Top 11 City Planner Certifications
This article will provide an overview of the top certifications for city planners, including requirements and benefits.
Published 19 min read
Certifications are important for a city planner in the job market because they demonstrate expertise and competence in the field. They can provide evidence of specialized knowledge and skills that may be required for certain positions, as well as a competitive edge in the job market. Certifications can also help to attract employers, who may be looking for candidates with specific qualifications or experience. Additionally, certifications may provide access to professional networks and resources, which can help city planners stay up to date on best practices, trends, and developments in their field.
This article reviews the top certifications for City Planners and explains how they can help to advance a city planner's career.
What are City Planner Certifications?
City planner certification is a professional designation awarded to individuals who have demonstrated mastery of the skills and knowledge needed to practice city planning. It is granted through organizations that specialize in certifying planners, such as the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP). Certification may be voluntary or required for certain positions.
City planning involves creating plans and strategies to address urban issues, such as housing, transportation, economic development, land use, and environmental concerns. A certified city planner has expertise in understanding and managing these complex problems. They are able to analyze data and develop solutions that can help communities thrive.
Certified planners can be valuable assets to city governments, private firms, or non-profit organizations looking to develop or improve their urban areas. They are knowledgeable about local regulations, zoning laws, best practices for development projects, and the implications of proposed policies on urban areas. Having a certified planner on staff can help ensure that any project meets necessary standards while also taking into account the needs of the community it serves.
Additionally, having a certified planner on staff can provide credibility when dealing with government agencies or other stakeholders. Being certified also provides an incentive for planners to stay up-to-date on developments in their field so that they may better serve their clients or employers.
In short, city planner certification is a valuable asset for both individuals seeking employment in city planning and organizations looking for experienced professionals who possess a deep understanding of urban issues.
Pro Tip: When considering city planner certification, look for certifications that are accredited by the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP). This will ensure that your certification is recognized and respected in the industry.
Related: What does a City Planner do?
Top 11 City Planner Certifications
Here’s our list of the best certifications available to City Planners today.
1. Certified Urban Planner (CUP)
Certified Urban Planner (CUP) is a professional credential that recognizes the highest level of expertise in urban and regional planning. It is awarded by the American Planning Association (APA), a non-profit organization that sets standards for professional planners.
To become a Certified Urban Planner, individuals must have a minimum of five years of professional experience in urban and regional planning, hold a master’s degree or higher in an accredited planning program, and pass the APA’s certification exam. The certification process typically takes 6-12 months to complete.
The cost to become certified varies depending on the specific requirements of each individual applicant. Generally, applicants can expect to pay an application fee, exam fees, and any additional fees associated with obtaining the required documents for certification.
Once certified, planners are expected to adhere to a code of ethics set by the APA and maintain their knowledge through continuing education courses. Certified Urban Planners are recognized as experts in their field and may be eligible for higher salaries than non-certified planners.
2. Certified Environmental Planner (CEP)
Certified Environmental Planner (CEP) is a professional certification program that recognizes individuals who have achieved a high level of expertise in environmental planning. CEPs are qualified to work on projects involving the protection, conservation, and management of natural resources. The certification program is administered by the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP).
The CEP program requires applicants to have a minimum of five years of professional experience in environmental planning and/or related fields. Applicants must also pass an exam which covers topics such as environmental law, policy, and regulations; land use planning; environmental impact assessment; and public involvement. The exam is offered twice a year and consists of two parts: a multiple-choice section and an essay section.
In order to obtain the CEP designation, applicants must submit an application form to AICP along with the required fees. The fees vary depending on the type of membership chosen. Once accepted into the program, applicants will be sent an exam study guide which outlines what topics will be covered on the exam. After successfully passing the exam, applicants will receive their CEP certificate from AICP.
The cost for applying for the CEP designation ranges from $250-$400 depending on your membership type with AICP. It typically takes between 4-6 months to complete all steps involved in obtaining your CEP designation once you have submitted your application form to AICP.
