What’s Next for Upcoming Planning Grads?

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Staring at hundreds of online job application descriptions and processing what employers are looking for is a journey every young professional has taken. Students and recent graduates alike wrestle with meeting impossible expectations and requirements to apply for that first job: an entry-level position requiring 3–5 years of experience and/or a master's degree, or perhaps 5–7 years of management experience.

The proposed AICP Candidate Pilot Program offers student and new planners the advantage of applying for the AICP Comprehensive Planning Exam a year early. This opportunity is designed to bridge the gap between graduation and develop the capacity to accept an entry-level position.

In a job search, it's imperative for graduates to distinguish themselves from others with the same major, internship experience, and skill set. The AICP Candidate Pilot Program encourages students to apply for candidacy to get connected and acquire foot-in-the-door experience as they catapult into the planning profession. Participants who include the "AICP Candidate" designation on their resume and in cover letters, email signatures, and other professional correspondence will stand out from the crowd, giving them a competitive edge.

If you're a student, remember that in addition to coursework and student organizations, investing and developing professional experience carry weight in finding that first entry-level position.

According to an APA survey of mentor program participants who were asked, "What qualifications are most important when hiring entry-level planners?":

  • 86 percent said "internships and transferrable skills/ experience for specific position"
  • 37 percent said "exhibits strong interest in the planning profession"
  • 5 percent said "leadership positions in student organizations"

The AICP Candidate Pilot Program addresses the desires of planning professionals who want employees who are actively investing in their careers.

Much like becoming a LEED Green Associate, "AICP Candidate" would be a valuable designation for young professionals to demonstrate their commitment to urban development skills. The AICP Candidate Pilot Program is designed to widen the path for young planners to reach certification as professional planners. With the same requirements and same high expectations, students are given the opportunity to excel as well as demonstrate their commitment to professional planning practice earlier in their careers.

Widening the path to certification is designed to include high-achieving students who have relevant planning experience, academic focus, and a strong work ethic.

AICP Candidates would benefit by:

  • Eligiblilty to apply for the AICP Comprehensive Exam a year earlier than non-candidates
  • Use of the "AICP Candidate" designation on professional correspondence
  • The opportunity to be matched with a support mentor while they prepare for the exam
  • Paying $15 instead of $70 to apply for the exam
  • Receivng an AICP exam application toolkit

Candidates would adhere to specific requirements to enhance and strengthen the designation:

Additionally, the AICP Candidate Pilot Program aims to keep the planning profession diverse.

Eligibility for the program is extended to both undergraduate and graduate students in programs that are accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board as long as they meet the standard AICP eligibility requirements. The goal is to provide more opportunities for students of diverse backgrounds to dive deeper into their planning careers.

The proposed AICP Candidate Pilot Program extends to motivated future professionals and soon-to-be graduates an opportunity to set themselves apart in the competition for entry-level planning jobs and much-needed experience. It opens new avenues to diversity, experience, and opportunities for young professionals.

About the Author

Anna Ma is a Metropolitan Planner at the Rockford (Illinois) Metropolitan Agency for Planning and serves on APA's Student Representative Council as the Region IV Representative. Email: anna.ma@rockfordil.gov.

Top image: Graduates ascending a staircase. Photo by Thinkstock.

August 16, 2016

By Anna Ma