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Pest Control Worker Job Description, Career as a Pest Control Worker, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: High school

Salary: Median—$12.61 per hour

Employment Outlook: Very good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Pest control workers help to eliminate and control undesirable insects and animals. These pests include rats, mice, and other rodents as well as termites, cockroaches, spiders, bedbugs, ants, fleas, bees, and wasps. Sometimes workers are also asked to rid buildings of birds or snakes. They control or remove pests in private homes, businesses, and institutions. Pest control workers are sometimes called exterminators.

Most pest control workers are employed by firms that specialize in pest control. These may be small independent firms or branches of nationwide chains. Some workers have their own businesses. A few work for local, state, or federal government agencies. Some large institutions and firms, such as food processing companies, have their own staffs of pest control workers. Pest control work is very important in preventing disease and property damage.

Many pest control workers travel regular routes. Route workers make scheduled visits to private homes and businesses, such as restaurants and food stores. They go back to these places regularly to make sure that pests do not return. Some pests, such as cockroaches and mice, are difficult to eliminate. Workers put poison or traps in places where pests are most likely to be found. They often spray large areas to force pests out of their hiding places. They may also advise customers about ways of sealing up holes and destroying nesting and breeding areas. Termite exterminators may need to drill holes in basement floors to pump chemicals into the ground under the house. To insure that termites do not return, foundations may be raised or wood replaced. Builders may be called in for major reconstruction.

Pest control workers are often contacted to solve a particular pest problem. The first thing the workers do is look at the damaged or infested area. They try to locate nests. They may track the pests' movements to uncover their hiding places. Workers must identify what kind of pest has invaded the area. If it is a rare species, they may ask another expert to identify it.

Pest control workers must decide on the best way to eliminate each type of pest. Sprays or liquids work best against some insects. A solid or powder might be most effective against rodents. The method used will also depend on the area that is infested. For example, workers would not use a spray where food is exposed. In some cases, such as in termite control, special drills, spraying equipment, and other machines are needed. Traps and poisoned baits are sometimes used. Pest control workers also inspect buildings for termites and give estimates of how much an extermination job will cost.

Education and Training Requirements

Employers in the pest control industry prefer to hire high school graduates. Courses in chemistry, biology, and business mathematics are helpful. Termite exterminators will also find a knowledge of carpentry valuable. Pest control workers usually need a driver's license and a good driving record. They should also be courteous and professional when dealing with customers.

Most pest control employers give their workers on-the-job training. Beginners may be assigned to help an experienced worker, or they may be given some formal training either in a classroom or through a home-study course. It usually takes two or three months to learn the basics in pest control work. It takes a few years of experience to handle the more difficult pest control problems.

Pest control workers must be licensed. There are general-use and restricted-use pesticides available. Technicians may use both, but those who apply or supervise the application of restricted-use pesticides must be certified by the state, which includes training and taking an exam. Continuing education is also required to maintain the license.

Getting the Job

To get a job, apply directly to pest control companies. Check newspaper classifieds and Internet job banks, and contact state or private employment agencies. Prospective pest control workers can also apply to government agencies or to large institutions or businesses that have their own staffs of pest control workers. Some firms conduct training classes that last two to three weeks. New employees also accompany experienced workers on service calls.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Some pest control workers become supervisors, salespeople, or managers in large companies. Others save or borrow money to start their own pest control businesses. Workers can also advance to higher-paying, more responsible positions by getting additional training through college courses in science or business administration. Some workers become experts in one area of pest control, such as termite control.

The employment outlook for pest control is expected to increase faster than the average through the year 2014. One reason for increased employment is that regulations limiting pesticide use will require professional intervention. Also, the new materials that are being used for insulation around foundations are more prone to pest infestation. In addition, as more people move to pest-prone areas, the number of households in need of pest control will increase.

Working Conditions

Working conditions depend on the job. A worker may spend one day working in the kitchen of a restaurant and the next day crawling through a dirty basement looking for rats' nests. Usually workers do their job alone, without supervision. They work both indoors and outdoors. Pest control workers often have to carry and lift equipment and materials weighing as much as fifty pounds. They must be very careful when using poisons, because some pesticides are harmful to humans if inhaled or touched. Therefore, they may need to wear gloves, goggles, and respirators. They should have manual dexterity as well as some mechanical skill.

Most pest control workers have workweeks of forty to forty-four hours. They may work longer hours during warm weather, when pests are more active. Some weekend, night, and emergency work may be required. Some clients, such as restaurants, ask that pest control workers visit them before or after normal business hours.

Where to Go for More Information

National Pest Control Association
8100 Oak St.
Dunn Loring, VA 22027
(800) 678-6722

National Pest Management Association
9300 Lee Hwy, Ste. 301
Fairfax, VA 22031
(703) 352-6762

Pest Control Technology
4012 Bridge Ave.
Cleveland, OH 44113
(800) 456-0707

Earnings and Benefits

Pest control workers earn a median of $12.61 per hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some route workers are paid a commission or percentage of the customer's bill. Benefits vary, but they may include paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, and pension plans.

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