3. American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP)
The American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) is a professional organization that promotes the highest standards of planning practice. The AICP is the only national certification program for urban and regional planners in the United States, and it is recognized by many state and local governments as a mark of distinction for those who practice planning.
To become an AICP-certified planner, one must first meet certain educational requirements, including having a master's degree in planning from an accredited institution. After meeting these requirements, applicants must then pass the AICP Certification Exam. This exam consists of two parts: a written portion and a performance-based portion. The written portion covers topics such as land use planning, environmental planning, economic development, public health, transportation planning, housing policy, and community development. The performance-based portion tests skills such as problem solving and communication.
Once an applicant passes the exam, they will be awarded their AICP certification. To maintain their certification status, planners must complete continuing education credits every three years to demonstrate their commitment to staying current with best practices in the field.
The cost to take the AICP Certification Exam varies depending on when you register for it; however, typically it costs around $400-$500 USD per exam attempt. It usually takes between 6-12 months to prepare for and take the exam after meeting all educational requirements.
4. Certified Planning Technician (CPT)
Certified Planning Technician (CPT) is a professional certification offered by the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP). This certification is designed to recognize individuals who have demonstrated a high level of knowledge and expertise in the field of urban and regional planning.
The CPT exam consists of two parts: a written examination and an oral examination. The written portion covers topics such as land use planning, environmental planning, transportation planning, community development, economic development, public policy analysis, and more. The oral portion includes questions related to the candidate’s experience in the field.
In order to be eligible for the CPT exam, applicants must have at least three years of professional experience in urban or regional planning. They must also have completed at least 30 semester hours of coursework related to urban or regional planning from an accredited college or university.
It typically takes approximately four months to prepare for the CPT exam. Candidates should plan on spending around 40 hours studying for each part of the exam.
To apply for the CPT exam, you must complete an application form and submit it along with proof of your educational background and professional experience in urban or regional planning. You will also need to pay a fee which varies depending on your location (in 2020 the fee was $350).
Once you have passed both parts of the exam, you will receive your certificate as a Certified Planning Technician from AICP. This certification is valid for five years before needing to be renewed.
5. Certified Zoning Official (CZO)
Certified Zoning Official (CZO) is a designation given to individuals who have completed an intensive training program and passed a comprehensive exam. This certification is issued by the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP). The CZO designation signifies that the individual has achieved a level of knowledge and expertise in zoning regulations, principles, and practices.
To become a CZO, an individual must complete an approved training program and pass a comprehensive exam. The AICP offers two levels of certification: Certified Zoning Official I (CZO-I) and Certified Zoning Official II (CZO-II). The CZO-I requires completion of 80 hours of training, while the CZO-II requires 160 hours of training. Both levels require passing the comprehensive exam administered by the AICP.
The cost to become a CZO varies depending on the level being sought. The cost for the CZO-I is $750, while the cost for the CZO-II is $1,500. In addition to these fees, there may be additional costs associated with completing any required coursework or attending seminars.
In general, it takes approximately 6 months to complete all requirements for becoming a CZO. This includes completing any required coursework or attending seminars as well as studying for and taking the comprehensive exam administered by the AICP.
6. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional (LEED AP)
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional (LEED AP) is a credential that recognizes professionals who have demonstrated the knowledge necessary to successfully lead projects through the LEED certification process. LEED APs are knowledgeable in green building design, construction, and operations.
To become a LEED AP, you must first pass an exam administered by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI). The exam covers topics such as sustainable design principles, green building rating systems, and project management. It typically takes about three hours to complete the exam.
The cost of the exam varies depending on your location and whether or not you are a member of USGBC (U.S. Green Building Council). Generally speaking, it costs between $200 and $400 to take the exam.
In addition to passing the exam, there are other requirements for becoming a LEED AP. You must have at least two years of experience in green building practices and/or have completed an approved course in sustainable design principles. You must also agree to abide by GBCI’s Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct.
