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.

PAB Amendment Change Process

In September 2015, leaders of the Planning Accreditation Board presented to the APA Board of Directors and the AICP Commission PAB's proposed amendments to the Preconditions to Accreditation and Accreditation Standards.

The PAB standards were substantially revised in 2013. Some of the proposed amendments address minor shortcomings that became evident once the new standards were implemented. Others focus on distance education and legal considerations related to diversity.

APA solicited member feedback and, on December 15, 2015, sent the PAB Chair a letter that incorporated both specific recommendations and three general comments:

  • Accreditation preconditions and standards should measure efforts to encourage diversity (rather than diversity itself).
  • PAB should retain a strong focus on diversity.
  • Accreditation should place more emphasis on equity and community engagement.

PAB will release a second draft of the proposed amendment in September, to be followed by another 30-day public comment period. All APA members will be invited to submit comments and the APA Board of Directors and the AICP Commission will offer advisory recommendations. PAB expects to release the final Amendment to Accreditation Standards by the end of 2016.

Follow these links to additional information:

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.

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.