As a lawn care professional that handles chemicals, you will undoubtedly need a pesticide applicator license. Anyone who applies or supervises application of restricted use pesticides is required by federal law to be certified. Getting such a license will vary by state and information concerning types of licenses, exams and renewal should be readily available on your state’s Department of Agriculture website.
Aside from a mandatory license required for the safe handling of pesticides, you also have the option of earning other certifications. While not mandatory, getting additional certifications in the lawn care industry could be just what you need to advance your career. Achieving a certification not only boosts your base of knowledge, it also increases consumer-confidence, giving you a step up on non-certified competitors. The National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) offers several reputable certification programs. Getting landscape industry certified by the NALP is not an overnight process and will take some planning and preparation, but it will all pay off in the end.
Step 1: Plan Your Path
The first step to getting certified is to select the best program to fit your responsibilities. The National Association of Landscape Professionals offers seven certifications depending on you and your companies’ needs. These include variations of “Landscape Industry Certified Lawn Care Technician” and Landscape Industry Certified Lawn Care Manager.” Once you decide on a test path, you’ll need to register by mailing in the application available online. After registering, you’ll have three years to prepare and take the exam. You may also want to look into courses offered by local colleges and universities (like the University of Georgia’s “Principles of Turfgrass Management”), in order to become Landscape Industry Certified by NALP.
Step 2: Prepare for the Test
You can’t beat the convenience factor since these certification tests are self-study programs, allowing you to prepare at your own pace using your own materials. While they suggest several resources for preparation, including books, videos and study guides, you’re free to use any materials at your disposal to get ready. Your study routine may vary depending on how knowledgeable you already are and what kind of prior training you have received, but make sure you study effectively to prevent having to retake the test.
Step 3: Take the Test
The NALP certifications offer the convenience of being able to take most of the tests at local PSI testing centers on a computer, which gives you the flexibility to find a date, time and place that fits your needs. You must register online at least 24 hours before you want to take the test. Most of their exams cost between $300-$400 and consist of 50-100 questions. Content varies by exam but will likely include turfgrass, weed and disease identification, soil testing, spray equipment maintenance and customer communications. You will receive unofficial results from PSI immediately and NALP will mail your official results within 30 days.
Step 4: Continuing Education
After passing the exam and receiving your certificate, you must participate in continuing education classes, conferences and other professional development opportunities like workshops in order to acquire 24 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) every two years. Certifications are an ongoing investment and require renewal in order to keep up with the latest knowledge and best practices for you to use in your business.
Remember, that the programs offered by NALP are just one option for getting certified in the lawn care industry. There are many other programs available and requirements and program details may vary by state. Contact your local Department of Agriculture or visit NALP online for more information.