How to Get Your Pesticide Applicators License
Many start in this industry with a focus on tree pruning, tree removals, and/or landscape maintenance, and find over time that there is interest from clients in plant health care services as well. There are advantages to adding plant health care services including having higher margins, better return per man-hour, lower capital costs for entry, and the opportunity for a competitive advantage in your market.
The first step in adding plant health care to your offerings is to get your Pesticide Applicators license through your state’s department of agriculture. While this may appear as a roadblock to offering PHC services, obtaining a pesticide applicators license (PAL) is easier than it might sound. Here are some easy to follow steps to help you in the process.
1. Find out your State’s requirements
Pesticide applicators licenses are issued by each individual state, so the first step is simply typing ‘Pesticide Applicators License [your state here]’ into Google and reviewing the links provided by your local Department of Ag (or whatever state agency it falls under for you). This will give you all the information you need including application requirements (fees/surcharges, as well as the schedule of upcoming exam dates.
It is common for states to require PAL holders to pass a Base Core Competency level exam AND a second category that is more specific to your application requirements. Every State names it something different, but usually plant healthcare applications fall under “Turf and Ornamentals”, “Landscape and Woody Ornamentals”, or something similar. When you are registering for the exam, be sure you are selecting the proper subcategory that PHC falls under in your state.
2. Get studying!
The state’s PAL site should have links to exam study materials (in most cases for sale, of course). You might find some luck scoring a used copy from Amazon, eBay, or another online source. Do be careful to ensure you are using the most current edition as the test will almost certainly contain any newly updated content.
Study Tip: Read and understand all the material, and take the time to complete the Review Questions at the end of each chapter. The exam is often comprised of these questions verbatim, with the order of the multiple choice answers switched around.
3. Preparing for the Exam
Everyone takes tests differently. If you ask around you will hear some folks say that the PAL Exam is mostly common sense and one of the easiest tests that they’ve ever had the opportunity to take. Others may take the test two or three times before passing successfully. Most states consider ‘80% correct’ a passing grade, so don’t stress about getting everything correct. Again, each state is different, but many offer practice exams online that you can take, and often there are study courses available at a local technical college or community center that may be worth your time if you are not a person who studies exclusively from reading books.
Remember - the purpose of the certification exam is to ensure that all professional applicators have a base-level competency, not a Masters Degree on the subject. While it might seem that a PAL is a roadblock to growing your business or another case of too much regulatory oversight, the PAL is intended to benefit you and the public. By learning how to safely handle and manage pesticides correctly, you protect yourself, your community, and the environment.
If you have further questions, feel free to contact your local Territory Manager.