Why Hire Certified Planners?
Planners with the AICP credential bring extra value to their employers and their communities.
Here is what leaders in the field have to say.
Sergio Rodriguez retired as vice president of real estate, construction, and facilities for the University of Miami. He is a former city manager for Miami Beach, Florida, and a past chair of the AICP College of Fellows selection committee.
APA: What do you see as the value of the AICP credential?
Rodriguez: AICP is the seal of approval. It gives identity to the profession, and it gives planners credibility. When you're working with an attorney or an architect, it puts planners on more equal footing. It means you're dealing with a known expert.
APA: Why is that important?
Rodriguez: Sometimes when people cut budgets, they start with things they don't understand. They understand police and fire. But the planning profession is not easy to define. The AICP credential has a lot of credibility. That seal of approval helps planning departments in legal matters and budget cuts.
"The AICP credential has a lot of credibility. That seal of approval helps planning departments in legal matters and budget cuts."
APA: How does AICP certification benefit employers?
Rodriguez: I've worked a lot on the legal side of planning matters. Whenever attorneys knew I would be challenged, they always asked me to include my AICP qualification. If a certified planner makes a statement, it means more.
APA: What's the value for the community?
Rodriguez: Certification helps protect planners and the community against political pressure. In any planning process, you'll hear from people who may not have the community's best interests at heart. Because certified planners are seen by others as known experts, they can better help protect the community against special interest groups.
APA: An AICP credential takes a certain amount of investment from the employer. Is it worth it?
Rodriguez: As a planning director or city manager I have always supported any of the planners working for me who wanted to take the AICP exam. The knowledge they gained helped us all do a better job, and the added credential made the department that much more credible in other people's eyes.
Ralph Becker was sworn in as mayor of Salt Lake City in 2008 after 11 years as a state representative. Earlier, he founded a consulting firm specializing in community planning, environmental assessment, public lands, land use, consensus building, and public involvement.
APA: Why should planners become certified — and why should communities care?
Becker: AICP establishes a standard for professionals. When they see the credential, people are certain they're dealing with professionals who have the education and experience to perform the art and science of planning. It's important to have a professional credential.
"AICP members support the principles and standards of good planning. They work to make sound decisions for their communities."
APA: What's the advantage of hiring planners with the AICP credential?
Becker: It leads to better decisions. When planning is done properly, the decision-making process is as good you'll find anywhere in any profession, and the AICP exam preparation makes sure planners learn that process in detail.
APA: What's the value certified planners bring to their communities?
Becker: AICP members support the principles and standards of good planning. They work to make sound decisions for their communities. What are the alternatives? What is the preferred approach? With public input, we make a decision and carry out the decision. As we see how that decision plays out over time, we adapt. That process is the best form for making decisions and arriving at good results.
APA: What differences have certified planners made in your community?
Becker: Planners play an important role in every decision we make about our neighborhoods, our downtown, and our physical, natural, and social environment. If I'm working on an issue related to homelessness or social justice, the planning process applies as well as it does to transportation.
APA: What does the AICP credential tell you?
Becker: When I see that someone has the AICP, I know they've been through pretty rigorous training. They understand planning as a professional approach to making decisions, and they have the basic tools they need to be effective.
Joe Riley is serving an unprecedented 10th term as mayor of Charleston, South Carolina. He founded the Mayors' Institute on City Design, and the Joseph P. Riley Jr. Award for Leadership in City Design was created in his honor. President Barack Obama presented him with the National Medal of the Arts in 2009.
APA: What makes the AICP a desirable credential?
Riley: Planning is a vitally important field for the good of our country and our communities. For a community or a corporation or a foundation — anyone who's looking for planning guidance or facilitation — the AICP confirms that a planner has the ability to serve the community effectively.
"Good planners can make a world of difference to a community. The AICP credential says you're working with solid professionals."
APA: What do you see as the advantage of hiring planners with the AICP credential?
Riley: Good planners can make a world of difference to a community. The AICP credential says you're working with solid professionals.
APA: What differences have certified planners made in your community?
Riley: For every complex land-use decision or management decision or process or opportunity in my administration, a certified planner has been a critical part of the team. We've restored Charleston's downtown, developed the waterfront, and created walkable, livable, diverse communities, all of it with credentialed members of the planning profession.
APA: How do cities benefit by supporting and reimbursing planning staff members who take the AICP exam and continue their professional education?
Riley: The investment cities make in their professional planning staff is extremely valuable. A community gets enhanced knowledge, broader perspective, and greater achievement. The investment is returned many times over.
Fernando Costa is assistant city manager for Fort Worth, Texas and past chair of the Planning Accreditation Board. He received the APA President's Meritorious Service Award in 2006 for his work after Hurricane Katrina.
APA: What does AICP designation mean within the planning field?
Costa: The AICP credential carries considerable weight. It's recognized as the mark of a professional and signifies a high degree of professional competence.
APA: How is it perceived outside the profession?
Other professions have their own credentials, some of which enjoy broader public recognition. We should strive to make the AICP designation more widely known in society at large.
APA: To the public, what difference does it make if a planner is certified?
Costa: The AICP credential lets people know they're dealing with a professional who has the knowledge, skills, and values to give reliable advice on community growth and development. Without the AICP credential, the public has no assurance they're receiving more than one person's opinion.
"AICP certified planners know how to help communities attract investment."
APA: Budgets are tight for a lot of communities. How do you justify the cost of certification?
Costa: AICP certified planners know how to help communities attract investment. They can help public officials and business leaders make sound decisions about their community's economic future. Having certified planners on staff is even more important in tough economic times.
APA: When you hire, how much weight do you give to an AICP credential?
Costa: When we're considering candidates for job openings, the AICP credential immediately lets us know the person has completed a certain education requirement and demonstrated a level of knowledge and experience. As an employer, it's important to have that assurance.