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Certification, Licensing and Charters


The Tennessee Department of Agriculture is aware of questions regarding Continuing Education Units (CEUs) for pest control professionals. While managing the COVID-19 outbreak, it is critical that the department take steps to protect the health of pesticide applicators, employees, and the public.

Commercial and private pesticides applicators are required to complete a certain amount of training before renewing their certifications on June 30. This protects public welfare by ensuring that chemicals used in homes and businesses are applied by trained and certified individuals. The primary source for training is the University of Tennessee. However, the university has temporarily halted in-person training.

A new rule filed with the Secretary of State extends the certification period to September 30, 2020, or 30 days from the end of the emergency declaration depending on which comes first. The rule also deems General Pest and Rodent Control licensees as authorized to make Category 14 pesticide applications for control of COVID-19.

Please see the frequently-asked questions and answers below. Any additional questions can be directed to Certification & Licensing Supervisor Phil Hurst at 615-837-5404.

Will I be able to take my scheduled certification or license exam through PSI Services?
   In accordance with state and federal guidance to slow the spread of COVID-19, PSI notified the Department that testing centers will be closed from March 20, 2020 through May 1, 2020. PSI opened testing sites in Nashville and Memphis the week of April 13. Those taking a test are required to bring their own face mask and gloves.

Will PSI contact me if I am already scheduled to take an exam?
    Yes, PSI will contact you to re-schedule your exam.

Will I lose my testing fee?
    No, you will not lose your testing fee.

Will TDA provide testing?
    TDA will not provide testing.

Will TDA waive all testing?
    TDA will not waive testing.   

As per 0080-09-04-.08 Certification of Commercial Pesticide Applicators:
(1)        No charter holder or licensed pest control operator shall allow an uncertified person to apply pesticides except in accordance with this rule.
(2)        Custom applications of pesticide must be applied by a pest control operator or certified applicator, licensed or certified in the category of services being provided, or by a person in the presence of a properly licensed pest control operator or certified applicator.
(3)        Commercial applicators who apply pesticides under the direct supervision of a licensed pest control operator must be certified in the category of services being provided.

Will the CEU requirement be waived?
    An emergency rule extends commercial and private applicator certifications to September 30 to provide additional time to accrue required CEUs and training.

Who can treat for COVID-19?
Applicators who hold a Special License in Microbial and are certified in category 14, or those approved through the emergency rule who hold a GRC license and are certified in category 7 can treat for COVID-19.
   Applicators working under a licensee must hold a category 14 (Microbial) or category 7 (Industrial, Institutional, Structural and Health Related Pest Control) certification.


Tennessee’s law that governs the custom application of pesticides is the Tennessee Application of Pesticides Act (TAPA), and there are published rules that coincide with the law. In addition, the Tennessee Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (TIFRA) and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) also govern certain pesticide issues.

TAPA requires that a company providing or offering for sale any custom pesticide application must have a pest control charter.  A charter is a type of permit issued by the department to a business, and is required for each individual location. For example, if a company has an office in Nashville and another in Memphis, each location would be required to have its own charter.

An application for charter requires a pro-rated fee of $200 per year, a $10,000 surety bond and proof of liability insurance with the minimum coverages of $250,000 per incident and $500,000 aggregate.  A $50,000 bond is required for new companies holding a WDO, GRC, FUM, or BDC licensee. In addition, firms that have a WDO licensee must carry errors and omissions coverage with minimums of $100,000 per incident and $300,000 aggregate. A charter also requires that there be at least one licensee in each category of service offered. A licensee can only be listed on one charter.

