The American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) Exam

Urban and regional planners have the potential to have both short and long term impact on the growth of the communities and cities that they work in. They help local officials alleviate social, economic, and environmental problems by recommending locations for roads, schools, and other infrastructure and suggesting zoning regulations for private property. That part of the job requires you to forecast future needs of a population, so a solid understanding of the community you are working in is crucial.

Because planning can cover such a broad spectrum of areas (think of how many areas of your home town that have needed improvement over the years), planners have many options when it comes to choosing an area(s) of specialization. Areas of specialization for planners include:

  • Community Development
  • Land Use and Code Enforcement
  • Transportation Planning
  • Environmental and Natural Resources Planning
  • Economic Development
  • Urban Design
  • Planning Management
  • Housing
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Historic Preservation
  • Community Activism

A few planners have one area of specialization that is their focus for an entire career, but not many. Likewise, most planners do not attempt to become specialized in all these areas of planning. Most pick between two and four areas that particularly interest them and find jobs and/or projects to work on in those areas.

While planning can be extremely rewarding and have long term benefits for those it services, this career path is not for everyone. The skills required to succeed as a planner are specialized and can take years to develop. Some of the skills that tend to be prevalent in successful planners include:

  • The knowledge and understanding of urban spatial structure or physical design and the way in which cities work and operate.
  • Success in planning requires visual acuity, especially if you cannot yet literally see the whole picture. It is kind of like having to put together a huge jigsaw puzzle, even though you do not have all the physical pieces of the puzzle.
  • The ability to analyze demographic information to predict trends in population and employment.
  • The ability to make plans and evaluate projects.
  • Mastery of techniques for involving a wide range of people in making decisions, and analyzing and evaluating the impact that those decisions will have on different types of people.
  • The understanding of local, state, and federal government programs and processes.
  • The understanding of the social and environmental impact of planning decisions on communities.
  • The ability to work with the public and explain planning issues to a variety of people with varying levels of understanding and different perspectives as to how planning decisions will affect them personally.
  • The ability to function as a mediator or as a facilitator when community interests conflict as a result of the planning decisions being made.
  • An understanding of the legal foundation for land use regulation and how those regulations impact what planning decisions can be made.
  • An understanding of the interconnection between the economy, transportation, health and human services, and land use regulation.
  • The ability to solve problems using a balance of technical proficiency, creativity, and determination. A successful urban and regional planner should be equally comfortable with technical and artistic concepts. This is not always an easy combination to find in a person.
  • The ability to envision alternatives to the geographical and social environments in which we currently live.
  • A mastery of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and office software.

Most planners have a master’s degree in planning. It is possible to get an entry level position as a planner with a bachelor’s degree in planning or a closely related field, but it is difficult to advance beyond the entry level without a master’s degree. Passing an exam offered by the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) can also greatly improve opportunities for career advancement.

AICP Exam Eligibility Requirements

AICP Exam Eligibility RequirementsBefore you can take the American Institute for Certified Planners (AICP) Exam, you must meet several eligibility requirements. They are as follows:

You must be a current member in good standing of the American Planning Association (APA). Annual national dues are based on your annual income.

Information on members’ personal income is kept strictly confidential. Membership in an APA chapter is also mandatory for members of the APA living in the United States. Chapter dues are as follows:

