Let's Just Call Ourselves City Planners

We seem to be reluctant to identify our profession in clear, recognizable language, writes Eugenie Birch, FAICP, chair of the Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of Pennsylvania.

"Outside observers give us a name: "city planners" or "urban planners." But we simply call ourselves "planners," thinking that everyone knows what this label means. But they don't. We have to stop to explain. A typical conversation goes this way:

"What do you do?"

"I am a planner."

"What do you plan? Parties? Corporate strategies?"

Finally, with a straightforward reply of "city planner" or "urban planner," we get a nod of recognition and a battery of questions. "So what do you think is the best planned city in the world?" "What is going on with eminent domain?" "Can't you do something about all this traffic?"

Why the reluctance to say who we are? Are we afraid of the questions that will follow? Is it that we don't want to exclude anyone? That's a worthy goal, but it does not help us to establish ourselves as a profession with a long tradition. We have all the requirements of a profession (expertise and the means to transfer it, a code of ethics, an interest in the public good). What we don't have is instant name recognition..."

[Editor's note: The full text of this article is available only to APA members.]

Thanks to Julie McWilliams

Full Story: Viewpoint, By Eugenie Birch, FAICP



What's a Planner?

The problem really comes down to this. City planning, urban planning, whatever you want to call it; it is really not a "true" profession in the sense that architecture, civil engineering, law, or medicine are.

Planning is a hybrid of many different disciplines, encompassing architecture, engineering, landscape architecture, sociology, economics, geography, and law. To call oneself a planner in casual conversation is really setting yourself up for contrasts and comparisons with other more well-known occupations requiring licensure and/or registration.

What's a Planner?

Vtboy99: What do you think the AICP exam is?

try this one on for size: what is an "architect"

Seems to me that when architects and engineers are falling all over themselves to take the AICP and chase those dollars there may be some trouble in paradise.

As for "setting ourselves up," I think most of us are laughing our way to the bank.


AICP barely scratches the surface

AICP barely scratches the surface in terms of providing for real salary increase when compared to initially becoming a registered civil engineer (PE) or a state licensed architect and sitting for the AREs.

AICP is merely a "certification", holding no legal implications with regards to professional practice. The certification is basically an "add-on" for those seeking to broaden their professional opportunities (primarily in the public sector).

This is why licensed and registered architects, engineers, and even land use attorneys seek AICP certification. They look at it as not necessarily critical to performing the functions of their jobs, but instead want to have an additional credential. Those who seek AICP in established professions (engineering/architecture/law) are not typically having trouble in their own fields, but instead view planning as a way to broaden their primary professional training and experience.

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