April 8, 2013

About the American Planning Association

Planners play a vital role in building communities of lasting value. Their ability to envision future plans, identify issues, and solve the challenges brought on by growth and change, help build quality communities across the nation. The American Planning Association (APA) brings together thousands of people — professional planners, engaged citizens, elected officials, and business leaders — to develop communities that are safe and offer residents more choices on where and how they work, live and recreate.

APA is a nonprofit education and membership organization committed to promoting good planning. The organization was founded in 1978 after the consolidation of two planning associations, the American Institute of Planners (founded in 1917) and the American Society of Planning Officials (ASPO, established in 1934). The first executive director of APA, Israel Stollman, was instrumental in joining the two organizations into one national association that today serves more than 38,500 members in 90 countries.

The association is headquartered in Washington, D.C., with an office in Chicago.

National Planning Conference
The annual National Planning Conference brings together more than 5,000 planners from across the nation and abroad. The conference is designed to help satisfy the needs of planners—from managing day-to-day issues to envisioning the big picture that can impact the quality and character of communities. The four-day conference is held in a different city each year and features numerous sessions, mobile workshops, training, and development opportunities. The 2014 National Planning Conference will be held in Atlanta, Georgia, April 26 -30.

American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP)
APA's professional institute, the American Institute of Certified Planners, provides recognized leadership nationwide in the certification of professional planners, ethics, professional development, planning education, and planning practice standards. APA members must meet certain education and experience requirements, and pass a written exam to become a certified planner and use the aicp designation.

Advanced Specialty Certifications (ASC)
Advanced Specialty Certification enables AICP-credentialed planners to be recognized for their knowledge, experience, and leadership skills in transportation or environmental planning.


Election to Fellow in AICP
Election to Fellow in AICP is one of the highest honors that APA's professional institute bestows on a member. This honor recognizes the achievements of the planner as an individual, evaluating the Fellow before the public and the profession as a model planner who has made significant contributions to planning and society. Fellowship is granted to certified members who have achieved excellence in professional practice, teaching and mentoring, research, public or community service, and leadership. A new class of Fellows is inducted approximately every two years.

National Planning Excellence and Achievement Awards
APA recognizes the best plans, projects, and people in the nation with its annual National Planning Awards. The awards highlight the efforts of planners, elected officials and engaged citizens for their innovative work in our communities. The awards are presented during the National Planning Conference at a special luncheon and recipients are featured in a special issue of Planning magazine. Visit www.planning.org/awards.

Great Places in America Program
The Great Places in America program recognizes and celebrates excellence in planning across the country, and highlights three important building blocks of communities—neighborhoods, streets and people. Designees are recognized in the Great Streets, Great Neighborhoods, and Great Public Spaces categories. Visit www.planning.org/greatplaces.

National Community Planning Month
October is National Community Planning Month, a time to recognize the importance and value of planners and planning in our communities. Local events from tours, lectures and planning department open houses are held throughout the country.


APA is governed by members, elected and appointed, who volunteer to provide guidance and direction for the national association. Leadership includes the 13-member Board of Directors, eight-member AICP Commission, Chapter Presidents Council, Divisions Council, Student Representatives Council, and a number of committees and task forces.


Chapters enable members to become engaged in events and activities in their home communities. The chapters serve as a networking resource and provide professional development opportunities. Most chapters hold an annual conference, educational workshops and offer AICP exam preparation courses.

Each of the 20 divisions focuses on a special interest of planning. Divisions provide a number of additional activities and services to members beyond that of the national association. Every division organizes sessions for the National Planning Conference. APA divisions 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
Latinos and Planning
New Urbanism

Planning and the Black Community
Planning and Law
Planning and Women
Private Practice
Regional and Intergovernmental Planning
Small Town and Rural Planning
Sustainable Communities
Transportation Planning
Urban Design and Preservation

APA offers one free year of membership to students in a PAB-accredited planning programs or students in planning programs that are full members of ACSP. Membership enables students to network with established planners, learn from mentors and participate in chapter events and APA governance through the Student Representatives Council.


Planning in China
Since China's economic reform in 1978, and especially since 1996, APA has been working closely with the central and local governments in the People's Republic of China. APA officially offers consultation and advice to the PRC's Ministry of Construction, Ministry of Land and Resource, State Environmental Protection Agency, and other agencies. In November 2004, the new APA training center available to APA members opened in Shanghai.

Global Planners Network
The Global Planners Network (GPN) is a network of national planning associations, including APA, that came together to share ideas, approaches, and good practices and thereby build the capacities for planning across the globe.

Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas
The Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA) Urban Planning Initiative is funded by the U.S. Department of State and led by APA. This initiative supports Latin American and Caribbean based planning projects geared towards addressing the challenges presented by climate change.

Education and Training

APA offers a variety of planning education services addressing innovative concepts, implementation and case studies. Training is offered in a number of formats including special workshops and sessions at the National Planning Conference; intensive, two-day workshops offered around the country by APA's professional institute; and audio/web conference programs that focus on specific planning topics or issues.


APA produces a number of resources that cover the latest about community building, best practices and case studies. Publications include:

  • Planning magazine
  • Planning & Environmental Law
  • Zoning Practice
  • The Commissioner
  • The Journal of the American Planning Association
  • Blogs: Sustaining Places, Policy News for Planners, Recovery News, and Kids' Planning Toolbox

Planning Advisory Service (PAS)

The Planning Advisory Service provides information on current best practices and emerging trends in the planning field. The Inquiry Answer Service provides customized research on a variety of topics for PAS subscribers. Approximately four PAS reports are produced each year that provide in-depth analysis on current practices, real-world examples and practical advice. Recent PAS reports focused on airport planning, urban agriculture and disaster mitigation.

APA PlanningBooks.com

Planners Press is an imprint of APA. The service publishes six to eight books a year that focus on the tools and trends of the planning field. Recent publications include Planning Chicago; In Motion (paperback); The Planning Commissioners Guide (new edition); Crime and Planning: Building Socially Sustainable Communities; Pedestrian and Transit-Oriented Design; and The Ethical Planning Practitioner.


Roberta Rewers, APA Public Affairs; 312-786-6395; rrewers@planning.org

Dennis Johnson, APA Public Affairs; 202-349-1006; djohnson@planning.org