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Applicators

Persons who buy or use restricted-use pesticides, and certain occupational users of any pesticides, must be certified as a pesticide applicator. The Commonwealth of Virginia recognizes three types of pesticide applicators: private applicators, commercial applicators, and registered technicians. The type of pesticide applications a person can perform is dependent on the applicator's certification.

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Office of Pesticide Services (VDACS-OPS) certifies individuals as private applicators, commercial applicators, and registered technicians. To receive certification, all pesticide applicators must participate in approved training and demonstrate their competency by passing the required exam(s).  Approved training, at a minimum, means study and review of the appropriate training manual(s). All pesticide applicators are required to pass the Virginia Core exam to receive certification. Commercial pesticide applicators must also pass an exam in at least one category of pest control specifc to the type of work they perform. Listed below are the certification categories available to commercial applicators in Virginia. Commercial applicators may be certified in multiple categories.

Applicators maintain their certification through renewal and recertification training.  Certificates must be renewed every two years.  To qualify for renewal, applicators must meet the requirements for recertification by attending appropriate continuing education training courses.

Private applicators use or supervise the use of restricted-use pesticides to produce an agricultural commodity. Pesticide applications must be made on property owned or leased by the applicator, or their employer. Private applicators may also apply a restricted-use pesticide to the property of another agricultural producer.  However, they must receive no compensation except for trading personal services between them.

Commercial applicators use or supervise the use of any pesticide for any purpose, or on any property other than as described for a private applicator. There are four major classes of commercial applicators: 

  • For Hire – Any commercial applicator who uses or supervises the use of any pesticide on others' property in exchange for compensation. Commercial applicators for hire must have a pesticide business license or work for a properly licensed company.
  • Not for Hire - Any commercial applicator who uses or supervises the use of any pesticide as part of their job duties on property owned or leased by the applicator or their employer. This includes applicators that use any pesticide on any area open to the public; including schools, healthcare facilities, daycare centers, or convalescent centers, on any recreational land more than five acres, or where open food is stored, processed, or sold.
  • Government Employee - Any local, state, or federal government worker who uses or supervises the use of any pesticide, regardless of the site, as part of their official duties.
  • Inactive - Any commercial applicator who is not currently employed in a pesticide related profession, and is thus not covered by the required insurance.  Commercial applicators that are inactive may not apply pesticides while in this status.
  • Registered technicians are individuals who perform services similar to those of a certified commercial applicator, but have not completed the requirements for commercial certification. Although registered technicians can use general-use pesticides on the job without supervision, restricted-use pesticides may only be applied under the supervision of a certified commercial applicator.

 

Category Title (Category Number)

Agriculture Plant Pest Control (1A) - For commercial applicators using pesticides in the production of agricultural crops, on grasslands, and noncrop agricultural land.

Agriculture Animal Pest Control (1B) - For commercial applicators using pesticides on agricultural animals, and places on or in which such animals are confined, for control of pests directly affecting such animals.

Fumigation of Soil and Agricultural Products (1C) - For commercial applicators using pesticides for soil fumigation in the production of agricultural commodities and/or fumigation of agricultural products.  

Agricultural Chemigation (1D) - For commercial applicators applying pesticides through an irrigation system.

Forest Pest Control (2) - For commercial applicators using pesticides in forests, forest nurseries, and seed orchards.

Ornamental Pest Control (3A) - For commercial applicators using pesticides to maintain ornamental plants – trees, shrubs, herbaceous foliage or flowering plants (other than ornamental turf) in plantscapes (interiorscapes or landscapes).

Turf Pest Control (3B) - For commercial applicators using pesticides to maintain ornamental turf on sites such as on golf courses, residential lawns, parks, and cemeteries. 

Seed Treatment (4) - For commercial applicators applying pesticides to seeds. 

Aquatic Pest Control (5A) - For commercial applicators using pesticides in or on standing or running waters for the express purpose of controlling pests, excluding those applicators engaged in activities relating to public health.

