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Pest Control Operator Licensing

licensed pest control operator is an individual who qualifies by passing a licensing exam to supervise the pest control operations at each office or branch office of chartered companies and supervise the application of pesticides in buildings used for food preparation and service, lodging, educational purposes, or commercial food processing.

These rules do not apply in buildings used primarily for religious instruction or providing education to not more than ten persons. They do not apply to the application of pesticides by an individual in the individual’s dwelling (personal), or to the application of pesticides by the owner of a multi-unit dwelling in which the owner resides and which contains not more than three additional units..

To become a licensed applicator, each person must first become certified as a commercial applicator by passing a commercial certification exam. The certification exam(s) must be taken prior to the licensing exam(s) at one of the listed locations across the state.

It is recommended to obtain and review the most current copy of Tennessee’s Laws and Regulations prior to taking any licensing exam.

Currently, there are 15 licensing categories in Tennessee:

  • Agricultural—Ground Equipment (AGE)
  • Aquatic Pest Control (APC)
  • Aerial Applicator (Aerial)—Requires certification in area of treatment (such as C1, C2, C5, C6, C8)
  • Bird Control (BDC)
  • Forest Pest Control (FPC)
  • Fumigation—Soil (FUS)
  • Fumigation—Structural (FUM)
  • General Pest and Rodent Control (GRC)
  • Horticultural—Interior (HRI)
  • Horticulture—Lawn and Turf (HLT)
  • Microbial Pest Control (MPC)—Requires category 14 certification
  • Mold Remediation (MRC)—Requires category 7 certification
  • Pest Control Consultant (PCC)
  • Public Health Mosquito Control (PHMC)—Requires category 8 certification
  • Weed Control—Right of Way and Industrial (WEC)
  • Wood Destroying Organisms (WDO)
  • Wood Preservatives (WPC)
  • Special (SPC)

NOTE:  All categories will need to review Tennessee’s current laws and regulations to prepare for exams.

Limited Herbicide Applicator (LHA)

This certification category was created for individuals who apply glyphosate as the sole active ingredient in conjunction with landscape maintenance work. Prior to taking the LHA certification exam, you must provide documentation of insurance to the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA). Other regulations are required; see LHA Certification for more information.

Training is offered quarterly for categories HLT, PHMC, GRC, and WDO in Nashville, Tennessee. Specimens are provided for review at these sessions.

To schedule training – complete and mail the Registration Form or call the PSEP office (865-974-1286).

Online registration for Pesticide Licensed Pest Control Operator training

Training Session Fees:

* Note: On-site registration only if seating is available *

  • GRC
    • Preregistration: $90
    • On-site registration: $105
  • WDO
    • Preregistration: $90
    • On-site registration: $105
  • HLT
    • Preregistration: $135
    • On-site registration: $150
  • PHMC
    • Preregistration: $80
    • On-site registration: $95

Training Locations

UT Extension Central Region Office
Ellington Agricultural Center
5201 Marchant Drive
Nashville, TN 37211

For assistance: 865-974-1286
For directions: 615-837-5148 or 615-832-5850

Rutherford County Extension
315 John R. Rice Blvd.
Murfreesboro, TN 37129

For assistance: 615-898-7710

The fee is $150 for each licensing exam, and payment by check, money order, cashier’s check, or credit card must be included with the Licensing Exam Application.

Contact TDA at 615-837-5148 for additional information.

License applicants must be commercially certified prior to the examination date. 

Applicants, with the exception of the AGE category, must qualify for the examination by one of three ways:

  1. Have two years of verifiable experience working under a licensee in that category, or
  2. Have a four-year college degree with major studies in a related field, or
  3. Hold a similar license in another state.

The examination consists of two parts. The first is a multiple-choice written format. The second part involves specimen identification. A score of 70 percent is considered passing for each part. Failure on either part may require reexamination on both parts. However, TDA commonly allows individuals who pass the first part and fail the second part to only be required to retake the second part. Test results are made available on the same day at the testing site, and an examinee who has a passing score can apply for a license immediately.

Payment is not accepted on site at the testing locations. It is recommended that applicants order the study materials to help prepare them for the exam. Individuals planning to take the exams may find the application here: Application to take the Licensing Exam

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture has recently partnered with Everblue, an accredited training and certification company, to transition the state’s pesticide certification and licensing exams to an online test management system. Learn more on TDA’s site.