  • Alabama: Thirty dollars
  • Alaska: Thirty-five dollars
  • Arizona: Forty-two dollars
  • Arkansas: Twenty-five dollars
  • California: Eighty-five dollars
  • Colorado: Twenty-five per cent of APA National Dues, rounded to the nearest dollar
  • Connecticut: Thirty-five per cent of APA National Dues, rounded to the nearest dollar
  • Delaware: Thirty dollars
  • Florida: Forty-five per cent of APA National Dues, rounded to the nearest dollar
  • Georgia: Thirty-five dollars
  • Hawaii: Thirty-five dollars
  • Idaho: Twenty-five dollars
  • Illinois: Twenty-five per cent of APA National Dues, rounded to the nearest dollar
  • Indiana: Thirty-five dollars
  • Iowa: Thirty-four dollars
  • Kansas: Twenty-five dollars
  • Kentucky: Thirty-five dollars
  • Louisiana: Fifty dollars
  • Maryland: Twenty-seven dollars
  • Massachusetts: Thirty-five dollars
  • Michigan: Sixty dollars
  • Minnesota: Fifty dollars
  • Mississippi: Thirty-five dollars
  • Missouri: Twenty-five dollars
  • National Capital Region (includes Washington D.C., Montgomery County, Maryland, and Prince George’s County, Maryland): Thirty dollars
  • Nebraska: Thirty dollars
  • Nevada: Thirty dollars
  • New Jersey: Thirty-five per cent of APA National Dues, rounded to the nearest dollar
  • New Mexico: Forty dollars
  • New York (metropolitan area): Forty-nine dollars
  • New York (upstate): Thirty-five dollars
  • North Carolina: Forty dollars
  • Northern New England (includes Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont): Twenty-five per cent of APA National Dues, rounded to the nearest dollar
  • Ohio: Forty-five dollars
  • Oklahoma: Thirty dollars
  • Oregon: Fifty-five dollars
  • Pennsylvania: Forty-five per cent of APA National Dues, rounded to the nearest dollar
  • Rhode Island: Twenty-five dollars
  • South Carolina: Thirty-five dollars
  • Tennessee: Twenty-five dollars
  • Texas: Forty-five dollars
  • Utah: Twenty-five per cent of APA National Dues, rounded to the nearest dollar
  • Virginia: Forty-five dollars
  • Washington: Twenty-five per cent of APA National Dues, rounded to the nearest dollar
  • West Virginia: Forty-five dollars
  • West Central Region (includes Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming): Twenty-five dollars
  • Wisconsin: Forty-five dollars

APA members also have the option of joining divisions. Depending on the work they engage in, these divisions could be very beneficial for educational and networking purposes. The available divisions for membership are: City Planning and Management; County Planning; Economic Development; Environment, Natural Resources, and Energy; Federal Planning; Gays and Lesbians in Planning; Housing and Community Development; Indigenous Planning; International; Latinos in Planning; New Urbanism; Planning and Law; Planning and the Black Community; Planning and Women; Private Practice; Regional and Intergovernmental Planning; Small Town and Rural Planning; Technology; Transportation Planning; and Urban Design and Preservation. Dues for each division are twenty-five dollars.

Anyone wishing to sit for the AICP exam must be engaged in professional planning, either currently or in the past, as defined by the AICP. For further information on the AICP’s definition of professional planning, visit the AICP’s Web site athttp:///www.planning.org/certification/experience.htm.

You must have completed, at the time that you submit your application, one of the following combinations of education and professional planning experience:

  • Graduate degree in planning from a program accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board (PAB): Two years of professional planning experience required
  • Bachelor’s degree in planning from a program accredited by the PAB: Three years of professional planning experience required
  • Graduate degree in planning from a program NOT accredited by the PAB: Three years of professional planning experience required
  • Any other post-graduate, graduate, or undergraduate degree: Four years of professional planning experience required
  • No college degree: Eight years of professional planning experience required

Certification from the AICP is not easily earned. It requires years of professional and educational experience. The exam is also challenging. However, those who do earn the designation will find many more opportunities for career advancement in the field of planning than those who do not.

Schools That Offer Bachelor’s Degree Programs Accredited By The Planning Accreditation Board

There is a work experience requirement to gain eligibility for taking the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) exam. The number of years of planning experience you are required to have before you can take the AICP exam varies depending on whether or not you have an undergraduate or a graduate degree, whether or not that degree is in planning, and if the degree is in planning, whether your planning degree was obtained from a school that is accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board (PAB). Obtaining your degree from a school whose program is accredited by the PAB will reduce your work experience requirement by one year, so researching whether or not a program is accredited would be a wise investment of your time.

