FAQ: APA's Early Career Program and Free Year of Membership

Q. What is the American Planning Association?

A. APA is a nonprofit public interest and research organization committed to creating healthy and vital communities through urban, suburban, regional, and rural planning. APA and its professional institute, the American Institute of Certified Planners, advance the art and science of planning to meet the needs of people and society.

Q. Who belongs to APA?

A. APA's members, a community of more than 40,000 planners, officials, and decision makers in more than 95 countries around the world. More than 5,000 APA members are students.

Q. What is the Early Career Program?

A. It's a package of services and membership benefits offered exclusively to planning's emerging professionals — students, recent graduates, and others in the early stages of their careers. The program provides extra value at reduced cost, with a special emphasis on opening the world of day-to-day planning and encouraging emerging professionals to connect with planning veterans.

Program participants get all the benefits of regular APA membership plus five years of access to special programming at APA events and serious discounts on national and chapter dues, conferences, publications, and division memberships. Many students who enter the Early Career Program are eligible to get their first year of APA membership free.

It's a great way to get started in your profession and on the path toward certification by the American Institute of Certified Planners. APA membership will complement your studies and strengthen your career in its important early stages.

Q. Who is eligible for the Early Career Program's first year of free membership?

A. Full-time undergraduate or graduate planning students:

If your academic program is not a full member of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning, you must be younger than 35 to join the Early Career Program. Students who attend ACSP full-member programs may enroll in the Early Career Program regardless of age. All others are welcome to join APA as regular members.

Q. Why does APA offer a free year of membership to students?

A. College or graduate school may be the most financially challenging period of professional life. During this free year, you can take advantage of all the benefits of the Early Career Program without having to worry about the cost. And just as you represent the future of your profession, you represent the future of APA. We hope that experiencing the advantages of membership will encourage you to stay in the Early Career Program when the free year is over.

Q. Is the free membership really free?

A. There will be absolutely no cost to you for dues in either APA (the national organization) or your local chapter. (Chapter membership is required for all APA members in the United States). You may choose optional activities that do require a fee, such as joining a division or attending the 2014 National Planning Conference in Atlanta. However, all of these options — and more — are priced at a discount for student members.

Q. When does my period of free membership start and end?

A. You will begin to receive member benefits as soon as you're enrolled in the program. Your free year will end December 31, 2014.

Q. What happens then?

A. When your year of free membership ends, you'll be eligible for four more years in the Early Career Program at prices you can afford. (In fact, a year of program membership probably costs less than most of your textbooks.) APA will send you a letter and renewal notice. While we hope that you will renew and continue to participate in the Early Career Program, you are under no obligation to do so.

Q. What if I don't sign up now and decide later that I want the free year of membership?

A. Assuming you've never been an APA member, you can sign up for a free year as long as you're a full-time student and enrolled in a program that is a full member of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning. Check with your school's APA program administrator for information about the next enrollment period.

Q. How do I sign up?

A. Fill out the Free Student Member application and give it to your school's APA program administrator. He or she will send your information to APA and APA will enroll you right away. You will start receiving member benefits immediately and APA will send you an e-mail confirming your membership shortly after the registration period ends on September 26.

Q. What does membership in the Early Career Program include?

A. All of the benefits of APA regular membership, such as:

  • Membership in a local chapter
  • Chapter and national conferences and other events that offer opportunities for networking and interacting with experienced planners
  • Planning magazine 11 times a year
  • APA's member e-newsletter, APA Interact
  • Access to the members-only resources on the APA website
  • Member discounts on purchases from APAPlanningBooks.com
  • APA's Jobs Online and members-only resume-posting service

There are also special benefits just for participants in the Early Career Program:

  • Access to career services and programming for emerging professionals at APA's National Planning Conference and Federal Policy & Program Briefing
  • The New Planner, an online publication with features, opinions, book reviews, career tips, and campus spotlights
  • Free or discounted subscriptions to the Journal of the American Planning Association and access to JAPA's online archive
  • Membership in chapter-level Young Planners Groups
  • Free or discounted membership in APA's many special-interest divisions
  • Discounted registration for the National Planning Conference, Federal Policy & Program Briefing, and other educational events
  • Reimbursement for most of the cost of National Planning Conference registration in return for on-site assistance
  • The opportunity to present your work at the National Planning Conference
  • Leadership opportunities on APA's Student Representatives Council
  • Eligibility for scholarships, fellowships, outstanding achievement awards, and other honors

Q. How does APA's Early Career Program benefit students and new professionals?

A. APA is a unique and valuable partner, and what you get out of it depends on your own needs and level of involvement. For example, you may use APA's publications and website to complete assignments, conduct research, and investigate career possibilities. You can get present your work, polish your resume, and get one-to-one career guidance from planning veterans at the National Planning Conference. And by meeting practicing planners at chapter and national events, you can gain insights into planning practice and start building an important network of professional relationships.

Exactly how you use the Early Career Program is up to you, but your active participation in the nationwide community of planners will enhance your professional education and establish your career on a strong foundation.