Planning Experience Essays

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Essay Criteria

The AICP Commission has established three criteria that distinguish the experiences of professional planners from those of layperson planners, allied professionals, community stakeholders, and elected or appointed officials:

  • Professional planners demonstrate a professional level of responsibility and resourcefulness while applying a planning process appropriate to the project or situation.
  • Professional planners evaluate multiple impacts to a community when implementing professional planning tasks.
  • Professional planners influence public decision making in the public interest.

To become an AICP certified planner, members must write three short essays that describe and explain how their professional experiences align with the criteria.

Essay Response Requirements

  • Each response must be between 250-500 in length.
  • Each response must be based on the member's verified professional experience (but does not need to address the entirety of that experience).
  • Each response must be unique and aligned with its respective criterion (i.e., a response cannot be repeated for multiple criteria).
  • Each response must be self-contained and self-explanatory (i.e., a response must not be dependent on information provided in a different response, an employment verification letter, or external documentation).

The AICP Guide Part 1: Certification Application provides detailed information on the essay requirements and offers general tips and criterion-specific response instructions and guidance. Be sure you've thoroughly read the guidance before beginning your essays.

Planning Experience Essay Tips

Essay Review Process

Our team of AICP certified planners will collaborate in evaluating your essays to determine whether they meet the required criteria for professional planning experience.

Planning experience essays are a crucial component in the certification process and must be approved before certification can be earned. If your essays are denied, you'll receive detailed feedback provided from our review team that provides the reasons for denial so you can revise your essays during a future window.

If you applied as an expedited submission, you'll have one week from the date of notification to revise and resubmit your essays for a second review during the same window. A second essay submission in the same window does not guarantee an approval.