Posted: April 6, 2020

So, you want to become a certified pesticide applicator to control forest pests like invasive insects and plants but don’t know where to start.

The first step is to purchase the study manuals and STUDY! You will need to take and pass two "closed book" exams, the CORE and the Forest Pest Control category. The study manuals will help you prepare, as the exam questions are taken directly from them.

Carefully read through each chapter and take notes or highlight important sections. Both manuals list chapter-specific learning objectives. These are the main concepts that will be on the exam. The Forest Pest Control manual also includes chapter-specific "key terms" and a glossary where each is defined. These should be studied thoroughly. In addition, each chapter includes sample test questions for you to practice. Penn State Extension provides the study materials which can be ordered by calling 1-877-345-0691 or going to the websites below:


Once you have completed studying the material you need to register to take the exams. This is done through the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture's (PDA) PaPlants website. From there, highlight Pesticide Programs (on the left) and then click Certification Exam Locations. To find a nearby location, you can search by PDA regions or select a county; not all counties offer exams.

Then click Search to see the list of available dates and locations. Click on Details in the first column to see additional information and to Register. Once registered, you will pay to take the exams at the testing location on the day of the exam. The cost of the exams is $50 for CORE and $10 for Category and must be paid via check (some regions accept a money order). You are provided three hours to take the CORE and/or Category exams. Even If you do not finish an exam, it must be turned in to be scored.

You now have the option to take one or both exams via computer-based testing, with the test results being provided immediately upon completion. However, this method is more costly, $110 for CORE and $70 for Category and is only available in a limited number of locations: Bloomsburg, Blue Bell, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Richboro, Scranton, and Shippensburg. Also, you are only given one hour to complete each exam. These exam options are listed on the website.

Each exam has 50 multiple choice questions, with a score of 70% needed to pass. If you do not reach 70%, you can retake the exam at another time by going through the registration process again and paying the exam fee. Keep in mind, both exams are closed book so no study materials can be brought into testing locations.

A commercial or public applicator becomes certified once they have passed both the CORE and category exams. It is important to note that both exams must be taken and passed within 12 months of each other. After earning your initial certification, you can take other category exams at any time after that.

A unique pesticide certification number is assigned to you once you register and pass the first certification exam. Upon passing both exams within the required time frame, your certification number is provided to your employer. They must notify PDA to assign your certification number to their business license. Commercial applicators must pay $40 to renew their certification annually each September. Public applicators pay $10 every three years to renew their certification. You may only apply pesticides by working for a commercial business or public entity that has a pesticide application business license. In addition, your certification only allows you to make applications and perform other responsibilities of a certified applicator under the category in which you are certified and only for the company or public entity with which you are employed.

If you are not employed at the time of initial certification, your certification is placed into escrow. This maintains your certification as long as you pay the renewal fees and earn the appropriate recertification credits. Once employed, your employer must notify PDA to take your certification out of escrow and assign it to their business license. Only under employment by a Pennsylvania licensed pesticide application business can you make pesticide applications and perform the other responsibilities of a certified pesticide applicator.

All commercial and public applicators must obtain recertification credits approved by PDA to maintain their certification. Six CORE credits and eight Category 05, Forest Pest Control, credits are needed every three years (2 credits = 1 hour of training). All approved recertification credit offerings can be found on the PDA PaPlants website provided previously, select Pesticide Programs and then click on Recertification Course Locator. Regardless of what month you initially became certified, September 30 is the end of the first year of certification. At that point you have two additional years to earn the required number of recertification credits. You may not carry extra recertification credits from one three-year cycle to the next.

If the required number of CORE recertification credits is not obtained in the three-year time frame, you cannot renew your certification or make pesticide applications as a certified applicator. If you fail to obtain the required number of category recertification credits, your certification for that category is considered expired and you cannot apply pesticides as a certified applicator for that category until the required number of credits are obtained. You are provided a one-year grace period to earn the necessary credits. If the required number of credits are not obtained within that year, you will be required to retest to reinstate your certification.

We hope that this answers your questions about becoming a forest pest control pesticide applicator. For more information, see: extension.psu.edu/pennsylvania-pesticide-applicator-certification. If you have any questions about the certification process, please email with Penn State Pesticide Education or with the PA Department of Agriculture.

Center for Private Forests

Address

416 Forest Resources Building
University Park, PA 16802

Center for Private Forests

Address

416 Forest Resources Building
University Park, PA 16802