University of Illinois Extension
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Pesticide Safety Education Program



An operator is a person who uses pesticides at the job site. The operator is tied directly to the applicator’s license. The operator cannot be licensed without an applicator being properly licensed. The operator can apply pesticides only under the direct supervision of the applicator and can apply pesticides only to areas covered by the applicator’s license.

Supervision and direction of operators by an applicator is interpreted to mean that the applicator must be in daily contact with the operators. If the applicator is out of town or not available, the operator may not legally apply pesticides. An operator may not legally work for another applicator.

Operator Licensing Requirements

  1. Be employed and supervised by a currently licensed applicator.
  2. Pass the 100-question General Standards exam or Aerial General Standards exam with a score of 70% or more.
  3. Fill out and return the license application and appropriate fee to the Illinois Dept. of Agriculture. (License application will be mailed to you.) Insurance requirements, if applicable, will be sent with your application.

  4. New this year, due to a recent law change, all newly issued pesticide licenses based on testing between November 1, 2017 and October 31, 2018 are effective for three years.

    Renewing a license requires that the General Standards exam be passed and the license fee paid. Commercial for hire license renewal also requires proof of financial responsibility (insurance).

    An operator license can be reissued as an applicator license by passing the appropriate category exam(s) and paying the appropriate fee.

    Transition to three-year licenses is based on the license year when the General Standards exam was most recently passed. Licenses are issued based on exams passed as early as November 1 of the previous year. During this transition, one and two year licenses will be issued as follows with payment of their associated fees.

    General standars License License Renewal Year Commercial Operator License Fee Commercial Not-for-Hire Operator
    2015 2018 $120 $45
    2016 2019 $40 $15
    2017 2020 $80 $30
    2018 2021 $120 $45

    For example, if the General Standards exam was passed for the 2015 license year, you must re-test for the 2018 license year where a three-year license will be issued at a cost of $120/Operator or $45/Not-for- Hire Operator.
    If the General Standards exam was passed for the 2016 license year, you will be issued a one-year license at a cost of $40/Operator or $15/Not-for-Hire Operator.
    If the General Standards exam was passed for the 2017 license year, you will be issued a two-year license at a cost of $80/Operator or $30/Not-for-Hire Operator.

    License Information

    (800) 641-3934

    Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDA)

    Responsible for pesticide licensing. Answers questions regarding required exams, category requirements, and license availability.