Let’s first get on the same page. I’m not talking about attending a certificate program, I’m also not talking about getting certified by some organization other than the AAPL. I’m talking about certifications that are available from the AAPL by completing all the requirements.
There are three certifications available:
These certifications are available by meeting specific requirements; an experience requirement based on how long you have performed land work, a sponsorship requirement verifying that experience, and a test that augments that verification. Oh, and you have to send the AAPL some money. Not a lot of money mind you, I believe the application fee is $75. Don’t forget that you’ll probably want to go to a RPL/CPL review session prior to taking the test, which will be another $300 for RPL applicants (1 day review and 1 day test) — or $470 for CPL applicants (3 day review and 1 day test).
Are the tests very hard? Not really. If you legitimately meet the experience requirement you should have no problem on the test for the RPL & CPL. The RL test is an “open book” test that they send you in the mail, so that should also not be a problem for you. Some people have had trouble with the federal leasing portion of the CPL exam because not everyone has exposure to it. Although, that is what the review session is for. There has been some rumblings that the RPL/CPL tests may be overhauled in the near future. The current tests have been in use for quite some time. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some questions centered around horizontal drilling and vertical & horizontal severances/Pugh clauses. If you haven’t read our article on pugh clauses: Does Your Client Know What A Pugh Clause Is? you should! You may be surprised at what you learn.
I’ve heard many people (those with and without certifications) say that the certifications are worthless. I’d agree with that in exactly one instance: For those of you who have 20+ years of varied field and in-house experience. Everyone else could benefit from beginning to climb the certification ladder. There aren’t too many (good) excuses for not getting those certification any more either. The AAPL has dropped the requirement for a Bachelors Degree from the RPL program (although it is still required for the CPL). If you have the necessary mix of experience and education there is no reason you shouldn’t pursue your RPL.
For those of you that say “My RPL/CPL has never made me any extra money.” I’d like to pose a question: If you were hired because your competition didn’t have a certification — how would you know? In that instance, they may not have paid you EXTRA for your certification, but getting the upper hand in the job search because of it sure helps.
In the AAPL Compensation Survey from 2012 the CPLs who participated indicated that they did, in fact, make more money. However, I think the reason you see CPLs make more money than those who are not certified is not because of the actual certification. I’d wager that those individuals make more time for continuing education, networking, and growing their career. Becoming a CPL is just a ‘symptom of success’ for those individuals. People who care more about their work take their time (and money) to stay on the cutting edge of their field, those people also tend to make more money. Is it that far of a stretch that those people are also the ones who become CPLs?
Ultimately I think that we, as professionals in our field, should do everything we can to legitimize ourselves. It starts by binding ourselves to the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice when we join the AAPL, and I think it should be continued by working towards industry certifications available to us.
As a side note, the IRWA (International Right of Way Association) also has a set of certifications that focus on their field, culminating in the SR/WA Designation (Sr Right of Way Agent). I’ll save discussing that program for another blog, but if you are in right of way, you should check out this organization.