SPN: How do I get a pesticide license in Texas?

Man using a backpack sprayer

To be licensed or not to be licensed? Although having a pesticide applicator license is not required for IPM Coordinators in Texas, it’s an option that many are choosing. Licensing is a decision that must be based on your own circumstances. This article is designed to help you understand the issues involved.

A certified applicator (CA) is licensed by the state to apply pesticides. In Texas, only certified applicators and licensed technicians can conduct pest control services on school and child care facilities. In Texas, a school district or child care employee can be licensed as a non-commercial applicator, a less expensive option. A non-commercial applicators license does not require a business license but does require training.

As a CA you may engage in pest control treatments, such as fire ant baiting, herbicide application, and much more. Another benefit of being licensed is that through your training and recertification requirements, you gain a better knowledge about the nuts and bolts of pest control. You might even save your district money by performing some of the simpler procedures such as monitoring with glue boards and applying ant baits.

There are, however, additional costs to being certified, including license fees and the time associated with testing and preparing for exams. And, as a CA there are yearly fees and training requirements to keep your renewal credits up to date. Most districts we talk to have conclude that having at least one CA on staff is a benefit.

The next major decision concerns what agency to license with. In Texas, outdoor applicators can license with Texas Department of Agriculture under the landscape management category or Structural Pest Control Service (SPCS). Those who want to put out glue boards, take care of mice or put out indoor pesticides must be licensed with the SPCS.

The Texas Department of Agriculture is designated as the state’s lead agency in the regulation of pesticide use and application. TDA is responsible for licensing and training pesticide applicators, overseeing worker protection, registering pesticides for sale in the state and working to minimize unnecessary impacts to agriculture while enhancing protection of endangered and threatened species.

What’s the difference between TDA Ag and SPCS?

The Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) licenses pesticide applicators that use restricted-use and state-limited-use pesticides and regulated herbicides. These additional requirements for a TDA Ag 3A license below are to remind school districts of their requirements.

  • Employed by a political subdivision, cemetery, or government-owned golf course.
  • Hold a TDA commercial, noncommercial or Noncommercial Political Subdivision license.
  • Comply with annual continuing education required by TDA.
  • Applicators who work for public or municipal golf course and apply pesticides on turf, trees or shrubs can license with either program, Structural or Ag.
    • A person may not purchase or use a restricted-use or state-limited-use pesticide or regulated herbicides unless the person is:
       licensed as a commercial, noncommercial, or noncommercial political subdivision applicator in the use categories covering the proposed pesticide use; or
    • An individual acting under the direct supervision of a licensed applicator.

The Structural Pest Control Act (Chapter 1951 of the Occupations Code) requires licensing of businesses and individuals that perform structural pest control for hire. Additionally, employees of units of state government who apply pesticides as part of their job duties, and persons performing pest control at an apartment building, day-care center, hospital, nursing home, hotel, motel, or lodge, warehouse, food-processing establishment, or school must be licensed. Structural pest control includes but is not limited to pests that may infest parks, buildings or structures and adjacent areas, industrial plants, streets, docks, railroad cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes.

Structural pest control includes the following activities for compensation:

  • identifying infestations,
  • making inspection reports,
  • providing recommendations,
  • submitting estimates or bids,
  • contracting,
  • performing services to prevent, control or eliminate infestations, or
  • advertising such services.