License Categories

  • Agricultural - Ground Equipment (AGE) - is the control of agricultural pests by means other than fumigation. Applicants for this license must be certified in (C01) Agricultural Plant Pest Control.
  • Aquatic Pest Control (APC) - is the control of aquatic plants and algae through the application of pesticides. Applicants for this license must be certified in (C05) Aquatic Pest Control.
  • Bird Control (BDC) - is the control of bird pests through the use of pesticides. Applicants for this license must be certified in (C07) Industrial, Institutional, Structural and Health-Related Pest Control.
  • Forest Pest Control (FPC) - is the control of tree pests and diseases in institutional and non-agricultural locations. Applicants for this license must be certified in (C02) Forest Pest Control.
  • Fumigation - Soil (FUS) - control of agricultural pests found in the soil by application of a gas. This category includes pesticides that are in a solid or liquid state when handled or applied but which turn to gas upon being dispensed. Applicants for this license must be certified in (C01) Agricultural Plant Pest Control.
  • Fumigation - Structural (FUM) - is the control of pests by application of a gas. This category includes pesticides that are in a solid or liquid state when handled or applied but which turn to gas upon being dispensed. Applicants for this license must be certified in (C07) Industrial, Institutional, Structural and Health-Related Pest Control.
  • General Pest and Rodent Control (GRC) - is the control of vertebrate and invertebrate pests that invade or are normally known to invade a structure, and which are not specifically covered by other categories of licenses described herein. Applications for this license must be certified in (C07) Industrial, Institutional, Structural and Health-Related Pest Control.
  • Horticultural - Interior (HRI) - is the control of plant pests and diseases. This category applies to residential and commercial locations, but does not include greenhouses. Applicants for this license must be certified in (C03) Ornamental and Turf Pest Control.
  • Horticulture - Lawn and Turf (HLT) - is the control of pests and diseases of shrubs, trees, lawns and other turfgrasses. This category includes non-agricultural locations such as residential and commercial lawns and landscapes, parks and athletic fields. These pests include, but are not limited to, bagworms, grubs, moles, voles, scale insects, weeds and diseases of turf, ornamental trees and shrubs, or others similar in nature. Applicants for this license must be certified in (C03) Ornamental and Turf Pest Control.
  • Pest Control Consultant (PCC) - is a graduate of an accredited college or university with a Bachelor's degree in the field of pest control in which consultation is offered. A license in this category does not qualify the holder to conduct pest control operations.
  • Public Health Mosquito Control (PHMC) - is the management of mosquitoes, in all stages of their development, on public land and public waters. Applicants for this license must be certified in (C08) Public Health Pest Control.
  • Weed Control - Right of Way and Industrial (WEC) - is the control of plants, whether woody or herbaceous, by the application of chemicals generally classed as herbicides, to industrial sites and rights-of-way such as, but not limited to, highways, transmission lines, drainage ditches, etc. Applicants for this license must be certified in (C06) Right-of-Way Pest Control.
  • Wood Destroying Organisms (WDO) - is the control of termites, various wood borers, carpenter bees, carpenter ants and decay, without regard to the type or use of structure involved. Applicants for this license must be certified in (C07) Industrial, Institutional, Structural and Health-Related Pest Control.
  • Wood Preservatives (WPC) - is the control of insects, fungi, marine borers and the effects of weather on wood products at the manufacturing or distribution stage that may damage or degrade the wood. Applicants for this license must be certified in (C11) Wood Preservation Pest Control.
  • Special (SPC) - is the control of pests in special situations by methods not included in the other license categories listed above. These licenses may or may not require an examination at the discretion of the Bord and are limited to specific pesticide uses and situations as determined by the Board.

The license examination fee is $150, and application must be made by the 10th of the month that precedes the month of exam. License applicants must be commercially certified prior to the examination date. Applicants, with the exception of the AGE category, must qualify for the examination by one of three ways:

  1. have two years verifiable experience working under a licensee in that category, or
  2. have a four-year college degree with major studies in a related field, or
  3. hold a similar license in another state.

License examinations are only offered in Nashville in the months of January, April, July, and October. The examination consists of two parts, the first in a multiple-choice written format. The second part involves specimen identification. A score of 70 percent is considered passing for each part. Failure on either part requires reexamination on both parts. Test results are made available on the same day at the testing site, and examinants with a passing score can apply for a license immediately. A pro-rated fee is required of $20 per license category per year.

Licensees are held accountable for all pesticide applications and required pesticide recordkeeping. Licensees are expected to work full-time at the chartered firm, but are not required to be on-site at each application. However, at least one commercially certified person is required to be on site at each application.

TAPA also requires the licensed supervision of pesticide applications inside certain commercial and public buildings. These include:

  • Apartments. (Tenants may apply pesticides inside their own unit.)
  • Lodging facilities, such as hotels, motels, nursing homes, hospitals, dormitories, prisons
  • Commercial food processing facilities
  • Restaurants
  • Schools, except those that primarily provide religious instruction or those that have ten or fewer students

In these situations, pesticide applications must be performed by a chartered firm unless a licensee is employed by the facility. With rare exception, the license category required for application within the above listed facilities is the GRC. Pesticide applications must be performed by a chartered firm unless a licensee is employed by the facility. In this instance, a charter by the facility is not required. Any technician working under the licensee is required to be commercially certified in the corresponding category.

Commercial Certification

Commercial certification is a lower level of testing in Tennessee, and fulfills two purposes:

  • it meets the requirements of FIFRA and TIFRA for the sale and use of non-agricultural and agricultural (except as defined for private applicators) restricted-use pesticides, and
  • it is the means for testing for pest control technicians and solicitors working under a licensed applicator.
  • C01 - Agricultural
  • C02 - Forest Pest Control
  • C03 - Ornamental and Turf
  • C04 - Seed Treatment
  • C05 - Aquatic Pest Control
  • C06 - Right-of-Way
  • C07 - Industrial, Institutional, Structural, and Health Related Pest Control
  • C08 - Public Health
  • C10 - Demonstration, Research, and Regulatory Pest Control
  • C11 - Wood Preservatives
  • C12 - Pesticide Dealer (required to obtain a Restricted Use Pesticide Dealer License)
  • C13 - Antifouling Marine Paint
  • C14 - Microbial Pest Control
  • C15 - Trainer, Worker Protection Standard
  • C16 - Sewer Line Treatment

Certification exams are offered at various locations across the state.  Contact the Department at (615) 837-5148 or (615) 837-5404 for additional information.  The fee is $25 for each exam, and payment by check, money order, cashier's check or credit card must be included with Commercial Certification Exam Application. Payment is not accepted on site at the testing locations. The commercial certification exam incorporates the previously separate CORE exam materials. It is recommended that applicants order the CORE study material in addition to the category specific study manual.

