Feature articles

12 November 2019

Trading up! Pest management: trade or profession?

Your association | PPC97 November 2019

This year BPCA’s Executive Board set up a series of three working groups, to find out what championing professionalism in pest management looks like.

One group has been taking a look at industry qualifications, while another has been investigating the benefits of an ‘Institute of Pest Management’.

In this issue we will look in detail at the findings of the third group, which was tasked with answering the question: “Is pest control a profession or a trade?”

trading up trade or profession

Made up of people from across the BPCA membership, the research group would need to define what constitutes both a trade and a profession, to come to a conclusion about where the pest management sector currently fits.

From there, they would be able to discuss the future of pest management: how do we want to be viewed, going forward?

And what about the variety of roles which are present in the industry? Do some of these fit better with one definition than the other?

‘Trade or profession?’ working group members

Driving professionalism: are we there yet?

It’s vital that in a sector like pest management we can identify ourselves, and be identified by others, as experts in our field.

Although the general public might consider pest control to be a trade, this doesn’t necessarily reflect the complexities of pest management.

Compare this with professionals, a term most often associated with lawyers, doctors, accountants and other people educated to degree level.

Where does that leave us?

BPCA Chief Exec, Ian Andrew, says: “We drive professionalism, but are we a profession? I have a sense that most pest controllers want to be seen as a professional. Are we there yet? Possibly not. Can we get there? Definitely.”

He continued, “It’s time to move away from the old-fashioned thinking of pest controllers being the ‘rat catcher’. We know that it’s so much more than that.

“What’s getting in the way? Probably just the lack of a clear roadmap of how we get there, which is what the professionalism working groups can help to build.”

Finally: does it matter?

What does matter is that we are trusted by our clients, who view us as the experts in pest management.

The more effectively we can build the perception of pest management as being beyond a trade, the greater the end-user trust is likely to be.

Spot the difference


  1. A job requiring manual skills and special training.


  1. A paid occupation, especially one that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification
  2. A body of people engaged in a particular profession.

These are the dictionary definitions, but what do they mean in practice?

A profession is considered to be something a little more than a job.

Professionals are people we rely on to be experts, such as dentists, teachers and paramedics.

A profession can be described as:

  • An occupation which will help you to build your skills and develop your expertise in a field which interests you
  • A career in which you need to keep learning, be challenged and stay up to date with the latest developments in your chosen area
  • A chance to earn more money! Professionalism pays: people with professional body membership will earn more than those without (an average of £152,000 more in fact).

How is a trade different?

A trade requires work experience, on-the-job training, and often formal vocational education, but not a bachelor’s degree.

Usually manual in some way, these can be split into three groups; service, construction and industrial trades.

We can also categorise different types of job into three classifications; white collar, blue collar and the lesser-known grey collar workers.

White collar

Relating to the work done or the people who work in an office or other professional environment. (Oxford Dictionary of English Third Edition, 2010)

  • Software developer
  • Accountant
  • Analyst
  • Management Consultant
  • Civil Engineer.

Blue collar

Relating to manual work or workers, particularly in industry, ‘a blue collar neighbourhood’. (Oxford Dictionary of English Third Edition, 2010)

  • Mining
  • Textile manufacturing
  • Farming
  • Commercial fishing
  • Landscaping.

Grey collar

Refers to occupations that incorporate some of the elements of both blue and white collar, and generally are in between the two categories in terms of income earning capability.

  • Clergy
  • Firefighter
  • Paralegal
  • Airline pilot
  • Stenographer
  • Teacher.

Where do we fall?

The working group found that pest management ticks all the attributes of being a trade and a number of those which make up a profession.

Responsibility   Y Y
Accountability   Y Y
Institutional preparation   Y  
Higher education   Y  
 Autonomy   Y Y
 Code of conduct   Y Y
 Clients not customers   Y Y
 Direct working relationships   Y Y
 Ethical constraints   Y Y
Merit-based   Y  
Respect and status   Y  
Specialist Y Y Y
On-the-job training Y   Y
Vocational education Y   Y
Manual skills Y   Y

On this basis, it seems that pest control occupies the space spanning trade and profession but ultimately fits more comfortably into the trade category.

Is there a way of breaking down the industry into roles which fit into each of these categories?

For example, could we create a two-tier industry, similar to an accountant and a chartered accountant?

The report from the group suggests this would mean accepting that there is a lower level of skills required for certain types of more basic pest control.

Residential pest management might always be viewed as a trade, for example.

Then there are elements of pest management which could be elevated to ‘profession’ status, such as field biologists and technical staff specialising in the more complex work, such as manufacturing and BRC clients.

Your thoughts

What do you think? Lend us your opinions and tell us where you think pest management fits.


Source: PPC97

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