Marine Anti-Foulant Paints (5B) - For commercial applicators using marine anti-foulant paints containing tributyltin or other restricted-use pesticides. Persons wishing to become certified in this category are exempt from the Virginia Core exam.

Right-of-Way Pest Control (6) – For commercial applicators using pesticides to maintain public rights-of-way such as roads, electric power lines, telephone lines, pipelines and railways; and to maintain fence lines, structural perimeters and other similar areas.

General Pest Control (7A) – For commercial applicators using pesticides to control household pests, including pests that infest structures, stored products, and residential food preparation areas, and pests that infest or contaminate food at any stage of processing in food processing facilities. This includes treatment of food processing areas and control of vertebrate structural invaders. This category does not include control of wood-destroying pests or the use of fumigants.

Management of Wood Destroying Pest Organisms (7B) – For commercial applicators using pesticides other than fumigants to control organisms that destroy structures made of or containing wood.

Fumigation (Non-Agricultural) (7C) – For commercial applicators using fumigant pesticides to control pests in structures and items other than soils and raw agricultural commodities.

Vertebrate Pest Control (7D) – For commercial applicators using pesticides to control vertebrate pest animals outside of human dwellings or other structures.

Sewer Root Pest Control (7E) – For commercial applicators using pesticides, including those containing metam-sodium (a restricted-use pesticide), to control roots in sewer lines.

Public Health Pest Control (8) – For commercial applicators using pesticides to manage or control pests of medical significance that pose a risk to public health. Federal, state, and local employees involved in public health pest control are included in this category.

Regulatory Pest Control (9) – For federal, state, and local governmental employees using pesticides to control regulated pests.

Demonstration and Research Pest Control (10) – For commercial applicators, including federal, state, and local government employees, who teach proper pesticide use, application techniques, and/or make pesticide recommendations; for research application of pesticides in greenhouses or field plots.

Aerial Pesticide Application (11) – For commercial applicators applying pesticides by fixed-wing or rotary-wing aircraft.

Wood Preservation and Wood Products Treatment (12) – For commercial applicators using pesticides at wood treatment plants and sawmills for the preservation of wood and wood products.

Certification preparation courses are available for those interested in preparing to take pesticide applicator exams.  These courses are intended to supplement learning and are not an acceptable substitute for having access to a physical copy of the appropriate training manual.

Certification Preparation Course Calendar - All Categories

Online Certification Preparation Courses

Pesticide applicators maintain their certification through renewal and recertification training.  To qualify for renewal, applicators must meet the requirements for recertification by attending appropriate continuing education training courses.

Private Applicator Recertification Training Calendars

Commercial Applicator Recertification Training Calendar

Planned or Pending Commercial Recertification Training Courses

Anyone desiring certification as a Certified Fertilizer Applicator (CFA) must successfully complete approved training and submit an online application to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. CFA certification is required for those engaged in the commercial application of fertilizers to non-agricultural lands.

Online Fertilizer Application Certification Training

In Virginia, occupational use of pesticides requires certification in most instances. To use or supervise the use of restricted-use pesticides, certification is always required. For use of general-use pesticides, certification requirements depend on the nature of the use, the application site, and the employer.

In Virginia, pesticide certification (of some type) is required for:

  • Growers who use or supervise the use of restricted-use pesticides.
  • Farm employees who handle restricted-use pesticides without the direct supervision of a certified pesticide applicator.
  • All government employees who apply any pesticide(s) on the job.
  • All applicators who apply any pesticide(s) for a fee (for hire).
  • Applicators who use any pesticide(s) as part of their job on their employer's property (not for hire) if the area is considered to be especially sensitive.
  • Pest management (or crop) consultants who make specific pesticide recommendations for a fee.
  • Growers and/or farm workers who do not use restricted-use pesticides do not need to be certified as pesticide applicators. Uncertified farm workers may handle or use restricted-use pesticides only if they are working under the direct supervision of a certified pesticide applicator.

