Parliamentary Organizations & Certification of Parliamentarians
As an active parliamentarian, I am frequently asked how many parliamentarians there are. The answer depends on what is meant by the word "parliamentarian." Several organizations study and emphasize parliamentary law. Many members of these organizations may be "parliamentarians" because of their interest and knowledge of parliamentary procedure.
However, questions regarding the number of parliamentarians are usually directed to the number of individuals who have been acknowledged as proficient in parliamentary procedure. Although issues regarding proficiency are clearly subjective, a good starting point is to look at the two organizations best known for examining and certifying parliamentarians: the National Association of Parliamentarians (NAP) and the American Institute of Parliamentarians (AIP). Because these organizations have similar goals and are the most comparable, this article examines only NAP and AIP and their certifications.
National Association of Parliamentarians
The National Association of Parliamentarians was founded in October 1930 in Kansas City, Missouri. NAP is the oldest and largest nonprofit parliamentary organization. NAP incorporated in Missouri in 1933 with nineteen members and now has over 5,000.
NAP publishes a quarterly journal, National Parliamentarian, which consists of both educational articles on parliamentary procedure as well as administrative articles on the activities of NAP and its chapters.
There are five classifications of NAP membership: Regular, Student Member, Registered Parliamentarian, Retired Registered Parliamentarian, and Professional Registered Parliamentarian. There is an examination requirement for membership in NAP based upon the latest edition of Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised.
Registered Parliamentarian designates that a person has passed a written examination consisting of five parts:
- Motions and Related Concepts,
- Meetings, Sessions and Related Procedures,
- Officers and Elections, Voting, Boards and Committees and Related Procedures, and
- Rules of the Assembly and Related Procedure.
The written examination consists of multiple choice questions based on Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised (12th Edition) ("RONR"). The Research portion of the examination is the only open-book portion of the examination and consists of five direct quotations from RONR. The written examination can be taken at any time with the approval of the Registration Examiners Committee. Applicants can take the examination at any location under the supervision of a proctor. NAP offers for sale 1200 Study Questions from which the written examination questions are taken.
Professional Registered Parliamentarian designates that a person has
- been a Registered Parliamentarian in good standing, and
- completed a Professional Qualifying Course consisting of lectures and hands-on training in the skills necessary to serve organizations as a professional parliamentarian.
NAP has recently instituted continuing education requirements for all Professional Registered Parliamentarians. PRP's must submit verification of parliamentary activity and services under a point system every six years to maintain PRP status. In addition, all PRP's must attend a Professional Recertifying Course (PRC) during any six-year cycle.
NAP Certifications (2021)
NAP Members 5,249
Registered Parliamentarians 514
Retired Registered Parliamentarians 43
Professional Registered Parliamentarians 372
NAP can be contacted at National Association of Parliamentarians, 213 South Main Street, Independence, MO 64050-3850, phone number 816-833-3892 or 888-NAP-2929, fax number 816-833-3893. The NAP web site is located at http://www.parliamentarians.org
American Institute of Parliamentarians
The American Institute of Parliamentarians was founded in Chicago in 1958. Robert W. English is credited with founding AIP. AIP was incorporated in Illinois on October 7, 1958.
AIP may be best known for its parliamentary practicums. Practicums are 3 or 4 day programs offering intensive education in parliamentary procedure, including lectures, workshops, and group projects. Scholarships to Practicums are available to full-time students. Two practicums are held annually: The Thais M. Plaisted Memorial Practicum is held each January at the California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, California. The Floyd M. Riddick Williamsburg Practicum is held each June at the College of William and Mary Law School in Williamsburg, Virginia.
AIP publishes a quarterly journal, Parliamentary Journal, which consists of educational articles on parliamentary procedure. A newsletter entitled The Communicator is published quarterly with administrative articles on the activities of AIP and its chapters.
AIP has five classifications of membership: Regular, Full-Time Student, Associate, Certified Parliamentarian, and Certified Professional Parliamentarian. There is no examination requirement for membership in AIP.
