Becoming a Certified Pesticide Applicator in New York State

Lindsey Christianson, Senior Commercial Ornamental Horticulture Educator

women spraying pesticides on crop at a farm

Leading up to Pesticide Recertification Day 2019, the CAAHP office received a number of calls asking about the process of becoming a certified applicator. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) sets the requirements for eligibility of each license type, approves courses, and sets exam dates and locations.

Here at Cornell Cooperative Extension, we offer courses throughout the year that may qualify for the credits needed either for the prerequisites to take the exam, or to meet license requirements once you become a certified pesticide applicator.

The CAAHP commercial ornamental horticulture program focuses on commercial categories 3A, 3B, and 3C, and private categories 24 and 25, although private categories 22 and 23 may occasionally fall under some program topics.

    • 3A: Ornamentals, Shade Trees, & Turf
    • 3B: Turf
    • 3C: Interior Plant Maintenance
    • 22: Fruit
    • 23: Vegetable
    • 24: Greenhouse & Florist
    • 25: Nursery, Ornamentals, & Turf

A wealth of information is available through the NYS DEC and through Cornell University’s PSEP/PMEP program. I’ve tried to pull out information from both for a quick guide for getting started.

NYS DEC has a great FAQs page that’s not easy to find

The PSEP CORE tutorial


Who needs to be certified?

  1. You need to be a certified applicator in order to purchase, possess, sell, or supervise the use or sale of restricted-use pesticides in the State of New York.
  2. There are three types of licenses: Commercial Technician, Commercial Applicator and Private Applicator (More information on licenses from DEC)

Commercial Applicator: Can use or supervise the use of any commercial application of pesticides in their category, or sell or supervise the sale of a restricted-use pesticide. Can purchase/possess restricted-use pesticides. A commercial applicator can train technicians/apprentices to make commercial applications.

Commercial Tech: can apply general use pesticides or any pesticide under the direct supervision of a certified commercial applicator. Requires direct supervision of a commercial applicator registered under the *same business or agency* to purchase/possess restricted-use pesticides. Technicians cannot supervise other technicians or apprentices.

Private Applicator: Can use or supervise use of a restricted use pesticide on property they own or lease to produce an agricultural commodity.


Who does NOT need an applicator’s license?

If you are using only general use pesticides on your own property/applicator’s residence. There are caveats to this, but as far as for agricultural or general landscape applications, this applies.


How do you become a certified applicator?

Only the NYS DEC administers the exams and certifies applicators. You can check exam dates and locations through NYSPAD. Be sure to read the exam procedures, forms, instructions, and felon information checklist prior to registering for an exam.

You may need to meet prerequisites in order to take the exam. There are multiple ways to do this. The DEC outlines eligibility requirements for each type of at Pesticide Applicator/Technician Certification. Cornell and Cornell Cooperative Extension do offer some of the training courses that count towards eligibility requirements. You can earn credits by attending courses that we offer that have approved credits in the category in which you’ll be testing. Some counties occasionally offer comprehensive 30-hour training courses. We work with the DEC to get credits approved, but stress again that neither Cornell nor Cornell Cooperative Extension offer exams or do any of the official licensing for pesticide applicators.

Training materials: online tutorials through PSEP. Core and Category specific training manuals through The Cornell Store. We no longer carry the manuals to sell at the county offices in the Capital Area.


Checking New York State Pesticide Administration Database (NYSPAD) for eligibility courses:

DEC NYSPAD homepage

On the NYSPAD homepage, you’ll find “Courses” and “Exams”. If you need to take courses to qualify to take the exam, you’ll start here.

screenshot of NYSPAD bureau of pest management - information portal, focus on courses

To search for a course, choose the category you will be testing in. For ornamental horticulture, you’ll most likely be applying to commercial category 3A or private categories 24 or 25. For “Course Type”, be sure to select “Eligibility”. Not all recertification courses will count towards eligibility requirements.

screenshot of NYSPAD courses search

You’ll find a few courses, and can click on “More” for more specific information.

screenshot of NYSPAD example of courses search outcome

You’ll find the dates, location, and contact for the course.

screenshot of NYSPAD course details for an example course

To find an exam date and location, it may be easiest to search using your DEC Region. If you’re in the Capital District, you’ll likely be in zone 4 or 5.

map of NY state labeled with zone numbers
screenshot of NYSPAD exam details
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