The following is a list of schools, alphabetically by state, that offer bachelor’s degree programs accredited by the PAB:

ALABAMA

  • Alabama A&M University
  • Normal, Alabama
  • Bachelor of Science in Urban Planning
    PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS SCHOOL’S ACCREDITATION IS CURRENTLY PROBATIONARY

ARIZONA

  • Arizona State University
    Tempe, Arizona
  • Bachelor of Science in Planning

CALIFORNIA

  • California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
  • San Luis Obispo, California
  • Bachelor of Science in City and Regional Planning
  • California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
  • Pomona, California
  • Bachelor of Science in Urban and Regional Planning

ILLINOIS

  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Champaign, Illinois
  • Bachelor of Arts in Urban Planning

INDIANA

  • Ball State University
  • Muncie, Indiana
  • Bachelor of Urban Planning and Development

IOWA

  • Iowa State University
  • Ames, Iowa
  • Bachelor of Science in Community and Regional Planning

MICHIGAN

  • Eastern Michigan University
  • Ypsilanti, Michigan
  • Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts in Urban and Regional Planning
  • Michigan State University
  • East Lansing, Michigan
  • Bachelor of Science in Urban and Regional Planning

MISSOURI

  • Missouri State University
  • Springfield, Missouri
  • Bachelor of Science in Planning
  • University of Missouri-Kansas City
  • Kansas City, Missouri
  • Bachelor of Urban Planning and Design
    PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS SCHOOL IS CURRENTLY A CANDIDATE FOR ACCREDITATION

NORTH CAROLINA

  • East Carolina University
  • Greenville, North Carolina
  • Bachelor of Science in Urban and Regional Planning

OHIO

  • University of Cincinnati
  • Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Bachelor of Urban Planning

PENNSYLVANIA

  • Indiana University of Pennsylvania
  • Indiana, Pennsylvania
  • Bachelor of Science in Regional Planning
    PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS SCHOOL IS CURRENTLY A CANDIDATE FOR ACCREDITIATION

VIRGINIA

  • University of Virginia
  • Charlottesville, Virginia
  • Bachelor of Urban and Environmental Planning

WASHINGTON

  • Eastern Washington University
  • Spokane, Washington
  • Bachelor of Arts in Urban and Regional Planning

CANADA

  • University of Montreal
  • Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  • Bachelor of Arts in Urban Planning

Because of the highly specialized nature of planning work, advancement opportunities will be limited if you choose to end your education at the bachelor’s degree level. More schools are accredited by the PAB at the master’s degree level than at the bachelor’s degree level. Also, if you are contemplating a career change, a bachelor’s degree in planning is not an iron clad prerequisite to entry into a master’s degree program in planning. A listing of schools that have master’s degree planning programs that are accredited by the PAB will be offered in the next article.

Schools That Offer Master’s Degree Programs Accredited By The Planning Accreditation Board

(Alabama-New York)

The following is a list of schools, alphabetically by state from Alabama through New York, that offer master’s degree programs accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board (PAB). This list will be continued in the following article.

Schools That Offer Master's Degree Programs Accredited By The Planning Accreditation BoardALABAMA

  • Alabama A&M University
    Normal, Alabama
    Master of Urban and Regional Planning
    PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS SCHOOL’S ACCREDITATION IS CURRENTLY ON ADMINISTRATIVE PROBATION
  • Auburn University
    Auburn, Alabama
    Master of Community Planning

ARIZONA

  • Arizona State University
    Tempe, Arizona
    Master of Urban and Environmental Planning
  • University of Arizona
    Tucson, Arizona
    Master of Science in Planning

CALIFORNIA

  • California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
    San Luis Obispo, California
    Master of City and Regional Planning
  • California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
    Pomona, California
    Master of Urban and Regional Planning
  • San Jose State University
    San Jose, California
    Master of Urban Planning
  • University of California, Berkeley
    Berkeley, California
    Master of City Planning
  • University of California, Irvine
    Irvine, California
    Master of Urban and Regional Planning
  • University of California, Los Angeles
    Los Angeles, California
    Master of Urban and Regional Planning
  • University of Southern California
    Los Angeles, California
    Master of Planning

