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How To Become An Exterminator

If you’re interested in helping people deal with insects, rodents, and other pests, becoming an exterminator might be the career path for you.

how to become an exterminator in the kitchen
Average Salary
$37,540
Career Outlook
Very good
10% growth through 2030
Certifications/Licenses
Licensing required in most states
Education/Training

What Does An Exterminator or Pest Control Technician Do?

Exterminators, who are also called Pest Control Technicians or Pest Control Workers, are professionals that deal with pest related issues in homes and commercial establishments. They provide pest control services to help remove bugs, rodents and other critters from locations where they do not belong.

A pest control technician’s daily routine involves surveying a location, creating and executing the best pest control plan, and teaching clients how to protect their property against future infestations. From rodent control to termite control, you never know what a new day can bring when you become a pest control technician!

General pest control specialist duties and responsibilities include:

  • Remove unwanted posts
  • Offer the appropriate pest control solutions based on the type of pest problem
  • Eliminating pest entry points
  • Cleaning work sites after job completion
  • Calibrating equipment
  • Providing pricing estimates
  • Fumigation, potentially on a large scale
  • Properly disposing of all chemicals in accordance with the law and best practices
  • Returning to a job site for pesticide or trap reapplication

Some might even offer roadkill collection services to homeowners and the local government.

How To Become An Exterminator

Pest control standards and training differ from those of other blue-collar businesses.

Exterminators regularly handle toxic substances and dangerous tools, so proper training and education are necessary to ensure maximum safety–both your client’s and your own.

Basic Requirements

  • Must be at least 18 years of age
  • Valid and clean drivers license
  • High school diploma or GED

Education Requirements or On The Job Training

You can receive pest control training in some community colleges, technical schools or a pest control training program.

Courses cover pesticide formulations and modes of action, state and federal laws and regulations, emergency procedures, how to properly handle misapplications and spills, basic  pesticide safety, and a survey of non-chemical pest control techniques.

Keep in mind that the education requirements vary from state to state; your instructors will go over these with you.

Internship/Apprenticeship

You can enter a formal training contract with an employer as an intern or apprentice for some hands-on experience. This is the perfect time to learn practical skills on the job, and undertake structured routines with registered professionals. Training takes between one and three months depending on the employer, although some training periods can last as long as six months. 

Starting out as an intern can also help you make important connections with people within the pest control industry, thus securing you a more stable career path in the future. 

Testing/Certification

You must pass a certification or licensure exam before you can become a professional exterminator. In addition to the initial certification, pest control workers must also attend continuing education courses every few years in order to renew their licenses. This process involves learning the latest techniques in the trade and staying on top of evolving regulations. 

Of course, you can also choose to expand your skill set and specialize in different types of pest control. Many programs and certifications provide in-depth and comprehensive overviews of various pest control sub-specializations, such as:

  • Pesticides, which are  commonly used in the eradication of pests such as arthropods, bed bugs, and cockroaches. When used correctly, pesticides are fast-acting and effective, especially in small spaces like houses and apartments.
  • Fumigation is another common pest control technique.Exterminators mostly use fumigation for small to medium-sized pest infestations. 
  • Traps and poisoned bait. For vermin like mice and rats – and even some insects and reptiles- traps and poison are the best way to go. 

Many courses also cover specific methods of tackling rodents, cockroaches, termites, and more. These certifications are particularly useful if you tailor them to local pest needs.

Licensing

Exterminators in all US states are required to be licensed. Each state has its own specific requirements for licensing.

Recommended Skills For Exterminators

Being able to receive pest control training is only one part of finding success in working for a pest control company. Having the right skill set is another part. There are certain skills and traits that will make you stand out as a great employee or applicant.

Below are some of the key skills pest control companies look for when hiring exterminators.

If you are looking for jobs where you can work alone, an exterminator can fit that bill. While you do have to talk to customers, human interaction is much less than in other jobs.

Observational Skills

Inspecting homes and commercial properties is no easy task. Pest control workers will need to thoroughly assess the space to do your job correctly, so paying keen attention to detail is mandatory.

Customer Relations

You will interact with clients who, as non-experts, will want to register their concerns. You must address these, and explain their pest control options, with clarity and professionalism. Positive feedback from customers can help you when negotiating for a raise. 

Basic Chemistry

Making and mixing different pesticides is very common. In order to make the right solution, you must have a basic understanding of the components used, how to combine them, and how vermin will react to various compounds.

Physical Abilities

While not the most physically demanding job, exterminators often have to navigate through tight spots and hard-to-reach areas.

Driving

As we’ve mentioned, exterminators must drive from customer to customer, often in a truck bearing chemicals and sensitive equipment. Some employers even insist that you have a clean driving record before they are willing to hire you, and, depending on where you live, a special license may be required to haul dangerous chemicals.

Independence

Pest control workers should be able to navigate through a job with little or no supervision, as most exterminators work alone. If you want to succeed, you will have to learn how to depend on your own skills to get things done. 

Pros & Cons Of Being An Exterminator

Being an exterminator is great. But ultimately, no profession is perfect. Here are some of the pros and cons of becoming an exterminator.

PROS

  • The satisfaction you get from helping people in need
  • Great for people who like practical, hands-on work
  • As pest control jobs can include residential, commercial, and industrial locations, such as homes, retail stores, and factories, this career is perfect if you love to work in different environments. 
  • Relatively easy entry point. Many employers are willing to hire fresh high school graduates with limited or no experience.

CONS

  • Working conditioners are not for the squeamish, as you might have to work in uncomfortable environments like hot attics or dirty basements. 
  • You will regularly handle chemicals and tools that can be harmful to you without the proper protective gear or training
  • You may expose yourself to liability for any mishandling pest control tools that results in property damage or injury
  • Long work hours, with most averaging over 40 hours a week

How Much Do Exterminators Make?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for exterminators was $37,820 in 2020, or $18.18 per hour. The highest 10% in the industry earned more than $61,170, while the lowest 10% earned less than $24,980. Aside from gaining more experience, exterminators can increase their wages by getting specialized certifications. 

Exterminators working for larger pest control companies might expect a slower salary growth rate, but they benefit from a firm’s steady stream of established clientele. Those who want to earn more can apply for more hours, or handle specialized jobs.

Starting your own pest control business can be challenging, but it’s potentially more lucrative. We suggest observing pest infestation trends in your area by following the local news. 

Exterminator Job Outlook

Pest control technician jobs experience a fairly high employee turnover rate. This means pest control worker jobs often become available as exterminators leave to pursue other career paths. Job growth is expected to be 10% through 2030.

On average, about 12,800 jobs open to pest control professionals every year.

Becoming an exterminator requires specialized training and continuous education. It’s a rewarding career that involves helping other people, and with hard work and dedication to your craft, your prospects are nearly endless.

Exterminator Work Environment

If you are looking for a career that might be different every day, this would be it. Depending on where you live and what company you decide to work from will of course affect your daily expectations.

Different areas of the country have different types of pests and each state has specific allowances for chemicals and treatments you might use each day.

Every day you will be given a route of homes to visit which could be homes, apartments, or possibly commercial locations. You will be provided the pest issues which you will need to assess and determine the best method of extermination.

Every day will bring new people, and new experiences – and you need to be able to be flexible to handle them all.

Frequently Asked Questions

*Data source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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