Pennsylvania Pesticide Applicator Certification

Learn how to become a pesticide applicator in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania Pesticide Applicator Certification - Articles


The Pennsylvania Pesticide Control Act covers all aspects of the regulation of pesticides in the Commonwealth including:

  • Labeling, distribution, storage, and registration
  • Classification of restricted use pesticides
  • Certification of pesticide applicators
  • Licensing of pesticide dealers, pesticide application businesses, and pest management consultants
  • Registration of pesticide application technicians
  • Notification procedures for pesticide applications

Pesticides are substances that control, kill, or mitigate pest organisms. They include, but are not limited to, herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, and rodenticides. This brochure briefly explains why certification is necessary and the process of becoming a certified pesticide applicator. Applicator certification can be divided into two groups:

  • Commercial and Public Applicators
  • Private Applicators

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 a property rented or owned by the applicator, but are not 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 for other than single-family residences, 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 which is owned or rented by that person or their employer.

Pesticide Application Business License

Required for Employers of Commercial and Public Applicators

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) defines a pesticide application business as a government entity or commercial establishment engaged in the application of pesticides and meeting the definition of a public or commercial applicator. This includes individual operators that meet the definition a of a commercial or public applicator.

Businesses must be licensed to apply general or restricted use pesticides. A license must be obtained indicating the certification category in which the business makes applications. The business must, at all times, employ an applicator certified for each category in which it intends to make a pesticide application.

Businesses must meet the requirements for comprehensive general liability insurance coverage for pesticide applications. A minimum of $200,000 coverage is required. This must include $100,000 coverage for bodily injury and $100,000 coverage for property damage per occurrence. Coverage must include a statement that pesticide applications are included, or endorsement #CG26160194 or #CG26160798.

Businesses operating at multiple locations or under more than 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 numerals.

Private Applicators

To become a certified private applicator, testing is required; however, normally only a private examination is necessary. Additional testing is required if the applicator intends to use a restricted use fumigant. In this case, the applicator must obtain a special permit by passing a written examination specifically related to the type of fumigation which will be made. Private applicators are also required to obtain update training (six core and six category) credits at three-year intervals.

Commercial and Public Applicators

Currently there are 25 categories of commercial and public applicators (see "Pesticide Certification Categories and Recertification Credit Requirements"). To be eligible for certification, a person must pass two written examinations (core and category) and be employed by a pesticide application business. Once exams have been successfully passed, that person has 12 months to apply for certification with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

In anticipation of employment by a pesticide application business, an individual may take and pass the examinations and receive certification upon employment, provided the employment begins within 12 months of initial certification eligibility.

Study materials to prepare for testing may be obtained through Penn State's Publications Distribution Center. Arrangements for testing may be made locally through the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture regional offices listed in this brochure. Test dates and locations can be accessed through the PaPlants website.

To maintain certification, applicators must attend update training programs in core and appropriate category-specific topics. Six core credits and up to ten category credits for each category in which the applicator is certified are required (see "Pesticide Certification Categories and Recertification Credit Requirements").

Recertification credits are accumulated based on attendance at approved meetings and other appropriate training. An annual statement of credits, which outline the credit requirements and recertification renewal date, is mailed to each certified applicator.

If the recertification credit requirements are not met by the specified date, the applicator's license will expire and that applicator will no longer be permitted to make pesticide applications until the license is reinstated (see "Reinstating an Expired Certification".)

Additional Options for Pesticide Applicators with Supervision

Registered Technicians

Registered technicians are those applicators who have received training as required under subsection 128.51 of the Pennsylvania Pesticide Rules and Regulations. Simply stated, these applicators have completed 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 receive update training on an annual basis.

Noncertified Applicators

Applications may be made by an individual who is neither certified nor a registered technician if and only if that individual is under the direct supervision of a certified applicator who is physically present and within sight of the application being made.

Hypersensitivity Registry

The Pennsylvania Pesticide Hypersensitivity Registry, which is maintained by the PDA, is a list of people who have been verified by a physician to be excessively or abnormally sensitive to pesticides. Commercial and public pesticide applicators must contact anyone on the registry whose listed location is within 500 feet of a pesticide application site.

Notification is mandatory and must be made not less than 12 hours and not more than 72 hours prior to the pesticide application. Notification requirements are met if the information is sent via email, placed on a telephone answering device, or information is given to an adult contacted by dialing any of the listed telephone numbers. Information that must be provided includes date, time, location of application, EPA registration number, brand name, common name of active ingredients of the pesticide(s) that may be used, business name, BU number, business phone number, and a copy of the label if requested.

Requirements for all Applicators

Reinstating an Expired Certification

If an applicator's certification expires, further use of pesticides that would otherwise be permitted is prohibited. However, the applicator has up to one year to reinstate the certification by obtaining the necessary recertification credits and paying the appropriate fees. If the certification is expired for more than one year, reexamination is required for recertification.

Pesticide Control Act Recordkeeping

Commercial and public applicators must maintain records for each application. Private applicators are required to maintain records for all applications of restricted use pesticides. Operations that employ agricultural workers or handlers covered by the Worker Protection Standard must keep records for all pesticide applications. All pesticide application records must be maintained for three years, completed within 24 hours of the pesticide application, and contain the following:

  • The date of application and, for those pesticides specifying a reentry period, the hour of completion
  • The name and address of the application site (Commercial applicators must also record the name and address of the customer if it differs from the application site.)
  • The brand name, EPA registration number, amount, and rate or dosage of each pesticide used
  • Size and identification of the area treated for agronomic crop applications
  • The names and certification numbers of all persons involved with the application
  • In addition to the information listed above, agronomic crop application records must also include restricted reentry interval and crop treated.

