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How to Become an Exterminator

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Exterminators, also known as pest control workers, visit homes, businesses and other buildings to set traps or spray insects. The work of an exterminator can be physically taxing, and it takes considerable training to become one. A high school diploma or GED is the minimum educational requirement, followed by on-the-job training that includes formal class instruction as well as supervised work. Pest control workers must be licensed. In some states, you might also need to pass a written examination or meet other requirements.

Specialized Training Required

Pesticide applicators must adhere to rules established by federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency. In addition, each state has its own regulations and requirements. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that most pest control workers must have a high school diploma or GED. Although on-the-job training is the norm, some states require formal technical instruction. States are increasingly likely to require a candidate to complete a state-approved pest control management program, according to Scarafaggio’s Pest Control Site. Online or correspondence courses may be acceptable in some states. You can usually find training courses at your state's Cooperative Extension department or from community colleges, employers or pesticide companies.

Requirements Vary By State

In addition to the educational expectations, you might also need to meet other requirements to become an exterminator. The BLS states that you must be at least 18 years old. Scarafaggio’s Pest Control Site says most states require applicants to be able to speak, read and write English. Since certification or licensure is required in all states, you might need to “be of good character,” Scarafaggio’s says. Each state defines this differently, but convictions for crimes involving the environment, pollution or terrorism will prevent you from working with pesticides, according to Scarafaggio’s. The BLS notes that many companies also require a good driving record.

Supervised Training and Examinations

Supervised training is an important part of becoming an exterminator. Most companies offer training programs, and the BLS notes that the average training period is about three months. During your training you will work under the supervision of an experienced exterminator. Before you can work independently, you will need to become licensed, which typically involves passing two written examinations. The first exam is the core section, which covers basic pesticide application concepts. The second exam is specific to the category you will practice, such as rodent or insect control. Some states might also require an oral examination or a practical demonstration of your knowledge. You will also be required to carry liability insurance or work for a company that does.

Job Outlook and Salaries

Job prospects for pest control workers are good, according to the BLS. Competition for jobs is not strong in most areas, and the projected growth rate is 10 percent from 2020 to 2030. This compares to the average growth rate of 11 percent for all occupations. The BLS reports that the average annual salary for pest control workers was $37,820 as of May 2020.

Pest Control Workers salary

  • Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $61,170 ($29.41/hour)
  • Median Annual Salary: $37,820 ($18.18/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $24,980 ($12.01/hour)

Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.

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