO's, etc.). I wonder if the correlation is as simple as: once an employee gets selected for management, they are encouraged to get certified to help justify their employment elevation within the organization. That's how I've seen MPA's work. If you enter the organization with a MPA, it's like "that's nice". But, if the sun shines on you enough to get into upper management, that's when I see people suddenly go for their graduate degree. When that happens, they've been selected for executive management.
 
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OfficialPlanner

Cyburbian
Messages
930
Points
22
This is a City thing. Agency staff here shun AICP. The biggest reasons I've always heard for this are lack of perceived value for the cost and too much emphasis on town planning versus the realities of city planning. NYC's zoning regime is highly idiosyncratic and is probably more complex than anything else in the entire country. APA has little to offer in helping planners navigate the challenges associated with planning in extremely dense areas.

Go 15 minute outside the city, though, and AICP is everywhere. Especially Jersey, where you'll get both your AICP and your PP if you want to rise above entry-level status.

I would be curious to hear some of the things you heard about AICP by attendees at the national conference.
Planning in New Jersey is different since it's the only state that requires AICP to be a planner, I think. The comments from the City people were that APA wasn't relevant to the issues they face day to day. The chapter level is a little better, but much more of a suburban and rural focus, which is understand giving the geography of NYS.

Is it just a NYC thing or do other big cities like Chicago or LA have similar opinions?
 

mercdude

Cyburbian
Messages
235
Points
7
I wouldn't lump LA in with Chicago - it's a typical west coast suburban sprawl city (on steroids), at least as far as housing typology and density is concerned.
 

The One

Cyburbian
Messages
8,283
Points
29
Hmmm

Often, actually. Admittedly this is for a Senior Planner job, but check out this vacancy in Santa Rosa as an example. https://planning.org/jobs/ad/9125226/

As another data point: In CA, AICP only seems to be desirable for senior/management positions at local or consulting firms (not state, MPO's, etc.). I wonder if the correlation is as simple as: once an employee gets selected for management, they are encouraged to get certified to help justify their employment elevation within the organization. That's how I've seen MPA's work. If you enter the organization with a MPA, it's like "that's nice". But, if the sun shines on you enough to get into upper management, that's when I see people suddenly go for their graduate degree. When that happens, they've been selected for executive management.
In the Central Valley of California AICP is considered hoity-toity. Not having AICP is a badge of honor and respect by your Oklahoma peers. :not:

The cheapest 1 bedroom dump in Santa Rosa will eat up about 25% of your net real montly take home from that Senior Planner job. Not to mention the $527,100 median home price in Santa Rosa.
 

flbeachgirl

Cyburbian
Messages
61
Points
4
Yeah a bit over $500 for the exam + (for me) $400+ for the membership. Even if you get the cert you have to get continuing education credits, which cost another $3-500 each course. So annually, probably around $1000 which includes the APA membership fee. Just ludicrous.
Check around for free CE credits. I have managed to get all of my credits for practically nothing over the last few years.
 

MacheteJames

Cyburbian
Messages
930
Points
19
...about to do the annual $500 out of pocket bloodletting for dues, and just wanted to say, once again, that shelling out like this sucks without much of anything to show for it.
 

kjel

Super Moderator
Moderator
Messages
11,829
Points
30
...about to do the annual $500 out of pocket bloodletting for dues, and just wanted to say, once again, that shelling out like this sucks without much of anything to show for it.
Can you write it off if it's not reimbursed? I haven't bothered to take the AICP exam, but I think the ship has sailed for me on an actual planner position and I'm staying on the community development side.
 

arcplans

As Featured in "High Times"
Messages
6,351
Points
25
If you intend to remain in California, it's not worth it. When was the last time you saw a California recruitment list AICP as "required, preferred, or desirable?"
Majority of management and upper level director positions now prefered or list it as "desirable". Than again, I am officially past the 10 year make as Any Idiot Can Plan
 
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