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How Do I Become a Crop Duster?

By Jeremy Laukkonen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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There are a number of steps required to become a crop duster, though there are typically no prerequisites other than a clean bill of health. The first step is typically to obtain a commercial pilot's license, since this is usually required before you can legally accept monetary compensation for your services. You may also need to obtain an agricultural pilot's license from your state or other local government, usually by taking and passing a written test. Many areas also have mentoring or apprenticeship programs that allow you to work with an experience agricultural pilot for up to one year before you become a crop duster.

The particular path that you follow to become a crop duster will vary depending on your local area and flight experience. If you already have a pilot's license, it will be much easier for you to become a crop duster. You will otherwise first need to obtain that license, then get a commercial license and any required ratings for flying by instruments or operating certain classes of planes. The instructional period will usually include classroom education in addition to practical experience, and you need to accrue a large number of flight hours before obtaining a commercial pilot's license.

One large factor that typically comes into play when attempting to obtain a commercial pilot's license is a medical certificate. There are several different types of medical certificates, and the one you have to qualify for will typically be dictated by the type of license you are seeking to obtain. If you are not in good health or have any severe medical problems, you may have difficulty getting your license.

After you have obtained a commercial pilot's license, the next step to become a crop duster is to get an agricultural pilot's license. This credential is typically issued by a country's department of food or agriculture, and usually requires that you pass a written exam. In some cases you may be able to find work as a crop duster after you have both of your licenses and your medical certificate, though it can also be necessary to participate in a mentoring or apprenticeship program.

Another factor to consider when looking to become a crop duster is insurance. In many cases you will need to obtain this before starting work, and insurance for agricultural pilots can be quite expensive. Since some insurance companies require a significant number of hours working in the field before they will issue a policy, you may also have to begin as a service technician, chemical mixer, or other related position before you can dust crops.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By Lostnfound — On Feb 12, 2015

I know crop duster pilots usually have a lot of training, but I can fully understand why their insurance is so expensive. If they have an accident, the result is usually death, dismemberment or full disability, and the insurance companies know it. So they generally charge really high rates. You just don't come back in one piece from one of those accidents.

A man was killed in a crop duster a few years ago. He ran the plane into power lines and that was it. It was very sad. He had a wife and children. Personally, I think if you are a crop duster pilot, you should remain childless. It's just too risky, and when things go bad, they go really bad.

By Grivusangel — On Feb 11, 2015

Honestly, my first thought was, "Well, you have to turn into an airplane." Yeah, I know, bad joke. But I have seen these guys do some incredible aerial maneuvers while they were dusting crops.

I'm guessing the most famous scene concerning crop dusters is the one in the movie "North by Northwest" where the crop duster is chasing Cary Grant out in the middle of nowhere. The scene where he's running and you can see the plane in the distance is iconic. Everyone has seen that shot, even if you've never seen the actual movie. It's an incredible shot and really distills the movie into one picture : being chased.

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