Pest control technicians get rid of infestations of vermin, which can carry disease, contaminate foodstuffs or destroy crops.
The type of pests depend on the area - in rural areas they may be dealing with rodents, stored product insects, rabbits, moles and foxes, whereas in urban areas they are more likely to deal with rodents and insect pests, and making sure that birds cannot enter premises. The full range of pests can include insects - woodworm, beetles, wasps, ants, cockroaches, flies, lice, fleas or bedbugs - or vertebrates - rats, mice, foxes, grey squirrels, rabbits, pigeons or seagulls.
The work is carried out in houses and commercial buildings such as shops, kitchens, factories and warehouses. Specialist technicians can carry out pest control in ships, storage silos and aircraft.
A pest control technician spends time assessing the infestation by:
The technician then decides how best to deal with the situation. Carrying out appropriate treatments may include laying traps or spraying gas or liquid pesticide into infected areas such as cupboards, cavities and drains, or onto carpets. It may also involve using weapons such as airguns to get rid of pests such as birds or rodents.
Before carrying out treatment the technician takes into account safety and hygiene issues. For example, they make sure other areas are not contaminated, that household pets are safe and, if necessary, arrange for the temporary evacuation of the premises.
After the treatment the work may involve:
Pest control technicians may also work under contract to visit premises several times a year to check for and prevent infestation. This may involve advising on practices to prevent pests, such as ways to store foodstuffs.
Some aspects of the job may be controversial as people do not always agree about which insects and animals are pests. The use of chemicals has an effect on the environment so they have to be used carefully. Sometimes pest control technicians try to suggest that other methods are used such as rehousing a honeybee swarm with a local beekeeper. As they work, technicians have to be careful not to harm other species.
Fumigation is a specialised area of pest control requiring further training and qualifications.
A pest control technician's core hours are likely to be 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. Increasingly, though, companies work outside these hours and the work may involve early starts, evenings, weekends and even night working. The work can vary according to the time of year, with more pests to deal with in the summer.
Technicians mostly work alone, travelling to affected locations in a van. Locations can include sewers, homes, farms, warehouses, factories and restaurants.
The work may be both indoors and outdoors. Sites can be cold, damp, dirty, smelly and dangerous. There may be a risk of bites and infection. There is a lot of bending, kneeling, reaching, working in cramped spaces, and climbing ladders into roof spaces or down into sewers. Technicians may have to carry heavy equipment.
Pest control technicians wear protective clothing, including face visors, goggles, respirators, gloves and overalls. These provide protection against stings and bites, toxic substances and dust.
Starting salaries may be between £13,000 and £15,000 a year.
Pest control technicians are employed by private contractors and local councils. There are opportunities throughout the UK.
Private firms are mainly called out to agricultural, industrial or commercial premises, such as farms, restaurants, hotels and food factories. Some companies specialise, for example, in agricultural problems or in fumigation. Local councils address problems in houses, streets and public buildings.
Applicants can look for jobs on the websites of local authorities or on the websites of some of the organisations listed opposite. The publications listed below also carry job advertisements. Some jobs may be advertised in Jobcentre Plus offices.
Entry for young people
No particular qualifications are required for entry, although GCSE's/S grades (A-E/1-5) in English, maths and science are useful. Many organisations require applicants to be over 18 because of the use of specialist equipment and dangerous substances.
Applicants usually need a driving licence.
Employers usually provide on-the-job training. Trainees work with experienced staff, learning how to identify and control pests, about health and safety issues and, if necessary, about weaponry.
Several organisations offer training in pest control, including the National Pest Technicians Association (NPTA), the British Pest Control Association (BPCA), the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health (RSPH) and Lantra Awards. Each offers a range of courses including short courses on general pest control, certificate and diploma qualifications, and specialist areas such as the use of air weapons and fumigation.
The Property Care Association also offers training which includes insect infestations.
Technicians need to keep up to date with changes in legislation and developments in industry best practice.
Laboratory technicians carry out routine laboratory tests and perform a variety of technical support functions to help scientists, technologists and others with their work. They can work in research and development, scientific analysis and testing, education and manufacturing.
They are employed in a wide range of scientific fields which affect almost every aspect of our lives.
Pest control technicians should:
Promotion is possible to supervisory and managerial roles. Technicians employed by local councils can apply for jobs in other departments.
Some technicians specialise by gaining experience and undertaking training.
Pest control technicians may also become self-employed.
British Pest Control Association (BPCA),
Ground Floor, Gleneagles House,
Vernongate, Derby DE1 1UP
Tel: 0870 609 2687
National Pest Technicians Association (NPTA),
NPTA House, Hall Lane, Kinoulton,
Nottingham NG12 3EF
Tel: 01949 81133
The Property Care Association,
Lakeview Court, Ermine Business Park,
Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire PE29 6XR
Tel: 0870 1216737
The Royal Society for the Promotion of Health (RSPH),
38A St George's Drive, London SW1V 4BH
Tel: 020 7630 0121
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.