Pesticide Certification Categories and Recertification Credit Requirements

To maintain pesticide certification, applicators must obtain update training during three-year intervals by accumulating PDA-approved recertification credits. 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 below.

Category CertificationCredits
CORE Credits6
Private Applicator Category*6
01 Agronomic Crops10
02 Fruit and Nuts10
03 Vegetable Crops10
04 Agricultural Animals6
05 Forest Pest Control8
06 Ornamental and Shade Trees10
07 Lawn and Turf10
08 Seed Treatment4
09 Aquatic Pest Control4
10 Right-of-way and Weeds8
11 Household and Health Related10
12 Wood Destroying Pests10
13 Structural Fumigation6
15 Public Health - Vertebrate Pests8
16 Public Health - Invertebrate Pests8
17 Regulatory Pest Control10
18 Demonstration and Research10
19 Wood Preservation4
20 Commodity and Space Fumigation6
21 Soil Fumigation4
22 Interior Plantscape6
23 Park or School Pest Control10
24 Swimming Pools4
25 Aerial Applicator10
26 Sewer Root Control4

* For private applicators with fumigation certification, two of the required six category credits must be specific to fumigation.

Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture

Bureau of Plant Industry
Division of Health and Safety
2301 North Cameron Street
Harrisburg, PA 17110-9408
717-772-5231 Fax 717-783-3275

Regional Offices can help:

  • Answer general certification questions.
  • Determine your certification category.

RegionAddressPhone #Fax #
Region I13410 Dunham Rd
Meadville, PA 16335
Region II542 County Farm Rd
Suite 102
Montoursville, PA 17754
Region IIIRoute 92 South, PO Box C
Tunkhannock, PA 18657
Region IV214 Donohoe Road
Greensburg, PA 15601
Region VMartinsburg Commons
403 East Christiana Street
Martinsburg, PA 16662
Region VI2301 North Cameron St
Harrisburg, PA 17110
Region VII1015 Bridge Rd
Collegeville, PA 19426

Penn State Publications Distribution Center

The following pesticide study materials are available from Penn State's Publications Distribution Center (PDC):

Order #Category
PEP-00PPrivate Applicator Packet
PEP-00CCommercial/Public Applicator Packet
PEP-01Agronomic Crops
PEP-02Fruit and Nuts
PEP-03Vegetable Crops
PEP-04Agricultural Animals
PEP-05Forest Pest Control
PEP-06Ornamental and Shade Trees
PEP-07Lawn and Turf
PEP-08Seed Treatment
PEP-09Aquatic Pest Control
PEP-10Right-of-way and Weeds
PEP-11Household and Health Related
PEP-12Wood Destroying Pests
PEP-13Fumigation (includes categories 13 and 20)
PEP-15Public Health - Vertebrate Pests
PEP-16Public Health - Invertebrate Pests
PEP-18Demonstration and Research
PEP-19Wood Preservation
PEP-21Soil Fumigation
PEP-22Interior Plantscape
PEP-23Park or School Pest Control
PEP-24Swimming Pools
PEP-25Aerial Applicator
PEP-26Sewer Root Control
PEP-27Pesticide Dealer Manager

Distribution Information

For pricing information, please contact the Publications Distribution Center (PDC) toll-free at 1-877-345-0691 (or locally at 814-865-6713.) Telephone orders are only accepted with a Visa or MasterCard. The PDC cannot make category packet recommendations. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 8:00am to 5:00pm. All sales are final.

Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Fees

Core Exam$50
Category Exam (per exam)$10
Pesticide Dealer Manager Exam$50
Business License (commercial and public)
Annual fee due on December 31st
Commercial Applicator Renewal
Annual fee due on September 30th
Commercial Registered Technician
Annual fee due on February 28th
Public Applicator Renewal
Triennial fee due September 30th
Public Registered Technician
Annual fee due February 28th
Private Applicator Renewal
Triennial fee due March 31st

Additional PDA Programs


The CHEMSWEEP waste pesticide collection program provides all Pennsylvania citizens a means to dispose of old, unusable, or unwanted pesticide products. Participants in this program can legally dispose of waste pesticides at no cost.

Container Recycling

To participate in the Plastic Pesticide Container Recycling Program, applicators must ensure that containers are free of all product, inside and outside. Pressure rinsing or triple rinsing each container is required. All label booklets and caps should be discarded. Only #2 HDPE plastic containers from EPA-registered agricultural, structural, turf, forestry, and specialty pest control products, as well as containers from adjuvants, crop oil, surfactants, and fertilizers can be accepted.

To participate in either the CHEMSWEEP or Container Recycling program, contact your regional PDA office.

Other Pesticide Information

PA Department of Agriculture PaPlants

  • Pesticide certification exam schedules
  • Pesticide recertification meeting information
  • Basic applicator information
  • Recertification credit information

Penn State Extension Pesticide Education Program

  • Fact sheets
  • Links to pest management resources
  • Links to pesticide labels and MSDS
  • Youth curriculum and educational materials
  • PDA information, including CHEMSWEEP and Container Recycling