Once you have passed the exam and met all other requirements, you will receive your LEED AP credential from GBCI. This credential is valid for three years before needing to be renewed.
7. Geographic Information Systems Professional Certification (GISP)
Geographic Information Systems Professional Certification (GISP) is a professional certification program that recognizes the knowledge, skills, and abilities of individuals who demonstrate mastery of the principles and practices of GIS. The certification is administered by the GIS Certification Institute (GISCI), a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting excellence in GIS through professional certification.
In order to become certified as a GIS Professional, applicants must meet certain eligibility requirements and pass an exam. To be eligible for the exam, applicants must have at least three years of full-time work experience in GIS or related fields, or two years of full-time work experience plus an associate’s degree or higher in a related field. In addition, applicants must also complete a minimum of 40 hours of continuing education credits within the last five years.
The exam consists of 100 multiple choice questions covering topics such as data analysis and management, spatial analysis and modeling, cartography and visualization, database design and development, programming and scripting languages, project management principles and techniques, legal/ethical considerations for GIS professionals, and more. The exam can be taken online or at one of several testing centers located throughout the United States.
The cost for taking the exam is $395 USD for members of GISCI ($495 USD for non-members). Once you have passed the exam you will receive your official GISP certification which is valid for five years from date of issue. After five years you will need to renew your certification by demonstrating continued professional development activities such as attending conferences or workshops related to GIS technology.
8. Transportation Professional Certification Program (TPCP)
The Transportation Professional Certification Program (TPCP) is a voluntary certification program designed to recognize the professional achievements of transportation professionals. It is administered by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).
The program consists of three levels: Certified Technician, Certified Professional, and Master Transportation Professional. Each level requires a combination of experience, education, and specialized training. The certification is valid for five years and must be renewed in order to maintain it.
To obtain the certification, applicants must submit an application form along with supporting documents such as proof of experience, education, and training. Applicants must also pass an examination in order to qualify for the certification.
The cost of the TPCP varies depending on the level of certification sought. For example, the fee for Certified Technician is $250 while that for Certified Professional is $400. The fee for Master Transportation Professional is $600.
9. Project Management Professional Certification Program (PMP)
Project Management Professional Certification Program (PMP) is a globally recognized certification program offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI). It is designed to recognize and validate the knowledge, skills, and experience of project managers. The PMP credential demonstrates that an individual has the experience, education, and competency to lead and direct projects.
The PMP certification process typically takes around three months to complete. To become certified, you must meet certain eligibility requirements including having a minimum of 4500 hours of leading and directing projects over the past 8 years as well as 7500 hours for those with a secondary degree. You must also have 35 contact hours of project management education. Once you have met these requirements, you can apply for the exam online through PMI’s website.
The cost of taking the PMP exam varies depending on your location, but typically ranges from $405-$555 USD. This fee covers both the application fee and exam fee. Additionally, there are other costs associated with studying for and taking the exam such as books or courses which can range from $100-$1000 USD depending on your study method.
Once you have taken and passed the PMP exam, you will be awarded with a certificate indicating that you are now a certified Project Management Professional (PMP). This certification is valid for three years at which time it must be renewed in order to maintain its validity.
10. National Charrette Institute Certified Charrette Practitioner (NCCCP)
The National Charrette Institute Certified Charrette Practitioner (NCCCP) is a professional certification that recognizes individuals who have demonstrated the ability to effectively lead and manage charrette processes. A charrette process is an intensive, collaborative planning process used to develop creative solutions to complex problems. The NCCCP certification is designed for professionals in the fields of architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, planning, engineering, and related disciplines.
To become certified as an NCCCP, applicants must demonstrate proficiency in charrette facilitation and management through a series of tests and assessments. Applicants must also complete a minimum of 40 hours of training in charrette facilitation and management from an approved provider. The program requires at least two years of experience leading or managing charrettes prior to applying for certification.
The cost of becoming an NCCCP varies depending on the provider chosen for training. Generally speaking, it costs around $2,000-$3,000 to complete the program.
