California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Pest Control Workers in California

May also be called: Exterminators; Exterminator Helpers; Pest Control Technicians; and Service Technicians

Specialties within this occupation include: Termite Control Technicians; and Fumigators

What Would I Do?

Pest Control Workers remove unwanted creatures that infest households, buildings, or surrounding areas that can pose risks to health and safety. The most common pests they remove are roaches, rats, mice, spiders, termites, fleas, ants, and bees. They use their knowledge of pests' biology and habits to alleviate pest problems. They also use an arsenal of pest management techniques such as applying chemicals, setting traps, operating specialized equipment, and even modifying structures. Other roles of Pest Control Workers include soliciting pest control business and submitting bids for jobs.

Some pests need to be eliminated through pesticide application. Pest Control Workers use two different types of pesticides—general use and restricted use. General-use pesticides are the most widely used and are readily available. Restricted-use pesticides are available only to certified professionals for controlling the most severe infestations. Their registration, labeling, and application are regulated by federal law and interpreted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency because of their potential harm to Pest Control Workers, customers, and the environment. Pest Control Workers must understand the instructions, warnings, terms, and other information appearing on pesticide labels. They must decide how to safely apply the pesticides factoring in weather, environmental conditions, and human or animal exposure.

Pest Control Workers increasingly use a combination of environmentally safe pest management techniques known as integrated pest management. This is because some pests are becoming more resistant to pesticides and application of some pesticides is restricted due to environmental and health risks they pose. One method involves using proper sanitation to eliminate pests' food and creating physical barriers to prevent pests from entering the building. Another method uses baits which may destroy the pests or prevent them from reproducing. Yet another method involves using mechanical devices to remove pests from the immediate environment such as traps. Organic methods of pest management may include releasing beneficial organisms and using natural pesticides made from plants.

Pest Control Technicians identify potential pest problems, conduct inspections, and design control strategies. They work directly with the customer who often has the final choice of which type of pest management to use. Some Technicians require a higher level of training depending on their task. If certain products are used, the Technician may be required to become a certified applicator.

Termite Control Technicians specialize in controlling termites through use of chemicals and by modifying structures. They drill holes through slabs and cut openings into buildings to access infestations and install physical barriers or bait systems around the structure. Some repair structural damage caused by termites.

Fumigators are applicators who control pests by using poisonous gasses called fumigants. Fumigators pretreat infested buildings by examining, measuring, and sealing the buildings. Then, using cylinders, hoses, and valves, they fill structures with the proper amount and concentration of fumigant. They also give advance notice to the local fire department, or other authorities as required, and monitor the premises for leaking gas during treatment.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Record work activities performed.Law and Government
Inspect premises to identify infestation source and extent of damage to property, wall and roof porosity, and access to infested locations.Deductive Reasoning
Spray or dust chemical solutions, powders, or gases into rooms, onto clothing, furnishings or wood, and over marshlands, ditches, and catch-basins.Near Vision
Clean work site after completion of job.Public Safety and Security
Direct and/or assist other workers in treatment and extermination processes to eliminate and control rodents, insects, and weeds.Speaking
Drive truck equipped with power spraying equipment.Arm-Hand Steadiness
Measure area dimensions requiring treatment, using rule, calculate fumigant requirements, and estimate cost for service.Customer and Personal Service
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Most Pest Control Workers travel to the clients' sites. They must kneel, bend, reach, carry, climb, and crawl to inspect, modify, and treat structures. They work in all weather conditions, indoors and out, in locations such as houses, railroad cars, ships, docks, trucks, airplanes, hospitals, and restaurants along with the surrounding properties. Pest Control Workers must be in good health to withstand extreme conditions such as the heat of climbing into an attic in the summertime or the chill of sliding into a crawlspace during winter. They may be uncomfortable in warm weather wearing heavy protective gear such as respirators, gloves, and goggles required for working with various chemicals.

Many Pest Control Workers work a 40-hour week. They often work evenings and weekends, when certain businesses are closed to the public. However, many work consistent shifts.

Various pest control chemicals are toxic and could be harmful if not used properly. Health risks associated with chemicals used by Pest Control Workers are minimized by the use of protective devices and by extensive training. Pest Control Workers decide are trained to transport, mix, store, dispose, and apply pesticides safely. California has the most extensive pesticide regulatory organization in the nation.