  1. Certified in respective category AND
  2. 18 years of age and US citizen or possess a current U.S. government issued visa prior to taking the exam AND
  3. Education – except for WDO, applications are qualified to take the license exams based on education are as follows:
    1. BS/BA degree with major or minor in Agriculture, Biology, Chemistry, Forestry, Horticulture, Entomology, Plant Pathology, Plant Sciences, or similar degree.
    2. Pest Control Consultant – BS in field of pest control consultation offered. (a Pest Control Consultant license does not qualify the licensee to conduct pest control operations.)
  4. Education and Experience Combination
    1. WDO:
      1. Education: BS/BA degree in a field in 3a AND
      2. Experience: 1-year full time work experience in WDO, OR
      3. Education: MS or PhD in Entomology AND Graduate of the Termite Technician School
    2. HLT, HRI, WEC, or AGE licensee – Can take exam in another one of these four categories provided:
      1. Certified: Certified in that category of license desired AND
      2. Experience: 2 or more years in the category (must be documented) AND
      3. Education: 12 college semester hours OR 24 CEUs.
    3. AGE & HLT:
      1. Certified: Certified in the category of license desired AND
      2. Experience: 2 years of work experience (must be documented) AND
      3. Education: BA degree AND 12 college semester hours related to AGE or HLT OR 24 CEUs related to AGE or HLT
  5. Experience: Registered as a pest control technician or sales person for 24 months of full-time work experience
    1. AGE & HLT: CCA certificate AND 1 year full-time work experience related to the licensing category AND certified in the same category
    2. PHMC: Hold category 7 (Industrial, Institutional, Structural & Health Related Pest Control) certification or Category 8 (Public Health) certification.

NOTE: Adapted from pages 1 and 2 of the Rules of the Pest Control Operators in the Laws and Regulations Governing Pest Control Operators and Applicators of Restricted Use Pesticides. (September, 2017 Revised)

You will be notified by TDA with a statement of “application approved” or “application rejected.” If approved to take the exam, the applicant may take the licensing exam the next month of the same quarter, when the exam is offered.

Study materials for both license and certification exams are available from the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture in Knoxville, PSEP Office for a nominal fee. The certification materials are designed to walk applicants through the exam, whereas the license materials are designed to merely be a supplement to your experience and education. Order forms are available from the University or TDA.

A list of specimens to be studied is available in the study materials. Specimens to study may be found on the internet and included in resource books. At this time neither UT nor TDA has specimens for study in all categories. Specimens are available to visually review when attending the training in the HLT, GRC, and WDO categories. A list of specimens is provided online as well.  To see the online listing, select the Resources on the orange tab above and type “specimen” as the search term.

Listing of licensing categories and corresponding study materials

Aerial—Pilots applying pesticides by air. Order the aerial manual and a copy of Tennessee’s Laws and Regulations.

AGE, Agricultural Ground Equipment—Control of agricultural pests by means other than fumigation. Order AGE, Agricultural Ground Equipment.

AQW, Aquatic Weed Control—Control aquatic plants by the application of pesticides. Order AQW, Aquatic Weed Control PB 1702.

BDC, Bird Control—Control of pest birds, by the use of pesticides. Order BDC, Bird Control PB 1665.

FUS/FUM, Fumigation Soil (Agri.)/(Structural)Fumigation Soil, FUS—Control of agricultural pests found in the soil by application of a material that is a gas. Order PB 1695. 

Fumigation Structural, FUM—Control of pests by application of a material that is a gas to buildings. Order FUS/FUM, Fumigation Soil (AGRI.)/(Structural) from Texas A&M.

GRC, General Pest and Rodent Control—To perform custom application of pesticides or apply pesticides for a fee, to vertebrate (rats, mice etc.) and invertebrate (insects) pests in and around structures. Order PB 1673, General Pest and Rodent Control.

HLT, Horticulture, Lawn and Turf—To perform custom application of pesticides for insects and diseases of shrubs, trees, lawn and turf in residential, institutional, and non-agricultural locations. Order PB 1666, Horticulture-Lawn and Turf.

HRI, Horticulture–Interior—Control of pests and diseases of plants grown indoors. Order PB 1698.

MPC, Microbial Pest Control—Requires category 14 certification.

MPC, Mold Remediation—Requires category 7 certification.

