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A pest control officer is any individual who specialises in the eradication or prevention of undesirable insects or animals.
The role of a pest control officer is to prevent and eradicate a variety of pests. Pests will normally pose a health risk or may be the cause of damage to buildings or crops. Common pests include:
- Insects – wasps, bees, hornets, bedbugs, beetles, fleas, spiders, cockroaches, termites, moths, woodlice, woodworm and ants
- Rodents – rabbits, mice, rats, moles, squirrels and bats
- Birds – pigeons and seagulls.
Pest controllers will normally work hand-in-hand with environmental health departments.
The role will involve visiting both commercial and residential premises, taking information on the problem and detailing what the best course of action is. This may involve using baiting techniques, fumigation, biocides or poisons and it is therefore important to have a knowledge of safe and sound practices, risk assessment techniques as well as some knowledge of Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (“COSHH”) legislation.
Starting salaries will normally be between £16,000 and £25,000 although the area you work in will affect this. With experience salaries are likely to increase and it may be possible to move into supervisory or management positions. Depending upon the size of the team, supervisors are likely to earn in the region of £25,000 to £30,000.
A lot of pest controllers are self employed and if you run your own business you could earn £50,000+ depending upon the success of the business. A lot of the work is contract based and obtaining regular work with a local council or large company is essential.
The work is likely to vary, and you will meet a lot of different people. You should expect to undertake the following roles:
- Visiting premises.
- Preventing and exterminating a range of public health pests.
- Identifying the type of pest by looking at nests, droppings or other factors. You may also have to take samples of droppings or contaminated items for laboratory analysis.
- Identifying the source of the problem, namely how the pests are getting into the building and whether there is any behaviour which is exacerbating the situation. You will be expected to advise individuals and businesses on how they can prevent recurrence of the problem.
- Performing minor repairs or proofing a building to prevent pests from re-entering a premises.
- Laying bait or installing traps. You will need to be conscious of the risks these pose to human health.
- Removing nests. You will be expected to use poisons and other chemicals and be able to operate equipment for the purposes of fumigation and spraying. Chemicals, pesticides and insecticides may be highly toxic and you will have to ensure that rooms are properly ventilated and adequate safety provisions put in place.
- Installing spikes to prevent birds landing and nesting.
- Keeping meticulous records of visits and actions undertaken.
- Assisting other environmental health professionals. This may involve giving evidence or providing records for legal proceedings.
Most employers will expect you to have GCSEs in Mathematics and English and some employers may require a grade C or above in Science.
Due to the nature of the job almost all employers will insist upon a clean driving licence.
There is also a range of specialist qualifications such as The Level 2 Certificate in Pest Control offered by the Royal Society for Public Health or the NPTC Level 2 Certificate of Competence in Vertebrate Pest Control
offered by the NPTC. There is a range of further qualifications offered by the Royal Society for Public Health for those who have completed the base level qualifications. Details of some of these qualifications are available on the National Qualifications Database.
It is also worth looking at the NPTA training website which provides details of the latest courses available.
- Knowledge of pesticides, insecticides and other chemicals.
- Knowledge of specific baiting techniques and an ability to identify pests by their droppings, nests and/or damage caused to property.
- Being able to advise clients on the best action with regards to preventing future problems.
- Good numeracy and literacy skills will be required by employers due to chemical risks.
- Interpersonal, customer care and communication skills.
- Physical fitness.
Pest controllers may be called upon to work 24 hours a day. While the working week will normally be 37 hours there is the opportunity to work overtime and in some roles this will be expected.
You should expect to spend time travelling to and from premises and will likely spend considerable time on site. You will be expected to work in unpleasant conditions and have close contact with pests and their faeces. This is not a job for those who are squeamish or who feel uncomfortable about the idea of killing animals.
You will need a certain degree of physical fitness. There is also the risk of bites, stings and infection. Pest controllers are classified as high risk practitioners. In order to reduce risks you will normally be supplied with a range of protective clothing, goggles, gloves and overalls.
While you won’t be expected to have prior experience for entry roles, relevant work experience can prove useful.
Local Government – Councils and local authorities are major employers.
Private Sector – Companies such as Rentokil and Connaught have large pest control operations.
Self Employed – Many pest controllers are self-employed and own their own business.
Most major firms will have hierarchical structures and it will be possible to move into supervisory or management roles.
You may also look to transfer across job roles and, with appropriate qualifications, it is possible to move into a series of related occupations such as food health and safety or pollution officer. There are also a small number of training roles available with the large pest control associations such as the British Pest Control Association or the
National Pest Technician Association
Also known as…
- Pest Controller
- Pest Technician
- Pest Control Advisor
- Ratman (slang)
- Rat catcher (slang)
- Disinfestations Officer
- Environmental Health Officer
- Health and Safety Officer
- Street cleaner
- Pollution Officer
- Animal Welfare Officer
- Dog Warden
What’s it really like?
How long have you been in this particular job / industry?
I work for Connaught Compliance (IGROX) and have been in pest control for 4 years.
What did you do before this job?
I did 25 years (since school) as a sheet metal worker/welder.
What do you do in a typical day at work?
I do mainly local authority domestic pest control but have an amount of contract work to do as well. I receive my jobs as work sheets from Worcester City Council in the evening and do the basic paperwork, i.e. name, address and pest to be treated so I can save time at properties as time is limited per visit.
The next morning when I arrive at the client’s home, and depending on what pest I am there to treat (rats, mice, bed bugs, fleas, cockroaches, wasps, beetles, etc.), I do a survey. Information from the client is needed to determine exactly what species of pest I am treating. When I am sure which pest I am to treat I complete a risk assessment so that non-target species, i.e. pets or vulnerable people, will not be affected. When this has been done I decide on the safest and most effective method of control. It is important to tell the client what procedure, baits and chemicals I will be using, where I will be using them, the dangers and whether any follow up treatments are necessary. Treating rodents may need follow ups of, on average, three visits.
What do you like about the job?
I like the freedom of being out and about in the fresh air, the fact that there is no boss looking over my shoulder all day (even though most pest control companies have trackers on vans), making my own decisions, the constant courses to keep me up to date with the latest techniques, interaction with all ages of people and above all job satisfaction. It is like a paid hobby!
What do you dislike about the job?
I don’t have many dislikes about pest control as the job is in the blood and people entering this profession cannot pinpoint why they chose to do it. Maybe deadlines and workloads are a minus.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of doing this job?
This is a job for those people who enjoy working alone and like being independent. I didn’t leave school with great grades and I have found a job which is, with effort and commitment, satisfying and rewarding. Also make sure that you choose a pest control company which has a BASIS PROMPT scheme so you are sure of on-going training. All larger companies have excellent training in place. A professional pest control technician needs to have a minimum qualification of the RSPH Level 2 to work in the pest control industry. Some companies will train you to this level.
What job(s) do you think you might do after this role (i.e. career progression)?
After ‘in the field’ pest control there are opportunities to develop knowledge in specific fields such as becoming a field biologist, surveyor or sales. There is of course the opportunity to go self employed with very little comparative outlay.