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Ohio State University Extension


Ohio Commercial Pesticide Applicator Requirements: Who Needs a License and What Steps to Take

Agriculture and Natural Resources
Mary Ann Rose, Director, Pesticide Safety Education Program, The Ohio State University
Abby Welsh, Program Coordinator, Agriculture and Natural Resources, The Ohio State University

When is a Commercial Pesticide License Needed?

You need a commercial applicator license if you:

  • apply pesticides to the property of another for hireMan wearing gloves, long pants, long-sleeved shirt, and baseball cap spraying lawn with wand.
  • apply pesticides for any government agency: federal, state, county, township, city, village, or school district
  • apply pesticides to schools, parks, golf courses, restaurants, food processing plants, medical facilities, and apartment complexes with more than four units
  • conduct wood-destroying insect (WDI) diagnostic inspections for real estate transactions

Pesticides include any material that repels, controls, limits, or eliminates a pest. Pests include any living organism such as weeds, insects, disease organisms, and rodents. Both general and restricted-use pesticides require a license when applied in the situations above, even if retail garden center products or minimum-risk products, such as cedar oil, garlic oil, or corn gluten meal, are used.

Table 1. Examples of the types of personnel and the application sites and situations when a commercial pesticide applicator license is needed.
Pest control operators
Lawncare applicators
Landscapers and arborists
Utility and highway rights of way
Agricultural custom applicators
Schools, colleges, and universities
Townships, cities, and villages
Apartment complexes (four or more units)
Restaurants and food service
Day care centers
Hospitals and medical buildings
Golf courses


How Do I Become a Licensed Commercial Pesticide Applicator?

To become a licensed commercial pesticide applicator, you must pass the Ohio commercial pesticide exams. You will need to take the commercial core exam and at least one category exam.

How Do I Get Started?View of front of green commercial applicator license.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) is the agency in charge of pesticide licensing and testing. Follow the steps below to become a licensed commercial applicator:

  1. Complete and mail the ODA application form with the $35 application fee. The form can be downloaded at or by calling ODA at 614-728-6987.
  2. Obtain the study materials for core and license category(ies) at
  3. Study the materials.
  4. Register with ODA for an exam date and location online at or call ODA at 614-728-6987. Exams are held at locations throughout Ohio.View of back of white commercial applicator license.
  5. If you fail an exam, you must wait one week before retesting. Exams may be taken as many times as needed.
  6. When exams are passed, ODA will mail the license to you.

What are Core and the Commercial Applicator Categories?

You are required to hold “core” and at least one other commercial category on your license. Core covers pesticide laws and regulations, reading the label, best practices for handling and storage, pesticide calculations, human toxicity, applicator safety, and environmental protection.

There are 26 commercial pesticide applicator categories. Each category is specific to a pesticide application site and is sometimes specific to the type of pest. Some applicators may need multiple categories on their license to cover the types of application they make. For example, to make pesticide applications to weeds and insects in both agronomic and horticultural crops, categories 2a, 2b, and 2c are required. For detailed descriptions of each category, visit

Table 2. Commercial pesticide categories.
Category 1Aerial Pest Control
Agricultural Pest Control
Category 2AAgronomic Pest Control Category 2bHorticultural Pest Control
Category 2cAgricultural Weed Control Category 2dSeed Treatment
Category 2eTobacco Sucker Control Category 2fSoil Fumigation
Aquatic Pest Control
Category 3aGeneral Aquatic Pest Control Category 3bBoat Antifoulant
Category 3cSewer Root Control  
Forest Pest Control
Category 4aGeneral Forest Pest Control Category 4bWood Preservation
Category 5 - Industrial Vegetation
Ornamental Plant and Shade Tree Pest Control
Category 6aGeneral Ornamental Pest Control Category 6bInterior Plantscape Pest Control
Category 6cOrnamental Weed Control Category 6dGreenhouse Pest Control
Category 7 - Vertebrate Animal Control
Category 8 - Turf Pest Control
Category 9 - Livestock Animal Pest Control
Domestic, Institutional, Structural, and Health-Related Pest Control
Category 10aGeneral Pest Control Category 10bTermite Control
Category 10CFumigation Category 10dMosquito, House Fly, and Other Vector Control
Category 11 - Specialized Pest Control (USDA only)
Category 12 - Wood Destroying Insect Diagnostic Inspection


What Do I Need to Know About the Exams?

The commercial pesticide exams are multiple choice. Each exam has 25 to 150 questions, depending on the category. Most exams include questions about a pesticide label that is included with the exam.

You must pass both the core exam and at least one category exam to obtain a license. Seventy percent is the passing score. Exams can be taken as many times as needed in order to pass, but you must wait at least five business days before retaking an exam. Scores are posted online 2–3 weeks after examination at

What Training Opportunities are Available?

New commercial applicator workshops are offered by Ohio State University Extension as in-person training classes and webinars. These programs provide additional training to help prepare for the core, category 5, 6c, and 8 exams. The core class also fulfills the training requirement for trained servicepersons. More information is available at

Online self-paced study courses are also available for core and category 10a at

How to Maintain the Commercial Pesticide License

The commercial pesticide license expires each year on Sept. 30. ODA mails a renewal letter to licensed applicators in July. The letter contains a renewal application and a statement of the applicator’s recertification status. Licensed applicators may mail in the renewal application and $35 fee or renew online.