COLORADO

  • University of Colorado, Denver
    Denver, Colorado
    Master of Urban and Regional Planning

FLORIDA

  • Florida Atlantic University
    Fort Lauderdale, Florida
    Master of Urban and Regional Planning
  • Florida State University
    Tallahassee, Florida
    Master of Science in Planning
  • University of Florida
    Gainesville, Florida
    Master of Arts in Urban and Regional Planning

GEORGIA

  • Georgia Institute of Technology
    Atlanta, Georgia
    Master of City and Regional Planning

HAWAII

  • University of Hawaii at Manoa
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    Master of Urban and Regional Planning

ILLINOIS

  • University of Illinois at Chicago
    Chicago, Illinois
    Master of Urban Planning and Policy
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
    Champaign, Illinois
    Master of Urban Planning

INDIANA

  • Ball State University
    Muncie, Indiana
    Master of Urban and Regional Planning

IOWA

  • Iowa State University
    Ames, Iowa
    Master of Community and Regional Planning
  • University of Iowa
    Iowa City, Iowa
    Master of Arts or Master of Science in Urban and Regional Planning

KANSAS

  • Kansas State University
    Manhattan, Kansas
    Master of Regional and Community Planning
  • University of Kansas
    Lawrence, Kansas
    Master of Urban Planning

KENTUCKY

  • University of Louisville
    Louisville, Kentucky
    Master of Urban Planning

LOUISIANA

  • University of New Orleans
    New Orleans, Louisiana
    Master of Urban and Regional Planning

MARYLAND

  • Morgan State University
    Baltimore, Maryland
    Master of City and Regional Planning
  • University of Maryland at College Park
    College Park, Maryland
    Master of Community Planning

MASSACHUSETTS

  • Harvard University
    Cambridge, Massachusetts
    Master of Urban Planning
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Cambridge, Massachusetts
    Master in City Planning
  • Tufts University
    Medford, Massachusetts
    Master of Arts in Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning
  • University of Massachusetts at Amherst
    Amherst, Massachusetts
    Master of Regional Planning

MICHIGAN

  • Michigan State University
    East Lansing, Michigan
    Master in Urban and Regional Planning
  • University of Michigan
    Ann Arbor, Michigan
    Master of Urban Planning
  • Wayne State University
    Detroit, Michigan
    Master of Urban Planning

MINNESOTA

  • University of Minnesota
    Minneapolis, Minnesota
    Master of Urban and Regional Planning

MISSISSIPPI

  • Jackson State University
    Jackson, Mississippi
    Master of Arts in Urban and Regional Planning

NEBRASKA

  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln
    Lincoln, Nebraska
    Master of Community and Regional Planning

NEW JERSEY

  • Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
    New Brunswick, New Jersey
    Master of City and Regional Planning

NEW MEXICO

  • University of New Mexico
    Albuquerque, New Mexico
    Master of Community and Regional Planning

NEW YORK

  • Columbia University
    New York, New York
    Master of Science in Urban Planning
  • Cornell University
    Ithaca, New York
    Master of Regional Planning
  • Hunter College, City University of New York
    New York, New York
    Master of Urban Planning
  • New York University
    New York, New York
    Master of Urban Planning
  • Pratt Institute
    Brooklyn, New York
    Master of Science in City and Regional Planning
  • University at Albany, State University of New York
    Albany, New York
    Master in Urban and Regional Planning
  • University at Buffalo, State University of New York
    Buffalo, New York
    Master of Urban Planning

Schools That Offer Master’s Degree Programs Accredited By The Planning Accreditation Board

(North Carolina-Wyoming and International)

The following is a list of schools, alphabetically by state , that offer master’s degree programs accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board (PAB).

