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Ohio State University Extension


Ohio Private Pesticide Applicator License 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 Private Pesticide License Needed?

You need to have a private pesticide applicator license if you purchase restricted-use pesticides or apply them to the following:

  • land you own, rent, or are employed to work on to produce an agricultural commodity
  • grain bins, ponds, livestock, or other areas on a farm

Licensing is required to ensure applicators use restricted-use pesticides responsibly, without causing harm to themselves, the public, or the environment.

Do You Need a License to Apply Agricultural Fertilizer?

Agricultural fertilizer applicator certification is separate from pesticide applicator licensing. Information regarding fertilizer certification is available at or by contacting Ohio State University Extension county offices.View of front of green private pesticide license.

How Do I Become a Licensed Private Pesticide Applicator?

To become a licensed private pesticide applicator, you must pass the Ohio pesticide exams. You must take the private core exam and at least one category exam. Each category is specific to the crops you are raising.

How Can I Prepare for the Exams?

  • Start by getting the exam study materials for core and the category or categories that you need.View of back of white private pesticide license.
  • Core and category 1 study materials also may be purchased at your local OSU Extension Office—call for availability—or order from
  • Study guides for categories 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 may be downloaded from links in this fact sheet or from
  • Supplemental online exam preparation courses are available for private core and category 1 at:

How Do I Register and Take the Exams?

  • The Ohio Department Of Agriculture (ODA) offers exams at locations throughout Ohio.Man wearing long-sleeve shirt and rubber gloves reads label on pesticide container.
  • Register for an exam at or by calling 614-728-6987.
  • ODA sends a license application with your exam results.
  • Mail the completed application and $30 license fee to ODA.
  • If you fail an exam, you must wait at least one week before retesting. Exams may be taken as many times as needed.
  • ODA will mail your license after you pass the exams and submit the license application and fee.Tractor pulls spraying apparatus through a crop field.

What Are the Private Pesticide Applicator Categories and Study Materials?

Private Core Exam

Core includes Ohio laws and regulations, pesticide label comprehension, handling and storage, human toxicity, applicator safety, environmental hazards, calculations, general application principles, and equipment. Core is not a category. All prospective licensees are required to take and pass this exam. Comprehensive study materials are available at:Bales of rolled-up hay on a field.

1. Grain and Cereal Crops

Agronomic field crops, including corn, grain, sorghum, other small grains, soybeans, and sweet corn. Note: Application to sweet corn may be made under either category 1 or 3.

2. Forage Crops and Livestock

Crops grown primarily for use as hay, forage, fodder, or ensilage, and applications to livestock and their quarters.

3. Fruit and Vegetable Crops

Man bent over and spraying base of tree with spray wand attached to plastic container.Orchard fruit crops and small fruits, including strawberries, brambles and grapes, field-grown vegetables, sugar beets, sweet corn, and other horticultural crops grown primarily for human consumption.

4. Nursery and Forest Crops

Commercial nursery crops, including trees, shrubs, grasses, and herbaceous plants, produced for replanting to provide ornamental value or for future fruit production; also, tree crops produced to provide Christmas trees or utilitarian value.

5. Greenhouse Crops

Crops grown under an impervious surface large enough to permit worker entry, including high tunnels and greenhouses.

  • Greenhouse Pest Control
    (note: this study guide was written for commercial greenhouse applicators but will help private applicators study for the private greenhouse exam.)
6. Fumigation

Two silos at the back of a field.Application of restricted-use fumigants to soil, grain storage, greenhouse, or any other confined areas.

7. Specialty Uses

Specialty uses, including wood preservation, aquaculture, seed treatment, sod production, and controlling pests of tobacco, ponds, and non-cropland areas. This category is not required for specialty uses if you hold licensure in any other category.

  • There is no exam for this category other than core.Pond with trees and vegetation around its perimeter.

How to Maintain Your Private Pesticide License

Your private pesticide applicator license will expire every three years on March 31. In addition to submitting your license renewal application and fee, you also must recertify your license before the deadline. ODA will mail you a renewal letter in December of the third and final active year of your license, prior to its expiration. The letter contains a renewal application and a statement of your recertification status. You have the option to renew and pay fees online or mail the application with payment.

Recertification of a private applicator license requires attending educational programs to obtain a minimum of three hours of private recertification credit. The recertification credits must include 1 hour of core credit and at least a ½ hour of credit in each license category on your license. After obtaining the necessary core and pesticide-use category credits, additional credits must be obtained to meet a total of three hours. These additional credits may be obtained in any private pesticide-use category. Licensed private applicators also have the option of retaking the core and category tests instead of obtaining recertification credits by attending educational programs.

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

  • Return the license renewal application with a $30 fee to ODA (or renew online).
  • Recertify by the deadline by one of two methods:
    • Attend 3 hours of recertification training.
    • Re-test in core and each category on your license.

Recertification training is available in nearly every Ohio county through Ohio State University Extension for a separate fee. For a listing of programs, visit or your county OSU Extension office.

You may also utilize the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s private applicator recertification class search at

What Are the Responsibilities of Private Pesticide Applicators?

Keep Records of All Restricted-Use Pesticide Applications

There is no standard format, but Ohio private pesticide application records must contain the following information:

  • the responsible private applicator's name and license number
  • the brand or product name and EPA registration number of the restricted-use pesticide applied
  • the total amount of the restricted-use pesticide applied
  • the location and/or field number of the area treated, and the total area or acreage treated
  • the crop treated
  • the month, day, and year of application

In addition:

  • Record applications on the same date they are applied
  • Retain records for 3 years from the date of application and make them available to ODA upon request
  • Submit records to your employer, if applicable
  • Provide all records of pesticide applications on rented or leased land within 30 days of request by landowner
  • Comply with applicable Federal Worker Protection Standard requirements
  • For more information about recordkeeping regulations, contact the Pesticide Regulation Section, Ohio Department of Agriculture, at 614-728-6987

For the full regulation, visit

Use Products According to the Label

The label is the law. Pesticide labels are legal documents. It is a violation of federal law to use any pesticide in a manner inconsistent with its labeling. Furthermore, if a crop does not appear on a pesticide label, it is illegal to apply the pesticide to that crop.

Prevent Off-Target Movement

Pesticides must not be applied in a manner that contaminates or damages adjacent crops, pastureland, water, or other areas.

Applying pesticides under appropriate environmental conditions with proper nozzles and equipment calibration can reduce drift to a minimum.

May I Apply Pesticides to My Neighbor’s Property for Compensation Under My Private Pesticide License?

Ohio pesticide law requires a commercial pesticide license to apply pesticides for hire, but there is an exception for farmers using ground equipment to spray neighbors’ property as long as the applicator operates their equipment primarily for their own farm use and is not regularly engaged in the business of applying pesticides for hire. In this case, the applicator must keep an application record for both general-use and restricted-use pesticides.

May I Apply Pesticides with a Drone Under the Private Pesticide Applicator License?

No. To apply pesticides with a drone, even on your property, a commercial pesticide license is required with Category 1, Aerial Pest Control. For additional requirements, see the ODA facsheeet "Pesticide Applications by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles" at

Additional Resources

For questions about study guides, recertification, and training opportunities, contact your county OSU Extension office or:Image of Ohio private pesticide applicator license requirements brochure.

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

Download Ohio Private Pesticide Applicator License Requirements Brochure PDF.

For questions about licensing and exams, pesticide, or fertilizer regulations, or to file a pesticide complaint, contact:
Complaints & Investigations | Ohio Department of Agriculture

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.