One of Brad Cyrier's worst days as an exterminator was the time he had to tuck his pants into his socks and button his shirt all the way up. The Sumner-based bugman had entered...

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One of Brad Cyrier’s worst days as an exterminator was the time he had to tuck his pants into his socks and button his shirt all the way up.

The Sumner-based bugman had entered an apartment and encountered thousands of cockroaches piled up several inches deep.

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That, he said, was an extreme case. It was similar to when he was called to subdue rats that had mobbed a home after the owners left pork chops cooking on the stove unattended.
After more than 25 years in pest control, even the most extreme incidents aren’t enough to gross him out.

“I’m way beyond that,” Cyrier said.

Looking for bugs and rodents or finding ways to get rid of them may sound like undesirable jobs.


Being a pest fighter




Demand:
Pretty good


Pay:
Varies widely, starting at about $21,000 a year for a pest controller and up to $74,000 for a pest (or building) inspector.


Training:
Pest controllers can get training after being hired. People who want to become pest inspectors can take a course at the Tacoma Community College main campus, 6501 S. 19th St., Tacoma. Fee: $349, includes manual. Information: www.tacoma.ctc.edu or call 253-566-5020.

Blanca Torres


But for someone like Cyrier, who uses words like “awesome” and “pretty cool” to describe his work, a career in the pest-control industry is “kind of an art.”

Termite technician Phillip Dorsey said he feels great when he leaves a house.

“I feel like I served a purpose, and that’s important.”


Controlling critters


The pest industry has two main components, pest inspection and pest control.

Inspection is about diagnosing and preventing problems versus actually treating them.

It’s not an easy job. Pest-control workers must kneel, bend, reach and crawl to inspect, modify and treat structures.

But jobs in pest inspection and pest control plentiful for individuals willing to creep with the bugs.

Demand is projected to increase for a number of reasons, reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Population growth will lead to new residential and commercial buildings that will require inspections by pest-control workers.

Also, more people are expected to use pest-control services.

In addition, tougher regulations limiting pesticide use will require more pest-management expertise.

The median salary for a pest controller is about $25,000 in the Seattle area, while most earn between $21,000 and $32,000 a year, according to Salary.com.

Pest inspectors generally make more. While there were no figures available for pest inspectors, the median pay for the similar job of building inspector is about $59,000 a year, according to Salary.com, while the range is from about $48,000 and $74,000.


Preventative measures


Home inspection is a fast-growing field because it involves evaluating an entire structure along with any pest problems, Cyrier said.

In the past, home inspectors did not necessarily inspect for pests, but are expected to now.

“Since we started this intensive process of inspection, the product has gotten better, so the application number [of chemical treatments] has decreased,” Cyrier said.

“Basically the pest-control industry has done a great job making houses better and healthier.”

Working as a home inspector in Washington state does not require a license, although pest inspection does.

About 761 people are certified pest inspectors in Washington state.

Cyrier teaches a structural pest inspection course at Tacoma Community College that corresponds to other courses in home inspection.

One of his students, Chris Gallagher, 45, of Buckley, formerly worked in the timber industry for 15 years.

“Turns out that pest-inspection part is very interesting,” he said. “There’s lots of stuff to know and learn.”

He said he can’t look at an ant on the sidewalk or the vegetation near his home the same way.

Cyrier runs both pest inspection and control businesses.

He started his pest-control company, called Bugman, in 1979 and added the home inspection part later.

Now, he spends most of his time inspecting homes.


A certain mindset


Like other service jobs, working in the pest-ridding industry means interacting with different people each day such as home and business owners.

“This job covers the entire cross-section of society,” Cyrier said.

Good verbal communication and interpersonal skills are vital because pest-control workers spend so much time with clients, pest-industry experts said.

Working among small, fast-multiplying creatures takes a certain mindset.

“I was into the science part of it,” Cyrier said. “I just took to it like a duck to water.”

He said he likes “thinking clinically” and being a problem-solver.

“If you have a moth problem in your kitchen, I’m the guy there who can fix it,” he said.

Pest-control workers should also have a strong foundation in math, chemistry and writing.

At larger companies such as Orkin, some workers are sent to the Atlanta-based company’s training facility for real-life pest, rodent and termite experience that they can apply at home.

For Cyrier, there’s nothing better than on-the-job training.

“To get proficient at doing structural pest inspection you have to look at as many homes as you can so that you can tell the beginning of something funky,” Cyrier said.

“You do that so five years down the road, that area you saw doesn’t turn into a raging infestation. The only way you’re going to learn this industry is to go and do it.”

Information from the Dallas Morning News is included in this report. Blanca Torres: 206-515-5066 or btorres@seattletimes.com.