Working in the pest control industry isn't the kind of job that we dream about as children, however the work can be extremely rewarding and ...
We doubt there are many (or any) people who said they wanted to work in pest control when they grew up. But there's more to the industry than chasing cockroaches round a kitchen. It isn't exactly glamorous, but domestic callouts (usually carried out by technicians) are just one part of a much larger machine.
The commercial side, which ensures insects are kept away from large organisations and manufacturers, needs field biologists to solve the problems of infestations and to monitor the type of bugs that could cause problems. The pay isn't bad (£25,000+), the job has variety and you may one day have the power to close down a premises.
Oliver Madge, chief executive officer, British Pest Control Association (www.bpca.org.uk)
There are two sectors in the industry – commercial and domestic. Domestic is more reactive work. Someone sees a rat or cockroach, a technician deals with the problem, the job's done and you hope they won't come back.
The commercial side deals with pest control in anything from ships to prisons to hospitals. The food industry is the biggest sector we protect, as there are pieces of legislation that say insects can't appear in food. As such, inspections in high-risk food sites have increased – we are concerned about stored-product insects, such as weevils. To protect the food industry we need field biologists who understand insects, insecticides, the site and the raw materials being stored.
You will also need to understand legislation and the principles of pest management. And some common sense. You don't need a biology degree, but obviously it would help. The biggest thing is the ability to learn. We can educate people as long as they are committed.
The industry is not as valued as it should be. Everywhere is affected by pests, from Buckingham Palace down. The job is so varied. One day you could be working in a prison, the next day in a hospital.
You never know what it's like until you dip your toe in. You don't wake up and say "I want to be a pest controller", but you should come and give it a go.
Paul Rose, tutor, Sparsholt College, affiliated with Portsmouth University. (sparsholt.ac.uk)
The BSc animal management degree at Sparsholt would be an excellent step into this field as the course is adaptable to many different vocational areas. Students cover pest control and pest species eradication, specifically in the third year of the degree, so they will be aware of how pests reproduce, how they can cause problems to both people, wildlife and ecosystems, and the problems with some traditional pest control programmes.
Students also study anatomy and physiology so they will understand how the animal's body functions and how it could be affected by various chemicals, poisons and pesticides. Some units have a strong ecological theme, so that any graduates entering the industry would be aware of the variety of habitats that pests would be found in.
The course also teaches the students how to examine animal populations, which is important if you need to calculate the number of pest animals for eradication.
Some graduates from Sparsholt have gone to work in research, others in zoos. We also send some people to work in wildlife rehabilitation centres, as field ecologists with conservation organisations.
Extensive contact with those in the industry was undertaken when planning the structure of the degree programmes and the message has been that employers are looking for a strong grounding in the basic sciences that can be then built on with more specialised units.
Matt Bandar, field biologist, Rentokil
As field biologists we are involved in checking the work of technicians, making sure customers get the service they require, and monitoring the activities on sites of rodents, insects and birds.
I work on food manufacturing and packaging sites, which have to have external audits. Part of those audits is to have a pest control contingency on site. We have a contract with a manufacturer to carry out site visits. Field biologists visit two to four times a year, technicians visit more regularly.
We provide support to technicians and the sites. If they have a particular problem that they can't solve they call us in to get to the bottom of it. I find that really rewarding.
I've been in the job for eight months. I'm still learning and there's so much to take in. It's a challenging job and keeps me on my toes. The good thing is you get to manage your own time.
The interview process included spending time with a field biologist, which was really good. You had the opportunity to go out to see whether you like the job.
I haven't come across any really bad sites yet, I've been quite lucky on that.
If this article has spurred your interest in getting a job within the pest control industry, why not browse through our jobs section and see if there are any vacancies that catch your eye.