How to Get Certified as an Exterminator

exterminator and resident in kitchen with bug spray device
  • Beginner

Whether you’re still in high school or are looking for a second career later in life, it’s important to understand the requirements for any job you’re interested in. If you’ve contemplated putting your DIY skill to work as an exterminator, consider what it takes to earn the credentials you’ll need.

What Exterminators Do

Exterminators work in critter control and elimination. They are the Ghostbusters for mice and other rodents, larger animals homeowners don’t want to share space with, and invasive bugs. They drive out ants, cockroaches, wasps, hornets, mosquitos, and fleas.

Exterminators can work in homes, offices, warehouses, kitchens, and retail or commercial buildings. They set traps and apply sprays, fogs, and powders.

Job Titles

Those who work in pest control can be referred to as pest control workers, pest control technicians, or exterminators. Although the titles overlap, more technically an exterminator uses chemicals to eradicate pests while a pest control worker not only removes them but looks for ways to deter pests, including removing food and water sources.

Work Environment

exterminator with suit and mask spraying bugs

Exterminators and pest control workers can be found in homes or businesses. Especially in the pest control specialty, work might require crawling through basements or attics in dark, dusty, dirty environments.

Education, Licensing, and Certification

The first thing to know about becoming certified as an exterminator is that you may not need to be certified as an exterminator. Many jobs require little more than a willingness to work hard, and most likely a high school diploma. You may also need a driver’s license if the hiring company requires it.

However, if you want to take full advantage of job advancement opportunities and pay raises, you’ll want to pursue the certificate. Getting certified may also be a requirement for some jobs, depending on the hiring company.

Requirements differ per state so contact your state’s pest control regulatory oversight organization to find out what’s needed where you live. Once you know what the finish line looks like you can find training at community colleges or technical schools. Many pest control businesses also offer training.

Typically a program takes about three months to complete and will cover expected topics like control of rodents, termites, and other common pests, along with proper pesticide application and safety and the basics of fumigation.

Either through your employer or through a program, you’ll earn the required education you need, but you’ll also complete an apprenticeship under the supervision of an experienced pest control specialist.

You can then complete the certification and licensing exams offered by your state.

Strong Personal Characteristics for Exterminators

exterminator in protective gear spraying for bugs

Every job has certain personal characteristics that help the job be a more natural match for the person. Becoming an exterminator or pest control expert requires problem-solving skills, interpersonal and communication skills, mechanical skills, and time management skills. If you own your own business you’ll need to be proficient at completing state-required paperwork, be able to handle the payroll and other employee aspects, and keep up the bill-paying and maintenance at the office.

You’ll need to be organized and able to be on the move all day, every day. It also requires the ability to move around in tight spaces, often squatting or crawling as you work. You may also need to work on ladders or roofs, or with the use of harness support.


Working in the pest control realm is physically demanding and requires both indoor and outdoor work. There’s a risk of collapsing structures, serious cuts, falls, and mental challenges such as claustrophobia. In addition, there’s the off chance you’ll be bitten or stung as you work. Perhaps the highest area of safety concern is the use of chemicals on the job. Always use safety equipment as recommended.

Salary Range

Pest control work is generally low to mid-paying. However, it’s not a difficult industry to get into and comes without the burden of college debt. Expect to earn between $25,000 and $50,000 with the potential for higher earnings if you own the business.

Job Outlook

The job outlook within the pest control industry is strong.