Frequently Asked Certification Questions

Find the answers to common certification questions by reading through the list. If you still have questions, please contact us!
Frequently Asked Certification Questions - Articles
Frequently Asked Certification Questions

Max Williamson, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

Am I required to be a certified pesticide applicator?

Certification as a commercial or public applicator is required if:

  • A pesticide application is being made to a property not owned or rented by the applicator or their employer.
  • Restricted use pesticides or fumigants are being applied on property rented or owned by the applicator, but are not being applied for the production of an agricultural crop.
  • Pesticides are being applied to apartments of four or more units, golf courses, parks, playgrounds/athletic fields, swimming pools used by more than a single family, education/research institutions, and schools, including public and private day care centers with seven or more children.

Certification as a private applicator is required if an applicator intends to purchase and/or apply restricted use pesticides for the purpose of producing an agricultural commodity on land that is owned or rented by that person or their employer.

I only use organic and natural products to control pests. Do I need to be certified?

You need to be certified as a commercial/public applicator to apply organic and/or natural products to control a pest if you apply the products on property that is not yours or your employer's. See the next section to learn about how to become certified.

How do I become certified?

To become certified as a commercial or public applicator, you must pass two written examinations (core and category) and be employed by a pesticide application business. Once you pass the exams, you have 12 months to apply for certification with the PA Department of Agriculture.

To become certified as a private applicator, you need to pass the written private certification exam. Additional testing is required if the applicator intends to use a restricted use fumigant.

What commercial/public category do I need?

For a general explanation of each of the public and commercial categories, see § 128.42. Categories of commercial and public applicators. If you are still unsure as to which category you will need, please call your Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Regional Office.

How do I become a Certified Home Inspector?

Unfortunately, the Pesticide Education Program does not cover home inspection or home inspection certification. However, some home inspectors choose to obtain and maintain a pesticide applicator certification in Category 12 - Wood Destroying Pests. To get this certification you must take and pass a closed book core exam on basic pesticide safety and an open-book Category 12 exam on more detailed information on wood destroying pests. To keep this certification--regardless of whether or not you actually apply pesticides--you must be employed by a pesticide application business that has a business license with the appropriate insurance coverage. Fees must be paid annually for both the business license and applicator renewal. In addition, applicators need to attend approved training sessions to earn a specific number of recertification credits (six core credits and ten Category 12 credits) every three years to maintain their certification.

The Pennsylvania Pest Management Association offers an annual course in February for people wanting to become wood destroying insect inspectors. The course will appear on their website (under their "Meetings and Events") closer to the start date or you can call 1-800-842-9090 for more information. You can also learn more by visiting the American Society of Home Inspectors website.

How much does it cost to become certified and stay certified?

The current fees are as follows:

DescriptionFeeWhen Money is Due
Private Applicator ExamFreeWhen Taken
Private Applicator Renewal$10.00Triennial Fee Due 3/31
Core Exam (Commercial/Public)$50.00When Taken
Category Exam (each)$10.00When Taken
Commercial/Public Business License$35.00Due 12/31
Commercial Applicator Renewal$40.00Due 9/30
Commercial Registered Technician$30.00Due 2/28
Public Applicator Renewal$10.00Triennial Fee Due 9/30
Public Registered Technician$20.00Due 2/28
Pesticide Dealer Manager Exam$50.00When Taken
Pesticide Dealer License Renewal$10.00Due 12/31
Pesticide Dealer Manager Renewal$15.00Due 12/31

Are any courses available that I can attend to help prepare for the exams?

Penn State Extension offers several onsite (face-to-face) courses throughout the state to help you prepare for some of the exams. When the courses are open for registrations, the course website links listed below will provide more information.

  • The Pesticide Applicator Short Courses are geared towards those looking to become commercial and public applicators, specifically targeting the core exam, and Categories 06 - Ornamental and Shade Trees; 07 - Lawn and Turf; 10 - Right-of-way and Weeds; and 23 - Park and School Pest Control.
  • The Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health offers the Swimming Pool Pesticide Applicator Training Program for those seeking Category 24 - Swimming Pool certification.
  • Penn State Extension also offers a few Private Pesticide Applicator Short Courses for those taking the private applicator exam.

