Pesticide Handler: Employment Info for Pesticide Handler Careers

Pesticide handlers use chemical substances, insect repellents and weedkillers to protect and promote plant life and soil quality. Learn about training requirements and safety standards, and find information about employment growth and wages for pesticide handlers.

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Career Definition for a Pesticide Handler

Pesticide handlers acquire, mix and apply pesticides for commercial farms, landscapers, private residences or nurseries. Some professionals may work for chemical lawn and tree services. Application methods may include dusting, spraying or adding the chemicals directly to soils. All pesticide handlers must follow strict health and safety regulations as imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Education No formal education required; some employers may prefer candidates with a certificate in arboriculture, horticulture or landscaping
Job Skills Independent with good customer service and math skills; physical stamina important
Median Salary (2015)* $32,540 (for pesticide handlers, sprayers and applicators)
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 4% (for pesticide handlers, sprayers and applicators)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

A formal education is usually not required to become a pesticide handler, and most training takes place on the job, usually over a short period of time. Individual employers may show a preference for candidates with a certificate or postsecondary coursework in arboriculture, horticulture or landscaping. Many states require pesticide handlers to be licensed, which involves a passing score on an exam. Pesticide applicators must also be trained in the use of proper safety measures, as designated by the EPA's worker protection standards (WPS).

Skills Required

Pesticide handlers must have the math skills necessary for measuring, mixing and evaluating the effectiveness of pesticides. Physical stamina and the ability to work independently are also important; customer service skills may be helpful when dealing with the public.

Career and Economic Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that employment opportunities for pesticide handlers, sprayers and applicators are expected to grow by an average rate of 4% between 2014 and 2024. In areas that experience true winters, pesticide handlers may only be hired on a seasonal basis. According to the BLS, pesticide handlers, sprayers and applicators earned median annual wages of $32,540 in May 2015.

Alternate Career Options

Other careers that are similar to pesticide handling include:

Agricultural Workers

Agricultural workers, such as those who work on farms, may also apply fertilizers and pesticides to crops and other forms of vegetation. Agricultural work is a labor-intensive occupation that may include examining animals, herding livestock or operating machinery. A high school diploma is not required to begin working in the field, and training usually takes place on the job. As noted by the BLS, the number of job openings for agricultural workers is expected to decline by 6% from 2014 to 2024. As of May 2015, agricultural workers, including those employed by farms, greenhouses and nurseries, were paid median yearly wages of $20,090.

Forest and Conservation Workers

A high school diploma is required to obtain a job as a forest and conservation worker, another labor-intensive position that typically includes on-the-job training. Individuals who are interested in advancing in the field or becoming technicians may want to pursue an associate or bachelor's degree program in conservation, forest management or wildlife studies. According to the BLS, employment between 2014 and 2024 is expected to increase by just 4%, which is slower than average. The median yearly salary for a forest and conservation worker in May 2015 was $26,190.

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