In addition to submitting a license renewal application and fee, licensed applicators also must recertify their license every three years.

To recertify a commercial applicator license, applicators need to obtain a minimum of five hours of commercial recertification credit by attending educational programs. The recertification credits must include 1 hour of core and at least 30 minutes of credit in each of your pesticide categories. You also have the option to retake the core and category tests instead of attending educational programs for credit. You may view your recertification status at any time online at

In summary, to maintain your license, you will need to:

  • Return the license renewal application with a $35 fee to ODA annually.
  • Recertify every three years by the Sept. 30 deadline by one of two methods:
    • Attend 5 hours of recertification training.
    • Re-test in core and each category on your license.

Recertification training is available through the Pesticide Safety Education Program as well as many trade associations. For a listing of programs, visit You may accumulate the 5 hours in half-hour increments over the three-year cycle.

What If I Hold a Commercial Pesticide License In Another State?

If you hold a commercial pesticide license in another state, you may be able to receive a reciprocal license in Ohio without taking the Ohio exam. Some recertification credits also may be reciprocal. Contact ODA for more information and for a list of states with reciprocal arrangements with Ohio.

What are the Responsibilities of the Licensed Pesticide Applicator?

While not all are listed here, some key responsibilities include:

  • Read and follow the pesticide label instructions—using a pesticide in a manner inconsistent with its labeling is illegal.
  • Do not allow pesticides to contaminate or damage adjacent areas. Prevent drift and clean up any dry pesticide product that moves off-target.
  • Apply only registered pesticide products. Pesticides must have both federal and Ohio registration. Ohio’s pesticide product database can be found at
  • Pesticide application and wood-destroying insect inspection businesses are required to hold one or more of the following licenses:
    • pesticide business license
    • pesticide location license
    • pesticide solicitation license

For more information on the license and insurance requirements for pesticide businesses, see

  • Provide training and direct supervision to any trained serviceperson working under the licensed commercial applicator.
  • Keep records of each pesticide application.

Ohio Recordkeeping Requirements for Commercial Applicators

Records are required for every application and must be recorded in English on the day of the application. All records must be submitted to a business’s central pesticide business/registered location within 10 days of an application and must be kept for three years.

Recordkeeping requirements for commercial categories 7 and 10 have a few differences from the recordkeeping requirements for all other categories, which are shown in the following tables. Example recordkeeping forms appear below, but applicators may keep electronic or hard-copy records in any format.


Table 3a. Ohio commercial pesticide application recordkeeping requirements for all categories except 7 and 10.
Ohio Commercial Pesticide Application Records
All categories except 7 and 10
name of responsible commercial applicator and names of any trained servicepersons applying pesticides under direct supervision trade name (brand name) and EPA registration number of pesticides used
name and address of person contracting the service

total amount of each pesticide product used

date of application

if diluted, total volume

type and size of area treated

time of day during application, including start and stop times

type of equipment used

wind speed and direction, and air temperature

location/field ID number, if different from address above


Image of sample commercial recordkeeping form, excluding categories 7 and 10.
Table 3b. Ohio commercial pesticide application recordkeeping requirements for categories 7 and 10 only.
Ohio Commercial Pesticide Application Records
Category 7 and 10 a–d, only
name of responsible commercial applicator and names of any trained service persons applying pesticides under direct supervision trade name (brand name) and EPA registration number of pesticides used
name and address of person contracting for service total amount of each pesticide product used
date of application application concentration or dilution used of each pesticide and total volume applied
locations and methods of treatment for each pesticide used


 Image of sample commercial recordkeeping form, categories 7 and 10 only.

What is a Trained Serviceperson?Man with rubber gloves reads the label on a plastic container of pesticide.

Ohio law allows unlicensed applicators (trained servicepersons), to make applications if they are under the direct supervision of a licensed commercial pesticide applicator.

Trained serviceperson requirements:

  • New employees must be trained before their first occupational exposure to pesticides.
  • Employees are trained by reading the “Safety Training Guide for Trained Servicepersons” or equivalent training.
  • Verification of training must be kept in personnel records during employment and for three years after termination.

To supervise a trained serviceperson, the licensed commercial applicator must:

  • demonstrate instruction and control over the trained serviceperson
  • be within 25 miles or available within 2 hours when a trained serviceperson is applying a pesticide
  • be employed by the same company or public agency as the trained serviceperson

The “Safety Training Guide for Trained Servicepersons” is available at

Additional ResourcesImage of Ohio Commercial Pesticide Applicator Requirements brochure.

For questions about study guides, recertification, and training opportunities, contact:

Pesticide Safety Education Program
Ohio State University Extension
Phone: 614-292-4070

Download the Ohio Commercial Pesticide Applicator License brochure PDF.

For questions about licensing and exams, contact:

Ohio Department of Agriculture
Phone: 614-728-6987

Interested in information on how to obtain an Ohio Commercial Pesticide Applicator License? Check out Ohio State University Extension study guides:
Ohio Commercial Pesticide Applicator License Study Guides

Originally posted Sep 27, 2023.