Pesticide handlers may be required to wear personal protective equipment such as respirators and chemical-resistant suits, footwear, and head coverings provided by their employers as mandated by the products they use. This highly regulated industry is subject to inspections to ensure the practice of proper safety measures and that appropriate record keeping is maintained of chemical use.

So far, there has been little or no unionization of Pest Control Workers. However, workers can belong to the Pest Control Operators of California, a statewide trade association. The only national trade association for Pest Control Workers is the National Pest Management Association.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Pest Control Workers will appeal to those with realistic interests. Realistic occupations frequently involve working with practical, hands-on problems and solutions. The job includes frequently working outside and dealing with plants, animals, wood, tools, and machinery. Good social skills are a must for those who work directly with the public.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

Some Pest Control Workers earn commissions based on the number of contracts for pest control services they sell. Others may earn bonuses for exceeding performance goals.


The median wage in 2020 for Pest Control Workers in California is $42,119 annually, or $20.25 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2020Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2020 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas


Common benefits provided to Pest Control Workers include vacation, sick leave, medical, dental, vision, and life insurance, retirement, and paid training. Employers provide protective gear as required by the products being used. Some employers provide their workers with company vehicles.

What is the Job Outlook?

Demand for Pest Control Workers is expected to increase as population growth generates new residential and commercial buildings. Demand will continue for pest control services as improvements in standard of living and greater numbers of dual-income households enable more people to hire professionals rather than attempt pest control work themselves.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Pest Control Workers is expected to grow slower than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Pest Control Workers are expected to increase by 6.9 percent, or 700 jobs between 2016 and 2026.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Pest Control Workers
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

The minimum qualification for most pest control jobs is a high school diploma or its equivalent. Generally, individuals hired as Pest Control Workers obtain the training and experience on the job that they need to test for a license to provide unsupervised pest control services using federally- or state- restricted materials.

Early Career Planning

Those interested in becoming a Pest Control Worker should take high school courses to develop basic skills in math, chemistry, and English. Due to the physical demands of the job, physical education is also recommended.

Work Study Programs

Pest Control Workers usually begin their careers as trainees working for private pest control companies. They train under their employer in the classroom and on the job for each pest control service they will provide. After completing the required training, trainees can provide pest control services under supervision. To be eligible to become applicators, technicians must have a combination of experience and education, pass a test, pass a background check, and pay the fees to receive their license. Once licensed in the appropriate category and level, the Pest Control Worker can use federally- or state-restricted materials without a supervisor being present at customer sites.

Continuing Education

Pest Control Workers must keep up to date on laws and regulations as penalties may be assessed by the county agricultural commissioner if regulations are not followed. All licenses require a certain number of continuing education hours for renewal depending upon the type of license. Training can come from employers, trade associations, and product manufacturers.

Licensing and Certification

A license is required by those employed in the pest control industry in order to apply pesticides, rodenticides, or other chemicals to control pests or organisms. The Applicator License is the entry-level license issued by the Structural Pest Control Board, although some may start with a Field Representative License issued by the same Board. Managers and self-employed business owners must have Operator Licenses. Licenses are issued by the Department of Consumer Affairs Structural Pest Control Board and the Department of Pesticide Regulations. Contact the agency that issues the license for additional information. Click on the license title below for details.

Some Pest Control Workers who specialize in maintenance gardening, or grounds keeping, can obtain a Qualified Applicator Certificate from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation by paying the fees and taking the exams. The certification is valid for up to two years. See licensing for additional information. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Would I Work?

The largest industries employing Pest Control Workers are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Local Government1.4%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers is an effective job search method for Pest Control Workers. Newspaper classified ads and the Internet are excellent sources of job leads. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Pest Control Workers.

  • Bee Control
  • Mothproofing
  • Pest Control Services

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

Most Pest Control Workers are employed as pest control technicians, applicators, or supervisors. Applicators with several years of experience often become supervisors and managers or start their own business. To qualify as a pest control supervisor, applicators must pass State-administered exams and have experience in the industry.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Pest Control Workers with links to more information.

Laundry and Dry-Cleaning WorkersProfile
Pesticide Handlers, Sprayers, and Applicators, VegetationProfile
Plating and Coating Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and PlasticProfile
Prepress Technicians and WorkersProfile

Other Sources

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SOC - Standard Occupational Classification37-2021
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Pest Control Workers37-2021.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)RCE