A private pesticide applicator is certified to use, or supervise the use of, restricted-use pesticides to produce an agricultural commodity on land he or she owns or leases, on the property of another grower (if only goods or services are exchanged), or as a farm employee.

If you use pesticides on the job other than for agricultural production on private property, you should be certified as a commercial pesticide applicator or registered technician. Pest management (or crop) consultants who make specific pesticide recommendations for a fee should also be certified as commercial pesticide applicators.

To become a private pesticide applicator you must pass the private pesticide applicator exam. You can take the exam by appointment at your local Extension office. Alternatively, you can mail a completed Application for Private Pesticide Applicator Certification form to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services - Office of Pesticide Services (VDACS-OPS) to receive an authorization letter that will allow you to take the exam at your local Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Customer Service Center, or by appointment at a VDACS-approved testing center. Be sure to take a picture I.D. (and authorization letter if appropriate) with you to the testing location, or you will not be able to take the exam. A score of at least 76% must be obtained in order to pass the exam.

Additional information on how to become a certified private pesticide applicator can be found here.

To become a certified commercial pesticide applicator you must pass the commercial pesticide applicator exam and the exam(s) associated with the category in which you intend to work. To qualify to take these exams, you must have at least one year of experience or education in pesticide application, or worked one year as a registered technician. If you do not have this experience, you will need to work as a registered technician or gain appropriate formal education/training until the experience requirement is fulfilled.

Before taking the exams, you must first complete the Commercial Pesticide Applicator Certification Application. The application form and fee must be mailed to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services - Office of Pesticide Services. You will then receive an authorization letter in the mail. You have 90 days from the date on the letter to take the exams. Be sure to take a picture I.D. and the authorization letter with you to the testing location, or you will not be able to take the exam. A score of at least 76% must be obtained in order to pass the exam.

Additional information on how to become a certified commercial pesticide applicator can be found here.

To become a certified registered technician you must pass the registered technician exam. To qualify to take the exam, you must first have 40 hours of training; at least 20 hours of hands-on training by a commercial applicator in the type of application you will be performing, and 20 hours of book study in the Virginia Core Manual, Applying Pesticides Correctly. If as a registered technician you will be applying pesticides for hire, you must work for a firm that holds a valid Virginia pesticide business license, issued by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services - Office of Pesticide Services (VDACS-OPS).

Before taking the exam, you must first complete the Pesticide Registered Technician Application. The application form and fee must be mailed to VDACS-OPS. You will then receive an authorization letter in the mail. You have 90 days from the date on the letter to take the exam. Be sure to take a picture I.D. and the authorization letter with you to the testing location, or you will not be able to take the exam. A score of at least 76% must be obtained in order to pass the exam.

Additional information on how to become a certified registered technician can be found here.

All potential pesticide applicators should obtain the Virginia Core Manual, Applying Pesticide Correctly. Potential commercial pesticide applicators should also obtain the appropriate category-specific manual(s).  When reading the manual(s), pay particular attention to the “Learning Objectives” found at the beginning of each chapter and the “Test Your Knowledge” questions found at the end of each chapter. The Learning Objectives state what you should be able to do after studying that chapter, while the Test Your Knowledge questions check your understanding of the material as it relates to the specific learning objectives. Exam questions are derived from the Learning Objectives of the corresponding manual.

Online certification preparation courses are also available to supplement learning as you read and study the manual(s).

Please note: Online preparation courses are not an acceptable substitute for studying a physical copy of the manual(s). The best way to prepare for an exam is to combine manual study with online courses.

Ordering instructions for training manuals and online certification preparation courses can be found here.

The pesticide applicator training manuals are designed specifically to prepare applicators to pass the Virginia pesticide certification exams. They are the official study guides from which the exam questions are developed. The manuals also serve as valuable references after the exams are completed. Applicators are encouraged to read the manuals thoroughly prior to taking exams. The exam failure rate is significantly higher for applicators who do not prepare properly using the manuals. Experience and background are helpful in passing the exams, but no amount of experience can substitute for proper preparation using the training manuals.