Once all requirements are met and the applicant has passed all tests and assessments, they will be awarded their NCCCP certification. This certification is valid for three years before it needs to be renewed by completing continuing education credits or retaking the exams and assessments.
11. American Planning Association Sustainable Communities Certification Program (APA-SCCP).
The American Planning Association Sustainable Communities Certification Program (APA-SCCP) is a voluntary program that recognizes communities for their commitment to sustainability. The program provides an opportunity for local governments, non-profit organizations, and other stakeholders to assess their progress towards creating sustainable communities.
The APA-SCCP certification process involves completing an online self-assessment survey that evaluates the community’s performance in six key areas: economic development, environmental protection, social equity, health and safety, transportation and land use planning. The survey also includes questions about the community’s plans for future sustainability initiatives. Once the survey is completed, the results are reviewed by an independent panel of experts who evaluate the community’s progress towards achieving its goals for sustainability.
The certification process typically takes six months to complete from start to finish. During this time, the community must submit documentation about its sustainability efforts and provide evidence of progress made in each of the six key areas. The APA-SCCP review panel then evaluates all of the information submitted and makes a final decision on whether or not to award certification.
The cost of becoming certified through APA-SCCP varies depending on a number of factors including size of population and type of organization applying. Generally speaking, it costs between $1,000 - $2,500 USD to become certified through APA-SCCP. This fee covers all administrative costs associated with the application process as well as any technical assistance needed throughout the duration of the program.
To apply for certification through APA-SCCP, interested parties should visit https://www.planning.org/sustainablecommunities/certification/. Here they will find detailed information about eligibility requirements and how to submit an application for review by APA-SCCP’s expert panel.
Do You Really Need a City Planner Certificate?
The answer to this question depends on the individual and their career goals. A city planner certificate is not a requirement to work in the field of urban planning, but it can be beneficial for those who are looking to specialize in the field.
For those who are already working in urban planning, a city planner certificate can provide additional skills and knowledge that may be useful in their current job or for future career advancement. It can also provide an opportunity to network with other professionals in the field. In addition, many employers prefer applicants who have obtained a certificate or degree from an accredited institution as evidence of their commitment to the profession.
On the other hand, some people may find that they do not need a city planner certificate if they have sufficient experience or knowledge of the subject matter. Additionally, those who are looking to enter into a different field may find that a certificate is unnecessary since it focuses solely on city planning topics.
Overall, whether you need a city planner certificate will depend on your unique situation and what you hope to gain from it. If you feel that obtaining one would benefit your career or provide additional skills and knowledge that could help you advance professionally, then it may be worth pursuing.
Related: City Planner Resume Examples
FAQs About City Planner Certifications
1. What is a City Planner Certification?
Answer: A City Planner Certification is a professional qualification that demonstrates an individual's knowledge and expertise in city planning, urban design, and related fields. It is typically awarded by a professional organization or government body after passing an examination or completing other requirements.
2. How do I become certified as a City Planner?
Answer: To become certified as a City Planner, you must complete the necessary education and training requirements and pass the relevant certification exam. Depending on your jurisdiction, you may also need to meet additional requirements such as submitting proof of experience or completing continuing education courses.
3. Are there any specializations for City Planner certifications?
Answer: Yes, many jurisdictions offer specialized certifications for particular areas of expertise within city planning such as transportation planning, land use planning, community development, and environmental planning.
4. How long does it take to get a City Planner certification?
Answer: The time it takes to get a City Planner certification depends on the jurisdiction you are in and the specific requirements you must meet to be eligible for certification. Generally speaking, it can take several months to several years depending on your prior experience and educational background.
5. Is there an age limit for obtaining a City Planner certification?
Answer: Generally speaking, no – there is no age limit for obtaining a City Planner certification. However, some jurisdictions may require applicants to be at least 18 years old in order to qualify for the examination or other requirements needed to obtain the certification.