Today, more than ever before, educational planning has increasingly gained currency in the United States and other countries in the developed world due to the ongoing need for the provision of good, value-based, and knowledge-oriented advice to students aspiring to join institutions of higher learning. In the United States context, the American Institute of Certified Educational Planners (AICEP) is the professional organization charged with the responsibility of awarding the Certified Educational Planner (CEP) credential to professionals who are deemed to have attained the peak echelon of competence and proficiency in educational planning (Thomas, 2016).
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These professionals work either as independent experts or in post-secondary/tertiary institutions with the view to assisting students to plan out their academic careers by providing counsel on how to select a befitting course, how to choose a major, and how to prepare for a life-long career (Hess, Johnson, & Reynolds, 2014). A comprehensive review of the AICEP’s official website demonstrates a multiplicity of requirements that applicants need to fulfill before they can get the CEP credential. The present paper offers a nuanced reflection of these requirements.
Requirements for the CEP Credential
A review of the AICEP’s official website and other resources rightly shows that the position of a certified educational planner is not an entry-level position, hence the need for applicants to the CEP credentialing to hold a Master’s degree in a relevant field such as education, human development, and guidance counseling (American Institute of Certified Educational Planners, 2017a; Thomas, 2016).
Upon reflection, it becomes clear that the high level of education is considered a basic requirement based on the propensity of the AICEP to deal with extremely knowledgeable and competent professionals. A Master’s degree program in education provides holders with adequate knowledge on classroom leadership, instructional theory, teaching methods, and education administration, while a Master’s degree program in human development may provide graduates with knowledge on family systems, social policy, as well as physical and psychological shifts across the human lifespan.
Counseling and guidance programs taught in graduate schools expose students to knowledge and skills in counseling theories and techniques, career development, program development, and group dynamics (Thomas, 2016). Such typologies of knowledge are required to develop strong, value-oriented, and competent certified educational planners, hence the requirement for applicants to have a Master’s degree program.
However, it is important to note that the AICEP makes exceptions to the Master’s degree requirement under a restricted set of conditions; for example, the organization makes consideration to individuals who have met all the other requirements but are yet to get a Master’s degree (Thomas, 2016). Although such deliberation is made on a case-by-case basis, it provides an important opening for competent professionals with undergraduate degrees to be considered for certification. This is a good thing based on the fact that a huge proportion of the population has undergraduate degree programs and can indeed benefit from the certification if they meet all the other requirements.
Experience is central to receiving the CEP credential as demonstrated by the fact that applicants are required to have 4-5 years of work-related experience as full or part-time college counselors (school-based or independent), educational consultants, or other job-related occupations associated with educational planning (American Institute of Certified Educational Planners, 2017a; Thomas, 2016).
Applicants are also required to present at least five professional references who can attest to their experience, competencies, and expertise as college counselors, educational consultants or educational planners (American Institute of Certified Educational Planners, 2017b), and have three or more years of education-based volunteer service experience (Hess et al., 2014). Additionally, applicants are required to not only provide a list of 30 site visits undertaken in the past three years but also to demonstrate a recent case study emanating from their own experience in the designated positions (American Institute of Certified Educational Planners, 2017c).
These requirements, in my view, are meant to ensure that the CEP credential is given to fully established professionals with the capacity to make solid and value-based decisions about the career plans of students in post-secondary institutions. However, it is also important to note that the requirement may block thousands of qualified professionals from accessing the CEP credential.
Some of the professional activities required for one to receive the CEP credential include (1) routine participation or involvement in professional educator association meetings over the past five years, (2) demonstrating an established history of speaking or writing on educational themes, and (3) leadership of a professional organization (Thomas, 2016). Upon closer reflection, it becomes clear how these activities are meant to mold the professional acumen of individuals intending to receive the CEP credential. The requirements on professional activities underpin the high level of maturity, proficiency, and leadership ability expected of educational planners aiming to receive the CEP credential. As expected, these professional activities may limit the chances of individuals to receive the certification.
Personal Dispositions and Characteristics
Applicants are also expected to affirm their commitment to the attainment of high ethical standards in their personal and professional lives (American Institute of Certified Educational Planners, 2017a). This requirement, in my view, is central to the domain of counseling or providing guidance based on the fact that the clients of certified educational planners (students and their families) should have the capacity to develop trusting and mutually respectful relationships with the professionals. It may be quite difficult to develop such relationships in the absence of high ethical standards, hence the need for the requirement. Additionally, applicants are required to demonstrate strong skills in collaboration, teamwork, leadership, and team dynamics.
After the application process is completed, applicants are eligible for their certification exam consisting of two parts that aim to test their institutional knowledge (listing 30 colleges or schools the applicants have visited recently and described each within the context of the physical setting, appearance, admission criteria and most prominent academic programs) and professional knowledge (reading three case studies of typical students and suggesting an education plan for each) (American Institute of Certified Educational Planners, 2017a; Thomas, 2016).
The main objective of these assessments, according to the AICEP’s official website, is to include those professionals who have made and will persist to make a positive contribution to the lives of students through their skills, knowledge, and competencies in the domain of educational planning. Specifically, the written assessment intended to test the applicant’s professional knowledge goes a long way in providing insight into their capability to not only interpret student needs and expectations but also to propose suitable institutions that can optimize the educational and career objectives of students (American Institute of Certified Educational Planners, 2017b).
The applicants are expected to demonstrate a specific rationale supporting their recommendations for the proposed schools and colleges to test their competencies and skills in educational planning.
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Lastly, there is a $200 application fee, a $200 assessment fee, a $75 annual fee to keep the credential valid, and a $100 recertification fee that is applicable after every five years (American Institute of Certified Educational Planners, 2017b). The fee regime, in my view, is within reach of most professionals who would like to get the CEP credential. The requirement on fees can be termed as balanced and justified since most professionals can afford to pay for the application, assessment, annual, and recertification fees.
This paper set out to reflect upon the requirements needed by AICEP to receive the CEP credential. These requirements have been grouped into six categories, namely education, experience, professional activities, personal dispositions and characteristics, tests, and fees. Overall, it is evident that most of the requirements discussed in this paper are meant to ensure that the certification is offered to competent and knowledgeable professionals with the capacity to make a positive difference in the lives of young people. It is also clear that some of the requirements (e.g., Master’s level education and 3-4 years of experience) can discourage professionals from seeking the certification.
However, the AICEP has made provisions through which professionals with undergraduate degree programs can be considered for certification if they meet other requirements as envisaged in this paper. The high level of experience proposed involvement in professional activities, and the presence of unique characteristics and personal dispositions go a long way in ensuring that the certified counselors can offer good, value-based, and knowledge-oriented advice to students aspiring to join post-secondary colleges and schools.
American Institute of Certified Educational Planners. (2017a). Why become a certified educational planner? Web.
American Institute of Certified Educational Planners. (2017b). CEP standards. Web.
American Institute of Certified Educational Planners. (2017c). General application process and fees. Web.
Hess, M., Johnson, J., & Reynolds, S. (2014). A developmental model for educational planning: Democratic rationalities and dispositions. NCPEA International Journal of Educational Leadership Preparation, 9(1), 1-10. Web.
Thomas, J.M. (2016). Diversifying the profession. In S.S. Fainstein & J. DeFilippis (Eds.), Readings in planning theory (pp. 458-463). New York, NY: Wiley.