Changes to the AICP Exam Application Process

There have been some changes to the AICP Exam application process! If you’re new to the idea of applying, these changes won’t make much of a difference. But if you’ve been stalking the APA website for the last year (or more) deciding when you should start applying, some of these things will look a little different. In our opinion, the changes don’t necessarily make anything easier (or harder) - they just changed up the order you could do things in - which may actually be a relief to some of you.

Now, think about applying in 3 parts.

  1. Application

  2. Eligibility Criteria

  3. Taking the Exam


Previously the long-form responses to the Eligibility Criteria were part of the application. You would need your responses completed in order to officially hit submit on the application. Now, they have split this into two parts. The application will only have you validate your education experience and work experience to make sure you are qualified. They also got rid of Verification Letters which actually makes getting yourself organized to apply a whole lot easier.


You will submit responses to the Eligibility Criteria separate from the application. Once your application is approved, you are able to sit for the exam. If writing isn’t your favorite thing to do, you can pass the AICP exam and THEN submit your Eligibility Criteria responses. It doesn’t matter which order you do these steps in. They all just need to be done before you can officially start calling yourself AICP certified.

Here’s an informative graphic from the APA website:

Apply for the AICP Certification


The fee structure is a bit different too.

Previously, the application (which included the essay responses) cost $85. Once you were approved, you would pay $425 to register and sit for the exam.

With the new process, the application fee is $70. Then, in whichever order you prefer, you pay $220-290 to submit your essays and $220 to register for the exam.

Why $220-290 for the essay submissions? The range is due to an expedited essay review which will cost you $70 more upon submission. The expedited essay review is their new version of the Early Bird submission. The extra money is something to consider.

Planning Certification highly recommends submitting early because denied expedited essays can be revised and submitted for an additional review during the same cycle. It’s up to you to decide if that’s worth the extra fee imposed by APA.

You have to pay each time you apply for the exam, which means getting denied and not opting into the expedited review could cost you $70 anyway when you have to apply again (plus factor in the months you’ll have to wait until the next testing cycle).

May 2021 AICP Certification Cycle Fees


The certification application now consists of only a member’s education and employment information which we review to ensure the member is qualified to proceed. Once the certification application is approved, members can test for the AICP exam and submit their criteria essays in any order they choose during the established submission windows.


If all of that seems confusing or any part of the process feels overwhelming, Planning Certification is here to help. We’ve launched our One-on-One Application and Essay Review service. You’ll get us for two (2) hour-long phone calls and we will review and provide feedback on your Eligibility Criteria responses. Instead of general tips and tricks for applying, we customize feedback to YOUR experience.


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