NORTH CAROLINA

  • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    • Chapel Hill, North Carolina
    • Master of City and Regional Planning

OHIO

  • Cleveland State University
    • Cleveland, Ohio
    • Master of Urban Planning, Design, and Development
  • The Ohio State University
    • Columbus, Ohio
    • Master of City and Regional Planning
  • University of Cincinnati
    • Cincinnati, Ohio
    • Master of Community Planning

OKLAHOMA

  • University of Oklahoma
    • Norman, Oklahoma
    • Master of Regional and City Planning

OREGON

  • Portland State University
    • Portland, Oregon
    • Master of Urban and Regional Planning
  • University of Oregon
    • Eugene, Oregon
    • Master of Community and Regional Planning

PENNSYLVANIA

  • Temple University
    • Ambler, Pennsylvania
    • Master of Science in Community and Regional Planning
  • University of Pennsylvania
    • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    • Master of City Planning

SOUTH CAROLINA

  • Clemson University
    • Clemson, South Carolina
    • Master of City and Regional Planning

TENNESSEE

  • University of Memphis
    • Memphis, Tennessee
    • Master of City and Regional Planning

TEXAS

  • Texas A&M University
    • College Station, Texas
    • Master of Urban Planning
  • Texas Southern University
    • Houston, Texas
    • Master of Urban Planning and Environmental Policy
  • The University of Texas at Arlington
    • Arlington, Texas
    • Master of City and Regional Planning
  • The University of Texas at Austin
    • Austin, Texas
    • Master of Science in Community and Regional Planning

UTAH

  • University of Utah
    • Salt Lake City, Utah
    • Master of City and Metropolitan Planning

VIRGINIA

  • University of Virginia
    • Charlottesville, Virginia
    • Master of Urban and Environmental Planning
  • Virginia Commonwealth University
    • Richmond, Virginia
    • Master of Urban and Regional Planning
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
    • Blacksburg, Virginia
    • Master of Urban and Regional Planning

WASHINGTON

  • Eastern Washington University
    • Spokane, Washington
    • Master of Urban and Regional Planning
  • University of Washington
    • Seattle, Washington
    • Master of Urban Planning

WISCONSIN

  • University of Wisconsin – Madison
    • Madison, Wisconsin
    • Master of Science in Urban and Regional Planning
  • University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee
    • Milwaukee, Wisconsin
    • Master of Urban Planning

PUERTO RICO

  • University of Puerto Rico
    • San Juan, Puerto Rico
    • Master in Planning

CANADA

  • University of British Columbia
    • Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
    • Master of Arts or Master of Science in Planning
  • University of Montreal
    • Montreal, Quebec, Canada
    • Master of City Planning

NON-ACCREDITED SCHOOLS THAT OFFER A DEGREE OR DEGREES IN PLANNING

Because you are not required to obtain a degree from a school accredited by the PAB to take the AICP exam, non-accredited schools, subcategorized by state, are listed here for your review so you have a complete picture of your options for obtaining a degree in planning. Contact the university directly for more information about these programs. The city the university is located in is listed in parentheses:

ALABAMA

  • University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa)

CALIFORNIA

  • California State University, Northridge (Northridge)
  • San Diego State University (San Diego)

DELAWARE

  • University of Delaware (Newark)

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

  • The Catholic University of America (Washington D.C.)

FLORIDA

  • University of South Florida (Tampa)

GEORGIA

  • Savannah State University (Savannah)

IDAHO

  • University of Idaho (Moscow)

MAINE

  • University of Southern Maine (Portland)

MASSACHUSETTS

  • Boston University (Boston)

MICHIGAN

  • Western Michigan University (Kalamazoo)

MINNESOTA

  • Minnesota State University, Mankato (Mankato)

MISSOURI

  • Saint Louis University (St. Louis)

NEVADA

  • University of Nevada, Reno (Reno)

NEW JERSEY

  • Rutgers University, School of Environmental and Biological Sciences (New Brunswick)

NORTH CAROLINA

  • Appalachian State University (Boone)

OHIO

  • Miami University (Oxford)
  • The University of Akron (Akron)
  • University of Toledo (Toledo)

PENNSYLVANIA

  • West Chester University (West Chester)

TEXAS

  • University of Texas, San Antonio (San Antonio)

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