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In PA, you need to pass certain tests to get the certification. After initial certification, you need to continue to take courses to maintain your certification. The course work may be every year, or less frequent.
You may find the timing for lawn work out of sequence. I think most of the courses are offered in the off-season, when lawn work is in down-time. The state may offer the courses throughout the year, but perhaps those in our industry primarily take them during the Winter so as not to conflict with work. Often the continuing courses are offered as part of other events, such as conferences, or by a company selling products.
To answer some questions. Yes you do need to have your license in your hand before going out to apply any pesticides. Then you will also need proof of insurance, and your BU# placed on your vehicle 3" high within 30 day's of receiving your license. As far as fertilizing goes, you can put all the straight fertilizer you want down on any lawn, but you cannot apply anything mixed with herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, etc.