No, manuals are available only in printed form.

Placing electronic copies on the internet increases our liability and that of the user because it invites abuse and misuse of the electronic content. Once an electronic copy is released, anyone can repost it on the internet or reproduce it in a form that may not be representative of its original form or future revisions. Printed manuals are carefully controlled and revised to take into account changes in technology and changes in laws and regulations. Ordering and using a printed manual(s) is the only way to be sure you have the correct version to pass the state certification exam(s).

No, manuals can only be ordered through the secured, online ordering site. The site will accept orders using credit cards and e-checks. All orders will include separate shipping and handling charges.

No, manuals and exams are not available in Spanish. However, Spanish speakers are allowed a Spanish to English dictionary when taking the exam.

Before taking an exam, you must first receive an authorization letter from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services - Office of Pesticide Services (VDACS-OPS). Once an authorization letter is received, pesticide applicators are required to take their exam(s) at an approved testing location in Virginia. Approved testing locations include your local Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Customer Service Center, which has touch-screen computers that allow you to take the exam. Alternatively, you may take a written exam by appointment at a VDACS-approved testing center. You have 90 days from the date on your authorization letter to take the exam(s). Be sure to take a picture I.D. and the authorization letter with you to the testing location, or you will not be able to take the exam.

No, exams must be taken during one testing session. Prospective applicators must have an exam authorization letter to take any certification exam, regardless of whether they take one exam or several during a testing session. Qualified applicants receive one exam authorization letter per application, and the authorization letter can only be used once.

A score of 76% or higher is required to pass the pesticide applicator exam(s). Failure to pass is often caused by a lack of proper preparation.

An applicator may retake the exam(s) if they fail. However, each time an applicant fails an exam a new application is required to receive another exam authorization letter. There is a 30-day waiting period if you fail an exam more than once.

Pesticide applicators are required to be recertified every two years in Virginia.

  • Private Pesticide Applicators - To maintain certification, private applicators must earn at least one credit in each of three content areas per category every two years, before the expiration date on the certificate (license). Private applicators should contact their local Extension agent to learn when and where courses approved for full and/or partial recertification credit will be held. Applicators may accumulate up to four years of recertification credit. Applicators who fail to recertify will not be permitted to renew their certificate. Failure to maintain a certificate, either due to failure to renew or recertify, will result in expiration. Private applicator certificates expire December 31. Applicators who allow their certificate to expire for more than 60 days must retake the private applicator exam.
  • Commercial Pesticide Applicators and Registered Technicians - To maintain certification, commercial applicators and registered technicians must participate in a Virginia-approved pesticide education program. Applicators earn two years of recertification credit per fully approved program. Applicators may accumulate up to four years of recertification credit. Applicators who fail to recertify will not be permitted to renew their certificate (license). Failure to maintain a certificate, either due to failure to renew or recertify, will result in expiration. Commercial applicator and registered technician certificates expire June 30. Applicators who allow their certificate to expire for more than 60 days must retake the commercial applicator or registered technician exam, and any appropriate category exam(s).

Virginia requires pesticide applicators to renew their certificates every two years. To qualify for renewal, applicators must meet the requirements for recertification by attending appropriate continuing education courses. If an applicator waits too long to do so, their certificate will expire. There is a 60-day “grace period” for expired certificates. If your certificate has expired more than 60 days, you will need to reapply and retest.

To reinstate an expired certificate, be sure to fill out the correct form:

Using form CA-B or RT-B will ensure that you have only one record in the VDACS-OPS database that tracks Virginia-certified applicators!

Once an application form has been submitted, you will receive an authorization letter in the mail. You have 90 days from the date on the letter to take the exam(s). Be sure to take a picture I.D. and the authorization letter with you to the testing location, or you will not be able to take the exam.

If you are a private applicator, you can retake the exam at your local Extension office by appointment, or complete a Private Pesticide Applicator Certification Application to receive authorization to take the exam at an approved testing center.

