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Pesticide Applicator License and Credential Requirements

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires any person who applies certain pesticides to be trained and certified by the state in which they reside. State laws vary when it comes to pesticide applicator requirements.

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Professionals who handle pesticides must undergo a licensure and certification process, which includes an exam. This license can be helpful for a variety of jobs, including grounds maintenance worker.

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Obtaining a Pesticide Applicator License and Certification

Some states mandate a commercial or noncommercial (private) license or certification for pesticide applicators that use herbicides or pesticides that are regulated or have restricted-use requirements. Applicants must sit for a general exam and a category exam; some states also require submission of Applicator Business Registration. Tests are generally given once a month.

Certification or licensure is required for individuals with jobs that require the handling of pesticides for a fee, including:

  • Grounds maintenance workers
  • Farm employees
  • Growers
  • Government employees
  • Pest management consultants

Professionals who handle such pesticides often work for lawn treatment, arboreal management and pest control firms. They may also work on farms.

The Certification Process

There are two categories of pesticide applicators. Commercial applicators apply pesticides for-hire, while private applicators are farmers or growers and their employees that produce agricultural products for the market. Applicants for both must be at least 18 years old and pass two exams. The first portion covers core knowledge and theory of pesticides and their applications. The second relates to the specialty category an applicant wishes to pursue. The options include:

  • Aerial application
  • Aquatic pest applications
  • Industrial weed applications
  • Forest pest control
  • Termite pest control
  • Public health pest control
  • Pest control in wood products
  • Agricultural animal pest control

Applicants may apply for certification in as many categories as they wish. Study manuals can often be purchased through a state's Cooperative Extension Service or through governmental agencies. Certification must be renewed under the terms of state agencies; this includes taking continuing-education courses to maintain certification.

Training Materials

Many cooperative extension services of colleges provide training for pesticide applicators. Training typically consists of two parts. The first part of training includes basic pesticide applications that affect all categories of pesticide applicators. Students learn about state laws and regulations regarding pesticides. The second portion of training addresses a specialty area. Often, the bulletins that an aspiring pesticide applicator must study to pass the examination are only available through state agencies.

Grounds Maintenance Worker Career Information

One of the most common jobs in which a pesticide applicator license is needed is that of a grounds maintenance worker. They may work to maintain the grounds of residential areas, commercial sites or public parks. In addition to applying pesticides, job duties include:

  • Mowing and edging lawns
  • Trimming hedges and trees
  • Planting flowers and shrubbery
  • Watering lawns and gardens

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for grounds maintenance workers is expected to be about average from 2014 to 2024, with opportunities increasing by about 6%. In 2017, PayScale reported that the median annual salary for these workers was $21,975.

Grounds maintenance workers and other professionals who handle pesticides in their jobs need to earn certification in order to demonstrate their abilities to use them safely and effectively. Specialization options are available in multiple areas.

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