Is becoming an insect exterminator right for me?

The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursuing the career. You don’t want to waste your time doing something you don’t want to do. If you’re new here, you should read about:

What do insect exterminators do?

Still unsure if becoming an insect exterminator is the right career path? to find out if this career is right for you. Perhaps you are well-suited to become an insect exterminator or another similar career!

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How to become an Insect Exterminator

Becoming an insect exterminator involves a combination of education, training, hands-on experience, and certification in pest control and management. Here’s an overview of the pathway to the career:

High School Diploma or Equivalent
Earn a high school diploma or equivalent. High school education provides a foundation in basic communication and organizational skills, and it lays the groundwork for further learning. Courses in biology, chemistry, and mathematics can be especially beneficial.

Post-secondary Education
While not always required, some employers may prefer candidates with post-secondary education, such as an associate degree, in fields related to pest control, biology, entomology (the branch of zoology concerned with the study of insects), environmental science, agriculture, horticulture, or a related discipline.

Pest Control Training
Completing specialized courses in insect biology, behavior, and management, as well as chemical safety, pesticide application, and integrated pest management (IPM) can provide valuable knowledge and skills necessary for becoming a successful insect exterminator. Many professional associations, community colleges, technical schools, and vocational training centers offer pest control training programs and workshops that cover these topics.

Training programs are typically built around the six components of IPM:

  • Prevention – Preventing pest problems eliminates the need to take further action. For instance, storing wood in a dry place off the ground prevents carpenter ants from taking up residence near crops. Such measures may also mitigate the severity of any pest problems that do arise, which means less money spent on potentially harmful pesticides.
  • Identification – Because IPM relies on sustainable measures that target specific pests, it’s important to clearly identify the cause of an emerging problem. Using broad-spectrum pesticides may be quicker, but in addition to causing problems down the line, they’re unlikely to be effective.
  • Monitoring – Many IPM techniques rely on timing. Knowing when a pest’s natural predators are more active makes complementary control methods more effective. Regular inspections also reveal when a pest population is growing and where nests are located. In cases where chemical pesticides are needed, close monitoring will increase their efficiency.
  • Assessment – Taking action against pests may not always be needed. For instance, clover is considered a pest by some growers, but others appreciate the plant’s contributions to soil fertility. Determining the damage threshold makes resource management easier.
  • Planning – IPM relies on synchronizing various methods of pest control, depending on the particular type of pest. These methods include (1) cultural preventive methods such as introducing resistant varieties, pruning strategically, and altering plant nutrition; (2) physical methods such as putting up barriers, placing screens, and using mulches; (3) biological controls such as introducing beneficial organisms, predatory species, and microbial controls; and (4) pesticides chosen for compatibility with other methods.
  • Evaluation – Follow-up monitoring is a crucial part of pest management. Identify what worked and what didn’t and keep records for future reference. Adopting sustainable pest control methods is a good way to avoid pesticide overuse as well as inefficient resource usage.

An adjunct component of a pest control curriculum is communication and customer service, preparing students to effectively interact with clients, explain treatment options and procedures, address concerns and questions, provide advice on preventative measures, and ensure overall client satisfaction. Additionally, training programs cover professional and ethical standards, compliance with applicable laws and regulations, and maintaining confidentiality and respect for clients’ privacy and property at all times.

On-the-job Training and Mentorship
Regardless of the level of formal education that aspiring insect exterminators undertake, on-the-job training and mentorship is commonly part of the path to working in the field. This can be obtained by working as an apprentice or assistant under the supervision of a licensed exterminator or by gaining employment with a pest control company that offers practicum / apprenticeship positions.

In most jurisdictions, insect exterminators are required to be licensed and certified to apply pesticides and perform pest control services legally. Requirements for licensure and certification vary by state and country but generally involve passing exams, completing approved training programs, and meeting specific experience and education requirements.

Several US states offer specific pest control licenses, each with various tiers and specialty areas. For example, California has a Structural Pest Control License, while Florida offers a Pest Control Operator License. In New York State, technicians who apply pesticides for insect control are required to obtain a certification from the New York State Department of Conservation (DEC). These state-specific certifications validate knowledge of insect biology, treatment options, pesticide safety, and local pest control issues and regulatory compliance.

Consider specializing in specific types of pest control, such as termite control, bed bug management, rodent control, or agricultural pest control. For a complete list of specializations in the field, please refer to the What does an Insect Exterminator do? section in the career overview.

Certifications and Professional Organizations
There are certifications available for insect exterminators that demonstrate proficiency in insect pest identification, treatment, and management techniques. In most cases, the certification process includes a comprehensive exam and practical fieldwork. These credentials are typically offered by professional associations, industry organizations, and regulatory agencies. Here’s a sampling:

  • Associate Certified Entomologist (ACE) – The Associate Certified Entomologist certification, awarded by the Entomological Society of America (ESA), primarily caters to pest management professionals. ACE certification demonstrates proven understanding of basic entomology, pest management, health impacts of pests, and the safe use of pesticides.
  • Board Certified Entomologist (BCE) – Also offered by the Entomological Society of America (ESA), the BCE certification is designed for entomologists who have demonstrated expertise and proficiency in the field of entomology through education, research, and professional experience. While not specifically for pest control technicians, some insect exterminators may pursue BCE certification to enhance their professional credibility and expertise in insect identification and control.
  • Certified Pest Control Technician (CPCT) – Offered by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), the CPCT verifies expertise in pest biology, pest control safety, pesticide knowledge, and customer relations.
  • National Entomology Scent Detection Canine Association (NESDCA) – NESDCA is an organization that focuses on the training and certification of scent detection canine teams used in pest control, including insect detection. The association sets standards for canine training, handler proficiency, and certification to ensure reliable and effective insect pest detection services.

Continuing Education
To stay updated on the latest industry trends, techniques, regulations, and best practices in insect control and pest management, exterminators should participate in continuing education programs, workshops, and seminars offered by professional associations, government agencies, and educational institutions.

It is important to note that participation in continuing education programs is often required to maintain licensure and certification status.