Planning Schools and Accreditation

Education is vital for planners to succeed. Standards are necessary to provide consistency in planners' education. A planner's education is begun in planning school, but extends to work experience and AICP certification.

Education Standards

The field of city and regional planning sets standards for the education and certification of planners. The term "field" is used here to mean the broad practice of planning both by professionals and non-professionals. The term "profession" as used here means the defined practice, the standards of practice, and the issues related to the certification of planning practitioners. All professions maintain standards. For education and certification purposes, the standards are often called the Core Body of Knowledge. For the field and profession of planning, these standards are found in two areas — the standards for accreditation of planning schools and in the certification examination for qualified planners.

Planning Schools

Lists of schools offering degrees in planning are maintained by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP). ACSP is a member organization of the academic community in planning. ACSP conducts an annual national conference on research and education in planning. The organization also maintains current information on schools providing undergraduate and graduate planning education.

PAB Site Visitors Pool: An Opportunity to Serve

At one time or another many planners have expressed an interest in having some influence on the quality of planning education. And many APA members have expressed their continuing interest in volunteering personal time for meaningful projects. Here is an opportunity to do both.

Learn more

Planning School Accreditation

Planners routinely complete degrees — both undergraduate and master's level — through university programs accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board (PAB). PAB regularly reviews programs and helps maintain the standards for planning education. PAB's mission is to ensure high quality education for future urban planners.  PAB conducts the accreditation process for planning programs in North America. Visit PAB's website for current lists of accredited programs.

All people considering a career in planning are encouraged to attend a PAB-accredited program. PAB accreditation ensures that, at a minimum, graduates have demonstrated knowledge of:

  • Structure and Functions of Urban Settlements
    • History and Theory of Planning Processes and Practices
    • Administrative, Legal, and Political Aspects of Plan-making and Policy Implementation
  • Knowledge of a Particular Specialization or Planning Issue

To complete a degree in planning, students must be skilled in:

  • Problem Formulation, Research Skills, and Data Gathering
  • Quantitative Analysis and Computers
  • Written, Oral, and Graphic Communications
  • Collaborative Problem Solving, Plan-making, and Program Design
  • Synthesis and Application of Knowledge to Practice

PAB Accreditation Standards and Criteria (pdf)


APA, AICP, ACSP, and PAB do not rank schools. Instead, APA encourages students to consider PAB accreditation in their decision of what school to attend. At least one outside vendor has published a ranking of graduate urban planning programs in the United States. Neither PAB nor any of its sponsors, however, formally recognizes this ranking or the criteria underlying it.

Standards for Certification

After completing their formal education, many planners go on to become certified planners. Certification by the American Institute of Certified Planners includes requirements for education and experience that are meant to ensure that certified planners meet rigorous standards, maintain their expertise though continuing education, and be committed to community interests.