In order to add a category to an existing certificate, you must pass the category-specific exam. Before taking the exam, you must first complete the Commercial Pesticide Applicator Request for Reexamination Application (CA-B) form. On the form, you will choose the category(ies) in which you wish to be tested. The application form and fee must be mailed to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services - Office of Pesticide Services. You will then receive an authorization letter in the mail. You have 90 days from the date on the letter to take the category-specific exam(s). Be sure to take a picture I.D. and the authorization letter with you to the testing location, or you will not be able to take the exam. A score of at least 76% must be obtained in order to pass the exam(s).

When a certified commercial pesticide applicator wants to add a category, the fee is per application, and not per category. A commercial applicator can request to add as many categories as they want to test for at one time. A person can request to take two exams and then decide to take only one. However, they cannot request one exam and then ask the testing location to allow them to take two. Similarly, you cannot switch categories (e.g., apply to take Category 3A, Ornamental and Category 3B, Turf, and then decide to take Category 5A, Aquatic and Category 6, Right-Of-Way, once the authorization letter has been issued.

Certified commercial pesticide applicators with an active certificate in another state may be able to become certified in Virginia by reciprocity. Applicators must first complete an Application for Reciprocal Pesticide Applicator Certificate (CA-R) form. As a general rule, Virginia grants certification by reciprocity to applicators from states with comparable categories and initial certification requirements. Applicators must maintain certification in the home state, and provide proof of certification when mailing application materials. If an applicator is an out-of-state resident and their business address is also out-of-state, a completed and notarized Power of Attorney form must also be completed.

Pesticide applicators who are certified in Virginia through reciprocity must maintain their Virginia certificates through renewal and recertification. Certificates must be renewed every two years. To qualify for renewal, applicators must participate in a Virginia-approved pesticide education program before their certification expires (or within the 60-day grace period immediately following expiration). Applicators earn two years of recertification credit per fully approved program.

Reciprocal recertification may also be granted to out-of-state applicators if they maintain certification in their home state, and provide proof of home-state recertification credits (if the home state grants reciprocal recertification to Virginia applicators) to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services - Office of Pesticide Services.

Yes, an herbicide is a pesticide. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a pesticide is any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating a pest species.

Though often misunderstood to refer only to insecticides, the term pesticide also applies to herbicides, fungicides, and other substances used to control pests. A pesticide is also any substance or mixture of substances intended for use as a plant growth regulator, defoliant, or desiccant.

Many applicators ask if they need to be certified to apply herbicides and other pesticides that are available for use by the average homeowner. The answer is...it depends!

  • Are you a grower, producing an agricultural commodity on property you own or lease?
    • YES – Agricultural producers need to be certified as private pesticide applicators if they use restricted-use pesticides. Roundup products are not classified as restricted-use, and their application does not require pesticide certification in this situation.
    • NO - Go to the next question.
  • Do you apply pesticides for hire or as part of your job duties as a government employee?
    • YES - In Virginia, commercial pesticide applicators (for-hire applicators and government employees) must be certified to use ANY pesticide for ANY purpose on the job. For-hire jobs include pest control operators, lawn care companies, etc.
    • NO - Go to the next question.
  • Do you apply pesticides as part of your job?
    • YES - If you do not apply pesticides for-hire, but you do use them at your job, you may fall under the classification of a not-for-hire, commercial pesticide applicator.  Not-for-hire applicators must be certified to use restricted-use pesticides and ANY pesticide (including glyphosate-containing products like Roundup) in the following areas:
      • Any area open to the public at the following establishments: educational institutions, health care facilities, day-care facilities, and convalescent facilities.
      • Areas where open food is stored, processed, or sold.
      • Any recreational land over five acres.

In Virginia, if you wish to apply a weed and feed (fertilizer plus herbicide) product for compensation you are required to:

  1. Be a certified commercial pesticide applicator and have, or work for a company that has a Virginia pesticide business license.
  2. Complete online training to become a Certified Fertilizer Applicator (CFA) and submit an online application to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

If you are interested in starting a pesticide business in Virginia you must first decide who will be applying pesticides.

