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How to get a pest control license in California: charting your course

GorillaDesk Staff

Pest Control License California

Whether you’re looking to build on your existing career path, searching for new opportunities in another state, or thinking of starting your own business, getting licensed here is one of the smartest moves you could make; you’re headed in the right direction. And if your goal is to start fresh in a new industry, some pest control work experience and education will be your best prerequisite to your license. With a market size of $4.2 billion, upwards of 4,000 pest-control businesses, and skyrocketing demand (according to a recent market research report by IBISWorld), your opportunity is as vast as the Golden State itself. Let’s break down how to get a pest control license in California between the three go-to agencies.

Which California pest control license do I need?

The California Structural Pest Control Board (SPCB), the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR), and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) all issue various licenses. Essentially:

CDPR licenses (Think landscape, farms, farm animals, roads, railroads, golf courses, sewer systems, water bodies, forests.)

  • Pest Control Business License (PCB): Required for individuals or companies engaged in the business of applying pesticides for hire. Requirements include submitting your application, the appropriate fee, and supporting business documents. 
  • Qualified Applicator License (QAL): Required for individuals who apply or supervise the application of restricted-use pesticides in agriculture or landscape maintenance. Requirements include passing your written exam, meeting all the experience and/or education requirements, and paying applicable fees. You’ve got a robust menu to choose from when it comes to deciding the most appropriate categories you want to perform (or supervise), which you can view here.
  • Qualified Applicator Certificate (QAC): Required for individuals who apply or supervise the application of restricted use pesticides in public health pest control or on their employer’s property. Similarly to the QAL license process, you’ll want to prepare for the exam, and pay the application and exam fees.  
  • Pest Control Dealer License: Required for businesses that distribute or sell pesticides. Complete your application, pay all relevant fees, and make sure you submit all supporting business information and documents. 
  • Pest Control Aircraft Pilot License: Required for pilots who apply pesticides using aircraft. Those certified in this category also hold the privilege to act as a licensed Pest Control Dealer Designated Agent who can actively supervise operations at one Pest Control Dealer location. Find your application and requirements here.
  • Pest Control Adviser License (PCA): Required for individuals who provide advice or recommendations on the use of pesticides in agriculture. Complete your application packet, pay relevant fees, and schedule and take your exam.

SPCB licenses (Think pests in structures like residential buildings, airplanes, theaters, offices, and more.)

Structural pest control license, California branches:

  • Branch 1: Required for individuals or businesses engaged in the control of household and wood-destroying pests. 
  • Branch 2 – Structural Pest Control License: Required for individuals or businesses engaged in the control of household pests, excluding fumigation with poisonous or lethal gases. 
  • Branch 3 – Structural Pest Control License: Required for individuals or businesses engaged in the control of wood-destroying pests or organisms by the use of insecticides or structural repairs and corrections, excluding fumigation with poisonous or lethal gases. 

California pest control board offers three license types:

  • Applicator: Designed for individuals working within Branches 2 or 3, this license is available only to those operating on behalf of a registered structural pest control company. (Read more.)
  • Field Representative: This license is suitable for individuals working within any branch and representing a registered structural pest control company. (Read more.)
  • Operator: Similar to Field Representatives, Those with a pest control operator license can work within any branch. However, this license extends to both individuals and business owners or qualifying managers. (Read more.)

CDPH Licenses (Think pests that endanger public health facilities like mosquitoes, ticks, or fleas)

Individuals employed at a government public health agency that performs vector control can become certified by the California Department of Public Health. 

  • Vector Control Technician (VCT) License: Required for individuals involved in the control of vectors such as mosquitoes, rodents, and other disease-carrying organisms.
  • Vector Control Operator (VCO) License: Required for individuals who supervise vector control activities.

Important to note

Penalties for contracting without a license

Operating without a valid pest control license in California is a serious offense. Violators may face misdemeanor charges, hefty fines of up to $5,000, and potential jail time of up to 6 months. To avoid these penalties, ensure that you obtain your license before engaging in any pest control activities.

License renewals

Make sure to keep aware of your license expiration date and to stop all operations in the event that your license has expired. You can find renewal information for the Structural Pest Control Board here and renewal info for your CDPR license here.

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