PCC, Pest Control Consultant, PCC—is a graduate of an accredited college or university with a Bachelor’s degree in the field of pest control in which consultation is offered. A license in this category does not qualify the holder to conduct pest control operations.

PHMC, Public Health Mosquito Control—To perform custom application of pesticides for mosquito control on public lands and public waters. Order PB 1685 Public Health Pest Control.

WEC, Weed Right-of-Way—To perform custom application of pesticides for the control of plants, whether woody or herbaceous, to industrial sites and rights-of-way such as, but not limited to, highways, transmission lines, drainage ditches, etc. Order PB 1706 Weed Right-Of-Way.

WDO, Wood Destroying Organisms—To perform custom application of pesticides for termites, various wood borers, carpenter bees, carpenter ants and decay without regard to the type or use of structure involved. Order PB 1703, Wood Destroying Organisms.

WPC, Wood Preservatives—Order PB 1715 Wood Preservatives.

SPC, Special—Must go before the board to explain application.

NOTE:  Information concerning Tennessee’s Laws and Regulations will be reviewed on exams

  • No cell phones nor electronic devices will be allowed
  • No hats
  • Prepare for exam using the licensing category manual and a copy of Tennessee’s Laws and Regulations

After the license exam is passed, the licensee must pay a fee to have their license activated. Licensees cannot operate until the fee is paid and license is activated. If the license is not activated within one year of passing the exam, the licensee must retest. The licensing fee is $40 for 2 years.

Licensees are held accountable for all pesticide applications and required pesticide recordkeeping. Licensees are expected to work full time at the chartered firm but are not required to be on-site at each application. However, at least one commercially certified person is required to be on site at each application.

The Tennessee Application of Pesticides Act (TAPA) also requires the licensed supervision of pesticide applications inside certain commercial and public buildings. These include:

  • Apartments. (Tenants may apply pesticides inside their own unit.)
  • Lodging facilities such as hotels, motels, nursing homes, hospitals, dormitories, prisons.
  • Commercial food processing facilities.
  • Restaurants.
  • Schools, except those that primarily provide religious instruction or those that have ten or fewer students.

In these situations, pesticide applications must be performed by a chartered firm unless a licensee is employed by the facility. With rare exception, the license category required for application within the above listed facilities is the GRC. Pesticide applications must be performed by a chartered firm unless a licensee is employed by the facility. In this instance, a charter by the facility is not required. Any technician working under the licensee is required to be commercially certified in the corresponding category.

Tennessee reciprocates in honoring current commercial certification by other states with whom they have an agreement. A reciprocity form is found here: Reciprocity Form. Tennessee does not reciprocate in regard to licenses. Form EPP 671 lists reciprocity with other states.

A few additional requirements exist for the following licensing categories:

Aerial Applicators

NOTE: The category of certification required for an aerial license is dependent on the work being conducted, C01 = Agriculture, C02 = Forestry, C06 = Right-of-way.

Forest Pest Control

If you are applying to areas of 6,400 acres or greater see: TDEC, NPDES General Permit for Application of Pesticides​.

Permits “General Permit”

  • If you are applying pesticides, including biological pesticides that leave a residue in waters of the state that were determined to be polluted under the Clean Water Act (CWA) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), permit coverage is generally required for the type of discharges associated with the following pesticide use patterns:
    • Mosquito and other flying insect pest control,
    • Weed and algae control,
    • Animal pest control, and
    • Forest canopy pest control.
  • Visit the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation​ website for more information.

Pesticide Dealers

NOTE: To be a pesticide dealer, you will need to obtain category 12 certification.

Public Health Mosquito Control

Public health mosquito control (PHMC) is the management of mosquitoes, in all stages of their development, on public land and public waters. Applicants for this license must be certified in (C08) Public Health Pest Control.

Pest Control Consultants

A pest control consultant (PCC) is a graduate of an accredited college or university with a bachelor’s degree in the field of pest control in which consultation is offered. A license in this category does not qualify the holder to conduct pest control operations.

Termite Technician

A Termite Technician School is offered by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA), with the University of Tennessee, and industry representatives cooperating. Seventeen points may be earned from this school in C07, Industrial, Institutional, Structural and Health Related (General Household and Structural Pests). Contact TDA at 615-837-5148 to learn more about attending the Termite Technician’s school.