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How to Get an Exterminator License

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For those considering opening a business or looking into switching career paths, pest control is an in-demand field and has a bright outlook, according to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics. But before you can take on your first job - as an employee or owner - you've got to pass a few requirements and become certified. Here's what you need to know to simplify the process of becoming a licensed pest exterminator.

How to Become an Exterminator

While you don't need typically need experience in the field to go to work for an already existing business, most organizations look for those who have a high school diploma, reliable transportation, a driver's license in the state where you are working, and the ability to lift 50 to 80 pounds. In addition, you need to become a certified pesticide applicator to perform the job. Other states, such as South Carolina, require a four-year degree or at least two years with applicable experience, before you are eligible to obtain a license to own or open a pest control business.

What to Know About Pest Control Certification

Each state has its own procedures, fees, and requirements to obtain a pesticide applicator license. To find out your state's procedures, go to the official state website and search for the licensing or professional licensing department. Pest control is typically its own category in each state, and this category will be broken down into several categories of licensing, including:

  • Commercial: For businesses that use certain controlled chemicals and that perform the work for other commercial businesses.
  • Non-commercial: For government employees.
  • Business: This is needed for those opening up a pest control business,
  • Private: Typically, for those who wish to work for another organization or to perform the work solo.
  • Dealer: Needed to resell pest control chemicals.

In addition to the type of business certification, in California, you'll need to ensure that you have the right training to perform any, or all, of the three types of 'branches' in pest control.

  • Branch 1 license: Fumigation — the control of household and wood-destroying pests or organisms by fumigation with poisonous or lethal gases.
  • Branch 2 license: General pest control — control of household pests excluding fumigation.
  • Branch 3 license: Wood destroying organisms — control of wood-destroying pests or organisms by the use of insecticides or structural repairs and corrections, excluding fumigation.

While the exact licensing procedure differs by state, the method is fairly universal. First, you'll need to take a pesticide application course where you'll learn the science behind pest control, most effective techniques and safety procedures. Then, sign up to take the state exam. After passing the exam, you'll need to fill out the official application and pay a fee to obtain your pesticide license in the appropriate category.

How to Maintain Your Pesticide License

Once you obtain your initial pest control certification, you'll need to renew it annually, in most states. Renewal charges and procedures differ by state. For example, in California and most other states, there are continuing education requirements that you need to meet in addition to paying the renewal fee. The National Pest Management Association is a go-to resource that offers online classes and other educational resources to help you pass your initial exam and keep up with new methods and procedures, as well as tips and tricks to help you better perform the job as a certified pesticide applicator.


Kristin Amico is a career and business writer who spent more than a decade managing creative teams at digital agencies. She has written for The Muse, The Independent and USA Today.

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