Are study materials available to help prepare for the exams?

Study materials for examinations are available for a fee from the Penn State Publications Distribution Center.

Are study materials or exams available in Spanish?

Study materials and certification exams are not available in Spanish at this time.

How much are study materials and how do I order them?

Study materials are now available to order online on the Certification and Study Materials web page. You will need to create an account on the Penn State Extension website to continue. For a quick check on prices, see the Certification Examination Study Materials page.

You can also place orders by calling toll-free 1-877-345-0691 Monday through Friday, 8:00AM to 5:00PM, EST. Checks or money orders are accepted but you must call to get a final price which will include a shipping cost based on weight.

Shipping is via UPS Ground within 3 to 4 business days. Next Day Air delivery is also available (for additional cost) if order placed before noon.

All sales are final. If you are unsure as to what category you need, please call your Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Regional Office for guidance.

Toll-free: 1-877-345-0691
State College area: 865-6713

Publications Distribution Center
The Pennsylvania State University
112 Agricultural Administration Building
University Park, PA 16802-2602

How much is shipping and how are the study materials sent?

The shipping cost is calculated by the weight of the total package. All study materials are shipped via UPS Ground service. Next Day Air service is also available (for additional cost) but the order must be placed by noon for Next Day delivery.

How long does it take to receive the study materials?

Normal shipping via UPS Ground service will be 3 to 4 business days. Next Day Air service is also available, as mentioned above.

Are the exams open or closed book? How many questions are there?

The core exam for public/commercial applicators is closed book. This exam's objective is to establish competency in general pesticide safety topics. This exam has 50 multiple choice questions.

The majority of the Category exams for public/commercial applications are open book. However, in early 2014, the Department of Agriculture issued new guidance on transitioning the open book category exams to closed book exams. Both types of exams are multiple choice and contain 50 questions. A 70 percent is needed to pass.

In most cases, private applicators only need to take one exam, which is similar to the core exam for public/commercial applicators. However, this exam is open book and contains 75 multiple choice questions. Additional testing is required for private applicators if they intend to use a restricted use fumigant. Be sure to mention this when pre-registering for the exam.

How long are the exams?

You will have three hours to take your exam(s), regardless of how many exams you have signed up to take. If you start an exam and time runs out, the exam must be turned in and all unanswered questions will be marked as wrong. For example, if you registered for two exams, and the first exam takes two hours to complete, you will only have one hour to complete the second exam.

Where and when are the exams given?

When you are ready to take the exam(s), check the PaPlants Certification Exam Search page for dates and locations. The exams are given in each Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) Region at least once a month (you can go to any region to take an exam, not just in the one you live or work.)

You need to register in advance for most exam dates, which can be done on the above website once you select the exam you are going to attend. At this time, payment for exams cannot be made online.

If you do not want to register online, you can call the PDA regional office and register to take the exam.

What should I bring to the exam?

On the day of the exam, make sure you bring the following:

  • Government issued photo identification, i.e., drivers license or two other forms of identification, such as a government issued document with signature (social security card, green card) or a document with name and address (utility bill, tax statement, personal check).
  • #2 pencil and paper
  • Approved study materials, if exam is open book. Please note that exam proctors have the right to review and reject all materials brought in to the exam
  • Check or money order made payable to the "Commonwealth of PA". Core exam is $50, and each category exam is $10. There is no charge for the private applicator exam.
  • Business license numbers if business is currently licensed.
  • After you take the exam, you will receive your results, your certification card or an application by mail with your ID number on it.

When will I know if I passed or failed the exam?

The Pesticide Education Program does not have access to exam results. The exams are given by and scored by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA). The results are sent to you via mail. If after four weeks you have not received your results, call the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (717-772-5231) to resolve the problem. Please note the PDA does not release examination results over the phone.

I'm starting my own business. How do I get a business license?

Businesses must be licensed to apply general use or restricted use pesticides. The business must, at all times, employ an applicator certified in each category it intends to make pesticide applications within. When taking the certification exams, you will be asked who your employer is. If the business does not have a license, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture will mail you an application to become a certified application business.