To maintain commercial certification, continuing education credits, commonly known as "points," must be earned by attending approved training sessions during the certification period. Sessions can include in-house meetings, trade association events, Extension Service meetings and others. The number of points required varies by category and the date certification is earned. Contact the Department at (615) 837-5148 or (615) 837-5404 for more information.

Study materials for both certification and license exams are available from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville for nominal fees. The certification materials are designed to walk applicants through the exam, whereas the license materials are designed to merely be a supplement to your experience and education. Order forms are available from the University and the Department.

Tennessee reciprocates in honoring current commercial certification by other states with whom they have an agreement. Tennessee does not reciprocate in regard to licenses.

Any non-licensed technician or solicitor working for a chartered firm is registered as a solicitor/technician. The fee is pro-rated on a quarterly basis and equates to $20 per year. Please contact the Department for exact fee and expiration date information.

Limited Herbicide Applicator (LHA)

This is a new category of certification that allows an individual to apply Glyphosphate only for the control of weeds in conjunction with commercial lawn and landscape maintenance practices such as spot treatments adjacent to fencing, driveways, parking lots, and cemetery markers.

To obtain this certification you must currently hold a certification in (C03) Ornamental and Turf or apply to take the Limited Herbicide Applicator certification exam. The Commercial Certification Exam Form may be downloaded at "Licenses and Permits" above. A passing score of 70 is needed for successful completion of this exam.

The study manual needed for this category of certification is "Applying Pesticides Correctly" and may be purchased through the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Please call 865-974-1286.

The applicator or his or her employer must furnish proof of liability insurance with coverage for bodily injury and property damage of at least $300,000 per occurrence and $300,000 aggregate, including coverage for products/completed operations, and the policy must be endorsed to cover herbicide applications.

The application equipment is limited to a single hand-held nozzle supplied by a tank with a maximum capacity of 25 gallons; an electric or hand-powered pump with a maximum discharge rate of 1.5 gallons per minute; and a discharge hose no more than 15 feet long.

Your TDA assigned ID number must be displayed in the upper right-hand corner of the vehicle used in the business or on both sides of any trailer used in the business. The name of the business shall be displayed on the right and left sides of all company vehicles or trailers. The lettering must not be less than two inches tall.

Application records must contain the date of the application and the property address.

This category of certification does not allow you to supervise the application of any pesticide by an uncertified person, advertise the application of herbicides or any other pesticide application, or purchase a restricted use pesticide.

Applicators certified under this category are not required to obtain a license, charter or bond.

For additional information, please call 615-837-5148.

Frequently Asked Questions

"What if I don’t charge for the pesticide, but just the rest of my services? Does that mean I don’t need a charter and license?"

You are still receiving monetary compensation for your services, and thus still providing custom application.

"What are the consequences of operating as a custom pesticide applicator without getting a charter and license?"

Operating without a charter is a Class A Misdemeanor under TAPA, punishable by up to a $2,500 fine and 11 months 29 days of incarceration.

"But I rarely use pesticides. I only need them every now and then. Do I still have to obtain the charter and license for such little work?"

The charter requirements in TAPA do not vary because of the volume of work a particular company has. If you find that the number of pesticide applications you perform does not warrant getting chartered, you can subcontract those applications to a chartered firm or simply not offer them.

"I use non-pesticidal control measures. Do I need to get a charter?"

If you don’t apply pesticides you do not need a charter. Please check all of your product labels closely. If you see an EPA Registration Number, it is a pesticide.

"I own a convenience market that has a deli counter. Will I need to hire out my pesticide applications to comply with TAPA’s requirement for restaurants?"

The law is written that if you prepare or serve food, you would need to do so. So, if your counter actually prepares food, such as assembling sandwiches, frying chicken, baking pizzas, etc. then the answer is yes. If, however, you only offer items like vendor-prepared sandwiches and other pre-packaged foods, and the customer merely makes a selection from a display case or fills a cup with soda, then the answer is no.

"I manage an apartment complex, and we have a terrible mole cricket problem. Is there anything my maintenance staff can do to control them without having a license?"

The section of TAPA that deals with this situation is confined to interior use. Thus, exterior pesticide applications by your maintenance staff without having a licensee would be legal. You would be prohibited from applying pesticides inside the units or in related enclosed areas, such as crawl spaces and attics.

"I want to start up a home inspection service for potential home buyers. I’d also like to be able to issue termite clearance letters and advise homeowners about controlling termites and other pests. Does TAPA require me to obtain any sort of license to do this?"

Wood destroying organism inspection reports may only be issued by firms that are chartered to provide wood destroying organism treatments.  Reports must be issued on forms provided by the National Pest Control Association or the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.  Such reports are to be warranted for 90 days, and persons knowingly issuing a false report are subject to legal action.

The Registration Review

The Department also has a monthly pesticide newsletter, "The Registration Review," which is available by subscription for $12 per year. It features newly registered pesticides, pertinent label changes, a listing of new chartered firms, upcoming meetings approved for recertification points, and other information. To obtain an order form, please call 615-837-5340.