Certified Parliamentarian designates that a person has
- been a member of AIP for at least one year,
- earned at least 20 service points in areas such as parliamentary education, service to AIP, and professional service, and
- obtained a grade of 80 or above on a closed-book written examination.
The written examination consists of multiple choice, short answer, and essay questions as well as the production of a written script based on a parliamentary situation. Examination questions are based on the latest editions of Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, Sturgis Standard Code of Procedure, Demeter's Manual of Parliamentary Law and Procedure, and Fundamentals of Parliamentary Law and Procedure. The written examination is offered twice a year (early summer and late fall) at any location under the supervision of a proctor.
Certified Professional Parliamentarian designates that a person has
- been a Certified Parliamentarian in good standing,
- earned at least 30 additional service points, and
- obtained a grade of 90 or above on an oral examination before a panel of Certified Professional Parliamentarians.
Oral examinations must be at least one-hour in length and consist of two parts: parliamentary theory and presiding skills. Oral examinations are offered three times each year: January at the Thais M. Plaisted Memorial Practicum in California, June at the Floyd M. Riddick Williamsburg Practicum in Virginia, and July/August at the AIP Annual Session (location varies).
Certified Teacher (CP-T or CPP-T) designates that a person has
- been a Certified Parliamentarian or a Certified Professional Parliamentarian in good standing,
- completed a teacher education course offered by The National Parliamentary Education Project, and
- showed evidence of a minimum of 10 hours of successful teaching experience.
- AIP Certified Members (1998)
- AIP Members 1,193
- Certified Parliamentarians 17
- Certified Professional Parliamentarians 9
- Certified Professional Parliamentarians-Teacher 25
AIP can be contacted at American Institute of Parliamentarians, 1100 E Woodfield Road, Suite 350, Schaumburg IL 60173, phone number 888-664-0428, fax number 410-544-4640. The AIP web site is located at www.aipparl.org
Many active parliamentarians belong to both the National Association of Parliamentarians and the American Institute of Parliamentarians. Bob English, the founder of AIP, noted as early as 1959 that multiple memberships benefited both the members and the organizations:
Dual membership often results in each organization benefiting from the successes and mistakes of the others. In general, each organization does some things very well and some other things poorly. Each should learn from others. A member who is active in several organizations is likely to acquire valuable ideas from each and then use them effectively in his other affiliation. Dual membership may help to establish valuable liaison committees, conferences, etc.
- Dual NAP & AIP Designations
- PRP & CP Designations 23
- PRP & CPP Designations 45
- PRP & CPP-T Designations 19
Dual membership in NAP and AIP is fairly common. The smaller numbers listed above represent those individuals who have reached the highest levels of parliamentary proficiency within each organization. Both the National Association of Parliamentarians and the American Institute of Parliamentarians have their strengths, and membership in each organization can help an individual on their path to being an acknowledged "parliamentarian."
1 Stickeler, Carl Ann "Jimmy." "245 Examinations Have Been Taken." National Parliamentarian, Vol. 58 (Second Quarter 1997), pp. 7-8.
2 McDow, Roberta M. "Parliamentarians and Their Organizations." Parliamentary Journal, Vol. XXIX, No. 1 (January 1988), pp. 3-17.
3 Information regarding membership and registration/certification numbers obtained from NAP and AIP as of December 2021.
Jim Slaughter is an attorney, Certified Professional Parliamentarian, Professional Registered Parliamentarian, and past President of the American College of Parliamentary Lawyers. He is author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Parliamentary Procedure Fast-Track and lead author of Notes and Comments on Robert’s Rules, Fourth Edition. Jim is a partner in Law Firm Carolinas. For more information, visit www.jimslaughter.com.
Updated from "Parliamentary Organizations and Certifications" in the Parliamentary Journal of the American Institute of Parliamentarians, January 1998.
Charts and articles are intended to provide general information on parliamentary procedure and are not legal advice or a legal opinion.