The certified application business must meet requirements of comprehensive general liability insurance coverage for pesticide applications. Businesses operating at several locations under one name must maintain separate business licenses, liability insurances, and records for each location or name. Vehicles involved in the application phase of a business are required to display the business license number in 3-inch letters and numbers. For more information about the certification process, see brochure.

Can I make pesticide applications for others, who are not customers of the business I work for?

If you work for a certified pesticide application business, you can obtain a second pesticide certification to work for another licensed pesticide business (perhaps your own business). However, the person you are doing the application for must be a customer of a licensed pesticide business that you are employed through.

Can I use my out-of-state pesticide applicator license in Pennsylvania?

No. You must have a Pennsylvania license to apply pesticides in Pennsylvania. However, Pennsylvania has reciprocity with some states—meaning you can apply to get a license in Pennsylvania (see next question about the process). If reciprocity does not exist with your state, you (and your business) must go through the entire certification process. If you need more information, please contact the PDA at 717-772-5231.

If I have a license from another state, how do I get certified in Pennsylvania?

How do I get a reciprocal license for Pennsylvania? Pennsylvania accepts initial reciprocity with all borderline states, in addition to many other states (see next question). If reciprocity exists, applicators do not need to take the Pennsylvania certification core and category exam. However, the business is required to pay any fees (applicator and business fees) and applicators are required to attend recertification courses to maintain their certification in Pennsylvania. (Pennsylvania does accept recertification credits from other states, but these must be approved.)

Applicators need to make a request for a reciprocal certification with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA). Complete the reciprocity application and submit it to PDA. If you need more information, please contact the PDA at 717-772-5231.

With what states does Pennsylvania have reciprocity agreements?

Pennsylvania has reciprocity with the following states: Delaware, the District of Columbia, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

These states have limitations: Indiana (Not for Category 12); Massachusetts (only for Category 16); Mississippi (only for Category 25); and Montana (only categories, not for core). The Department of Defense has reciprocity while on military property.

If you need more information, please contact the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture at 717-772-5231.

Can I take the exams online?

Currently, Pennsylvania does not have the capabilities to provide this service. However, with the numerous locations around the state that give the exams, you should be able to find a testing place near your home. To find a location to take the exam, please check out the PaPlants Certification Exam Search page.

How do I keep my certification?

To maintain pesticide certification, applicators must attend update training at three year intervals for which recertification credits have been approved. Regardless of the category of certification, each applicator must accumulate six core credits. The number of category specific credits required for recertification varies from category to category. Specific requirements are listed on the brochure. Private applicators need six category credits from any of the following categories: 1-9, and 22, listed as PC credits. In addition, for private applicators with fumigation certification, two of the six category credits must be specific to fumigation.

How do I convert my commercial/public certification to a private certification?

Individuals with valid commercial or public pesticide certification are eligible for obtaining a private certification without additional testing. Send a written request, along with a check payable to the "Commonwealth of PA" in the amount of $10.00, to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Plant Industry, Pesticides, 2301 North Cameron Street, Harrisburg, PA 17110-9408.

What is a Registered Technician?

Registered Technicians are applicators who have received training as required under Subsection 128.51 of the Pennsylvania Pesticide Rules and Regulations. Simply stated, these applicators have completed the minimum training requirements under the direction of an applicator with at least one year's certification in the category for which the technician is being trained. They must also be under the supervision of a certified applicator who can be on site within 5 hours if necessary. Registered technicians must be re-registered and must receive update training on an annual basis.

Some information about Register Technician training is listed on the back of this form: List of All Employees to be Registered as Pesticide Application Technicians.

Which Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Region do I live in?

To find the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) Regional Office nearest you, refer to the PDA regional office map.

How do I check my recertification credits online?

You can check the amount of credits you need by going to PaPlants, Pesticide Programs, Pesticide Business/Applicator Lookup, and then entering your last name and certification number.

Or you can log into your applicator or business account at the above web address using your username and password. Credit information can be found under the Exams and Meetings Attended section.

How do I renew my license online?

You can renew applicator and business licenses online at PaPlants. Log in to your account with your username and password. Licenses up for renewal will be listed on the front page and they will be in your shopping cart as well.