AICP Values

Dear Management Doctor:

I wish the APA would create some value with the AICP designation before they start adding requirements to maintaining it. I don't think the APA has done a good job in marketing the designation to the rest of the world so that it has any meaning to anyone outside of planning. They certainly have not created any value for the AICP designees. When I worked for the City of Oakland, they would not allow us to put AICP on our business cards because they felt it wasn't a "real" professional designation and was essentially meaningless to the public.

Now that the world is flooded with AICP designees, the APA set up FAICP which to me is a further dimunition of AICP. I think it shows that AICP means nothing and that some people want something else to set them apart from AICP. But unless the APA tries to create some value for FAICP, then the result will be that FAICP will eventually mean nothing and AICP will mean even less than it does today. The APA needs to get their act together on these other issues before they start thinking about continuing education requirements.


Philip L. Millenbah, AICP
City of Walnut Creek, CA

Dear Phil,

First of all I am glad to see you still use AICP after your name. Your letter should stir up some interesting responses from our readers. My thoughts are as follows:

  1. Does APA and AICP need to do a better job of creating value for the AICP designation? Absolutely!
  2. Adding requirements is somewhat of a chicken and egg issue. For example, I believe that having mandatory continuing education can actually help to create more value.
  3. In my consulting practice, I see more and more communities using the AICP designation by:
    • Including it on business cards.
    • Listing AICP desired in job announcements.
    • Having planning directors that are working with planners to have them all AICP.
  4. I’d like to see more emphasis on the AICP Code of Ethics. A few creative planners have added a new twist to the Code. They are suggesting to their communities that since they are AICP they have an ethical obligation to look at issues like social equity.
  5. I don’t see FAICP as a dimunition of AICP. Although some FAICP members seem to want to set up FAICP almost as a competing entity, don’t count me among them. I see FAICP simply as a form or recognition for a job well done for old f__s like me. I say, just hit us up for contributions and let AICP run with the rest. There is already too much overlap between APA and AICP so lets not add another.

The Management Doctor (aka Paul Zucker, FAICP)

Reader Responses

The question of the importance of APA, AICP and FAICP is interesting to ponder. I do note that if continuing education were required to maintain AICP status that many good professionals would not have the resources to maintain their certification. Unfortunately, whether or not those persons maintain their certification probably would go unnoticed in the larger community. It's a catch-22 quandry. On a related thread, Mr. Stivers from Lancaster County, PA mentions the idea of having states mandate that comprehensive plans and zoning ordinances be stamped by a certified planner. The problem with this approach is that there is a public participation and legislative process that dictates the final version of such documents. Should the certified planner be required to place his seal on the final approved document or just the initial draft being recommended/proposed by staff? Exactly what is the certified planner attesting to with this seal? Perhaps if the seal attests to the planner's facilitation of the document approval having followed the appropriate processes that is a possibility. But, there are many complications. Can it be sealed as an "appropriate plan" attesting to proper planning principles, etc.? Maybe not since he has no control over the actual approval. This is a different animal than having an engineer's seal attesting to wind loads on tower structures, finished floors being free from inundation, etc. Those items are quantifiable and not influenced by public and political opinion.

Darren V. Gerard, AICP
Maricopa County, AZ

I feel that requiring continuing education credits would stimulate more meaning for the AICP designation and whole heartedly support that idea. Here on the East Coast, there seems to be a good deal of interest in using AICP as a hiring credential, so perhaps the lack of respect for it is somewhat regionalized to California.

Jane Daughtridge, AICP
Oak Island, NC

Phillip Millenbah, AICP, has raised a good question as to the value of AICP.

As a fairly recent recipient of this certification, I wanted to respond. It seems to me that the value of AICP is somewhat subjective. I was able to put the initials on my business card right away. I also received a salary increase to recognize my accomplishment. This was not just because of AICP’s national significance, but also due to the fact that the planning office I work in sees it as significant. A high value on becoming certified was promoted in our office and in our state. The Pennsylvania Planning Association puts a high value on AICP as well. So my experience has been a more encouraging one. So is it the sole responsibility of APA to promote it or is it also the responsibility of the State Chapters and public and private planning offices to help as well?

I agree that there could be more significance attached to the national certification. We have often discussed that States should require Comp plans and other municipal ordinances to be sealed by a professional (aka AICP) planner. That would then add validity to our profession at a level close to that of an engineer. We talk so much about the importance of planning. Lets require planners to become certified in order to be qualified for some tasks. Then planners would be seen as more professional and have the responsibility that goes with it.

So I say work with your state legislators like they did in NJ and get your state to recognize planners as being professional; work with the universities to develop programs that can be recognized nationally; and work on APA and your local state chapter to promote AICP and the profession of planning.

And we, as planners, must work in a fashion worthy of being called "PROFESSIONAL!"

Mark E. Stivers, AICP
Lancaster County, PA

I agree. Let's not add complexities and just give us credit for being professionals. Good to hear from you.

John Hirten