  • If you want to do the applications yourself, you will need to pass the commercial pesticide applicator exam and the category-specific exam(s) associated with the work you intend to sell. To qualify to take the exams, you must have at least one year of experience or education in pesticide application, or worked one year as a registered technician. Additional information about commercial applicator certification can be found here. Note: the experience/education you gain must be related to the type of pesticide application you intend to perform. Applying chemicals in your home garden or lawn does NOT qualify.
  • If you prefer not to do the pesticide applications yourself, you must hire a certified commercial pesticide applicator with experience in the type of application you will sell. As long as you have a certified commercial pesticide applicator on staff, you can apply for a pesticide business license.

Next, you will need to obtain a pesticide business license and liability insurance. Additional information about obtaining a Virginia pesticide license can be found here. Remember, if you are starting your own pest control business, it is mandatory to have experience in the work related to your business.

Yes. You will need to submit an Applicator Change of Information form and mail it to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services - Office of Pesticide Services (VDACS-OPS). VDACS-OPS will then enter you in their system as “inactive.” Inactive applicators must continue to renew their certificates (and pay the renewal fee) as well as attend recertification programs.

Pesticide notification requirements are specific to pesticide application in multi-family and multi-unit dwellings, and are enforced on landlords, associations, and property owners. The law requires these entities to notify tenants of pending pesticide applications. The law does not direct or enforce notification on pesticide applicators. It is the responsibility of a landlord to notify tenants of a pesticide application and work with a contract pesticide applicator to conduct their business accordingly. Virginia does not require notification by pesticide applicators for any type of application or site, except where required by label directions. Applicators are reminded that any use inconsistent with a pesticide label is considered a violation of state and federal laws.

Pesticide related complaints in Virginia should be sent to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services - Office of Pesticide Services by calling 804-371-6560. There are regional pesticide investigators located throughout Virginia who will investigate pesticide misuse situations.

Disposing of old pesticides in their original containers can be as simple as using the products as labeled, IF they are still legally registered (contact your local agricultural supply retailer or Extension agent if you are unsure). If products are less than five years old and they have been stored properly (not subjected to freezing or high heat) they are likely still usable.

Pesticides that cannot be used, or that have been phased out and are illegal to apply (e.g. DDT; lead arsenate; dieldrin; endrin; aldrin; toxaphene; 2,4,5-T; and chlordane) must be properly disposed of according to state and federal laws. Virginia's Pesticide Collection Program is administered by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services - Office of Pesticide Services, with participation from Virginia Cooperative Extension and the Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services. The program assists agricultural producers, licensed pesticide dealers and businesses, and homeowners with the proper disposal of unwanted pesticides. The program is available at no cost to eligible participants. 

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) administers the Virginia Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (VPDES). DEQ drafted a Pesticide Discharges General Permit (VAG87), which authorizes pesticide applications made to, over, or near waters of the state. Specifically, the VPDES General Permit covers point source discharges into waters of the state that control:

  • Mosquitoes, black flies, and other flying insect pests.
  • Aquatic weeds, algae, and pathogens.
  • Aquatic nuisance animals (ex. snakehead fish and zebra mussels).
  • Forest canopy pests (e.g., ground and aerial canopy spraying).
  • Intrusive vegetation along roads ditches, canals, waterways and utility rights of way.

Applicators who apply pesticides as described above will not be required to submit a registration statement (notice of intent) to the State Water Control Board. However, operators working under the VPDES General Permit do have some specific requirements to fulfill. The permit requires use of integrated pest management (IPM) practices, visual monitoring, and reporting of any adverse effect due to the application of pesticides. In addition, application records and development of a Pesticide Discharge Management Plan (PDMP) is required for operators that exceed certain annual application thresholds.

For a list of basic requirements, thresholds, and other information, refer to the DEQ VPDES website.

No, Virginia Tech does not offer pesticide residue testing. However, we do offer soil nutrient testing services to the public through our local Extension offices, for a fee.