License Types

  • An Ag commercial applicator is a license for a person who operates a business or is an employee of a business that applies restricted-use and state-limited-use pesticides or regulated herbicides to the land of another for hire or compensation.
  • An Ag noncommercial applicator is a license for a person required to license who does not qualify as a commercial applicator that applies restricted-use and state-limited-use pesticides or regulated herbicides to the land of another for hire.
  • An Ag noncommercial political subdivision (NCPS) applicator is employed by a political subdivision of the state of Texas or of a federal agency operating in Texas.
  • A Structural Pest Control Business License is a license required to operate a pest control business. Each individual working for the business must have their applicator license connected to the business or be registered with the business as an apprentice (if unlicensed). Each business must have employed a commercial certified applicator to be designated Responsible Certified Applicator.
  • A Structural commercial certified applicator is a license for an employee of a business that offers pest control services for hire.
  • A Structural noncommercial certified applicator is a license for a person not affiliated with a structural pest control business that performs structural pest control for a noncommercial entity (employer) on their employer’s property and is required to license because they perform pest control services for compensation.
  • A Structural technician is a license for a person who has completed the apprentice registration training and passed the technician exam and is working for a structural pest control business or a noncommercial entity under the supervision of a certified applicator.
  • An apprentice registration is a person registered by a business or noncommercial entity to train for a technician license, has not passed the technician examination and who performs pest control services under the direct supervision of a licensed technician or a certified applicator. An apprentice may work only for the business or noncommercial entity for which they are registered.

TDA Ag Pesticide Applicator Categories

  1. Agricultural Pest Control (Commonly referred to as Private Applicator)
    A. Field Crop Pest Control
    B. Fruit, Nut and Vegetable Pest Control
    C. Pasture and Rangeland
    D. Vertebrate Pest Control
    E. Farm Commodity Pest Control
    F. Animal Health
    G. Citrus Pest Control
    H. Livestock Protection Collar
    I. M-44
  2. Forest Pest Control
  3. Lawn and Ornamental Pest Control
    A. Landscape Maintenance
    B. Nursery Plant Production
  4. Seed Treatments
  5. Vegetation Management
  6. Aquatic Pest Control
  7. Demonstration and Research
  8. Regulatory Pest Control
  9. Aerial Application
  10. Soil Fumigation
  11. Hold for future
  12. Public Health Pest Control

Structural License Categories

  • Pest control – Inspection and/or control of pests in and around homes, businesses, and industries. This includes insect pests or pest animals which may invade homes, restaurants, stores, and other buildings, attacking their contents or furnishings or being a general nuisance, but do not normally attack the building itself, as for example, roaches, silverfish, ants, flies, mosquitoes, rats, mice, etc.
  • Termite control – Inspection and/or control of termites, beetles or other wood destroying organisms by means other than fumigation in buildings, including homes, warehouses, stores, docks, or other structures.
  • Lawn and ornamental – Inspection and/or control of pests of ornamental plants, shade trees and lawns, in a park or adjacent to a residence, business establishment, industrial plant, institutional building or street.
  • Structural fumigation – Inspection and/or control of pests through fumigation of structures not primarily intended to contain food, feed, or grains.
  • Commodity fumigation – Inspection and/or control through fumigation of commodities and/or structures normally used to contain them. A TDA agricultural pesticide applicator license may be used for fumigation of raw agricultural commodities.
  • Weed Control – Inspection and/or control of weeds around homes and industrial environments.
  • Wood Preservation – Pest control that involves the addition of preservatives to wood to extend the life of wood products by protecting them from damage caused by insects, fungi, and marine borers. Such wood products will include, but not be limited to, crossties, poles, and posts. This category is only for use by those persons using wood preservatives that may be classified as restricted use.

Licensing Requirements for TDA Ag License

To get a TDA Ag 3A (Landscape Maintenance) commercial, noncommercial or NCPS license to apply pesticides to lawns, trees and shrubs for compensation or hire, one must:

  • Apply for the license with fee to TDA: PA-401 and $200 license fee for commercial applicators or noncommercial applicators or $75 license fee for noncommercial political subdivision applicators.
  • Pass the TDA general exam,
  • Pass TDA’s laws and regulations exam,
  • Pass TDA’s ornamental plant and turf pest control exam.

