Enhancing the Value of the AICP Credential

Planners constantly recognize and promote positive change. Because the American Institute of Certified Planners is a direct reflection of our members' ideals and aspirations, AICP must continue to advocate and manage change with commitment, clarity, and purpose.

It was a pleasure serving as AICP President in 2017 and 2018. As my eight years on the AICP Commission draw to an end, I'd like to reflect on the work of the Commission and the value of AICP certification to nearly 17,000 AICP members we represent.

Why AICP Is Important

Throughout my 30 years of leadership service to APA and AICP, I've often been asked by students and emerging planners about the importance of AICP Certification. To me, the answer comes easily. AICP Certification is more than an objective to achieve; it reflects an ongoing commitment to our careers, to our fellow planners, to those who employ us, and to the public we serve. The meaning of AICP is demonstrated by the planners who hold this credential in their values, skills, and leadership:

Professional Credibility

The AICP credential establishes credibility, which is crucial when providing recommendations to public officials, professional collaborators, and the public. When they see the AICP after a planner's name, they can trust that he or she has taken an objective and comprehensive point of view, and is advocating public decision-making in the public interest.

Ethical Integrity

AICP members have a deep understanding of the ethical challenges planners may face and commit to using the AICP Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct to help navigate those ethical quandaries. This commitment forms the very foundation of the credential.

Core Competencies

AICP's Core Competencies establish a framework for the fundamental knowledge that every planner should bring to their role. We ensure our standards remain relevant by benchmarking the core competencies against the day-to-day realities of the ever-evolving planning field.

Growing a Career

AICP Certification is a professional achievement that opens doors. Four out of five AICP members attribute their career advancement to having earned AICP Certification. Employers who want to attract the most highly qualified candidates for their open positions know to look for AICP Certification.

Advancing Skills and Knowledge

Under the Certification Maintenance program, we AICP members stay up to date with advances and trends in the planning profession. The CM requirements and breadth of professional development and course options inspire me and encourage all certified planners to continually enhance our skills, stay current, and bring the latest planning ideas to our daily work.

Leading Through Commitment

AICP emphasizes the importance of giving back to the planning profession and the communities planners serve through commitment, volunteering, and mentoring.

Many AICP members offer their planning services pro bono to at-need communities as individuals, together with their chapters, or through APA's Community Assistance Program. Others mentor students and new professionals, assess AICP Certification applications, and participate in accreditation reviews of academic planning programs to give back to the planning profession through volunteering.

Career-long commitment to the planning profession is recognized through the AICP College of Fellows, which now has more than 550 members.

Evolving to Meet the Needs of Our Profession

The AICP Commission has initiated some exciting enhancements and changes during my two years as president to support planners and communities.

I'm confident that we're on the right path, but there's more to be done. Planning needs more voices that specifically reflect the diversity and inclusivity of our profession.

The AICP credential provides an important avenue for planners with a variety of backgrounds and perspectives to flourish in their careers. Nearly 700 new planners become AICP certified each year, and we must continue to foster opportunities for members of underrepresented groups and planners in non-traditional roles to be among that number.

AICP and its leaders can never be complacent about communicating and increasing the value of the credential. According to recent research, 90 percent of planning employers believe it's important to promote employee professional development — but only 50 percent are encouraging their employees to pursue AICP Certification. AICP recognizes the importance of closing this gap by emphasizing all the ways that employers will benefit from supporting AICP Certification.

I'd like to share with you a new video, The Value of AICP-Certified Planners. Hear planners from the public and private sectors speak about why their organizations support AICP certification and the value that AICP-certified planners provide to their teams, communities, and projects.

Looking to the Future

The future of our profession rests with today's planning students and emerging professionals.

We are actively collaborating with the academic planning community to strengthen the links between education and practice. Launched in November 2017, the AICP Candidate Pilot Program is a major career development opportunity providing a new path to AICP Certification for planning students and graduates while maintaining the integrity of the credential. More than 1,000 students and emerging professionals have currently enrolled in the program since its inception, and more than 250 planners have already earned the AICP Candidate designation. The AICP Commission is proud of this new program and is looking forward to seeing greater diversity among AICP-certified planners as new generations continue to pursue certification.

While emerging planners continue to join AICP's ranks, increasing numbers of baby boomers are retiring. Employers are facing the departure of senior leaders and with them years of expertise and knowledge. AICP-certified planners are poised to step into some of these roles.

AICP members maintain advanced knowledge of the latest planning approaches and trends through Certification Maintenance, keeping them at the top of their fields. And, for all current and future generations of AICP-certified planners, accessing quality education and logging CM credits is now more convenient and affordable than ever before. 

The growth of AICP presents extraordinary opportunities.

Our challenge is to ensure AICP remains invaluable to all planners as they establish, grow, and excel in their careers. AICP will continue to embrace the diverse perspectives of future generations of planners and move forward with strategies that provide them with a clear path to certification. The AICP Commission will remain firmly focused on our members and mission, tapping into the diverse vision, expertise, and commitment of our members.

Working together, we can ensure AICP continues to grow as an essential resource to our careers, to our fellow planners, to those who employ us, and to the public we serve.

Top image: AICP lapel pins.

About the Author
Glenn Larson is the immediate past president of the American Institute of Certified Planners. He has more than 38 years of comprehensive planning and management experience in a variety of communities in Virginia and South Carolina.

March 18, 2019

By Glenn Larson, FAICP