Pesticide Applicator License and Career Facts

By becoming a licensed pesticide applicator, you can help people get rid of troublesome pests through baiting, traps and the use of highly regulated poisonous chemicals. Read on to learn about training programs that can prepare you to earn pesticide applicator licensure. Review the job opportunities for licensed professionals. Schools offering Environmental Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What You Need to Know

Pesticide applicators generally need to be licensed with the state because of the hazardous chemicals they work with. You have several options to train for your licensure exam. Many companies offer training programs, or you can complete a certificate or associate's degree program to increase you understanding of this career. Once you are licensed, you may find work outside or inside.

Licensing Most states require workers who handle pesticides to be licensed
Training Brief training programs, certificates and associate's degrees are available
Median Salary (2017)* $34,830 per year (for all vegetation pesticide handlers, sprayers and applicators)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

How Do I Become a Licensed Pesticide Applicator?

Most states require you to seek licensure to become a pesticide applicator due to the dangerous nature of handling and dispensing poisons. You can review your individual state's requirements through your local department of agriculture or similar government agency.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a minimum level of education may be required to qualify you for licensure as a pesticide applicator ( Some states may allow you to work unlicensed as a pesticide application apprentice. Though postsecondary education may not be necessary for this profession, completing a program could increase your professional credentials and broaden your skill set, and doing so could qualify you for management positions.

What Postsecondary Programs Are Available?

Many pesticide companies offer training to new hires with the goal of successfully passing the applicable licensure examination. You may also enroll in short training programs that take 1-3 days to complete and include courses that cover:

  • Mixing and handling pesticides
  • Using application equipment
  • Implementing safety procedures
  • Adhering to proper labeling standards

These programs may prepare you for either private or commercial application licensing. A private applicator's license is meant for those who wish to apply pesticides for property that they rent or own, while a commercial applicator's license is meant for those seeking employment.

Certificate and associate's degree programs in horticulture technology also include studies in pesticide application and safety. Through a certificate program, you can finish your courses in 1-2 semesters and focus in areas like plant management, botany and landscaping in addition to pesticides. Associate's degree programs may allow you to take courses in landscaping management, accounting and business; these courses can help prepare you for supervisory positions or for entrepreneurial endeavors in pesticide application.

What Career Opportunities Are Available?

After receiving training or education, you can be qualified for state licensure and obtain employment in a pesticide application setting. Through additional coursework offered in certificate and associate's degree programs, you may enter the field of landscaping, turf management or ornamental horticulture.

As a pesticide applicator, you may find work in settings like greenhouses, nurseries, golf courses, garden centers and landscaping projects. You may also remove pests from residential and commercial buildings. According to the BLS, pesticide applicators made a median salary of $34,830 yearly as of May 2017.

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