Licensing Requirements for TDA Structural License

Certified Applicator

  • Submit a completed Application for Exam and Certified Applicator License. The certified applicator license fee of $125.00 must be pre-paid to be approved to take exams. Applicants must pass at least one category exam and the general standards exam. Qualifications for certified applicator license are:
    • Have held a technician license for at least six months and been employed with duties including pest control services under the supervision of a licensed certified applicator for at least 12 of the last 24 months.
    • Have a degree in a biological science* and furnish an official copy of their college transcript; or
    • Have 12 months verifiable technical field experience in the past 24 months from another occupation. The applicant must submit a signed and notarized statement from their previous employer detailing technical field experience as it relates to pest control.
  • For noncommercial certified applicators only, complete a SPCS approved noncommercial applicator training course.

For a list of pesticide applicator trainers follow this link(external website)

Technician

For those who do not meet the qualifications to be approved to take the certified applicator, apply for apprentice registration for technician license and submit $125 fee. You must be able to register with a currently licensed pest control business. After the apprentice has completed all training requirements, they can apply to take the technician exam.

Exam Charges for TDA Ag License

  • General exam (includes laws and regulations) is $64. Applicants must additionally pass a category exam, which are $64.
  • Applicants must first apply with license fee to TDA to be approved to take the exams.

Exam Charges for TDA Structural License

All structural exams are $64 each. Certified Applicators must submit application online or via mail (SPCA-410) with license fee and proof of eligibility to be approved to take an exam. Apprentices requesting to take the technician exam must submit a Technician Exam Application with a copy of the certificate of completion from the Technician Training Course to eligibility@TexasAgriculture.gov

If your application is incomplete, you will be sent a letter advising you of the deficiency and providing guidance on how to resolve the issue. If your application is complete, you will be sent a letter giving you instructions for scheduling the exams. Once processed, you will be scheduling the required exams.

Exam Preparation

Study materials for license exams may be purchased from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Obtain order form D-1405 from a county Extension office or: Extension Agricultural and Environmental Safety Program   or call (979)845-1099 

Testing

The Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) has contracted with PSI Services (PSI) to administer exams for agricultural pesticide applicator licensing. This is the same vendor that administers exams for structural pest control licensing. PSI has been providing credentialing and testing services to state and federal agencies, private sector businesses and professional associations for over 65 years.

PSI will provide both excellent quality exam opportunities and a convenient schedule for pesticide applicators to test in 22 locations across the state. The schedule will provide more testing opportunities than previously offered. By outsourcing testing to a third-party vendor, the Department’s resources may be used in a more consistent and efficient manner.

Renewal Requirements for Commercial/Noncommercial Political Subdivision License (Ag)

  • Fee $75 annually
  • Expires annually at the end of the anniversary month on which it was issued.
  • Requires five continuing education units annually.
  • CEUs may be obtained online every other year.

Renewal Requirements for Structural Commercial/Noncommercial Certified Applicator

  • Annual renewal fee is $125
  • The license expires annually, and expiration coincides with the expiration of the business license under which the applicator license is issued. For school districts, this would fall under the first person who is licensed for the school district.
  • CEU requirements are for the calendar year (Jan. 1-Dec. 31). For example, if you renew at any time in 2016, you must have taken your CEUs during calendar year 2015.
  • Applicators do not have to get CEUs during the first year in which their license is issued.
  • Applicators must earn two CEUs in general training and one in each category in which the applicator is certified. Of the two general category units, at least one must be in federal and state laws, pesticide safety, environmental protection, or integrated pest management.
  • No course may be repeated for credit within the same recertification year.
  • Only one CEU each year may be obtained through a self-study or Internet course

For More Information You May Contact TDA Directly:

AG Contacts:  Phone 512-463-7622          Email: pesticides@texasagriculture.gov

Submit licensing paperwork not requiring fees to email: license.inquiry@texasagriculture.gov

Website: Agricultural Applicators

SPCS Contacts:  Phone 512-463-3207

Email Contacts: 

Compliance and licensing questions:  SPCS@texasagriculture.gov

Licensing forms with no fee & licensing questions: SPCSLicensing@texasagriculture.gov

Exam documents for Techs & Certified applicators to test: eligibility@texasagriculture.gov

Website: Structural Pest Control Services

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