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Careers in Botany

Updated on August 31, 2014
Paula Atwell profile image

Paula Atwell is a freelance writer with WriterAccess, webmaster, member of Pinterest Party on FB and the owner of Lake Erie Artist Gallery.

Requirements

To pursue most careers in botany, a minimum of four years of college is required along with a Bachelor's Degree. To qualify for a broader range of positions within this field, additional education such as a Master's Degree or Ph.D. are required.

To prepare for a career in botany, you can start while still in high school. Taking college prep courses in the areas of mathematics, English, foreign language, biology, physics, and chemistry is a good start. Humanities and social studies courses may also prove valuable.

There are also extracurricular activities that can provide you with experience in the area of botany, such as participation in science fairs, or working part time at a job or internship in areas related to botany such as farms, parks, or nurseries. Taking the right classes and participating in the right extracurricular activities will set you on the right path for pursuing a career in this field.

What is Botany?

The scientific study of plants is known as botany. Botany is a very broad field that offers many different career opportunities for the aspiring botanist. Plant biology can include studying how plants interact with the environment, while field botanists may conduct experiments to better understand how plants grow under various conditions. Botanists work in the field and also sit behind a microscope to perform their studies.

What we come to learn from their work can enhance our lives by improving supplies of fibers, foods, medicines, plant product, and even building materials for use in our daily lives. Botanical knowledge also assists conservationists in managing wilderness areas, parks, forests, and other outdoor areas. Studies in botany also help environmental protection and public health professionals develop solutions for problems concerning pollution.

Source

Before College

Aside from taking courses that will put you on the right career path, it is advisable to contact the Office of Administrations of every school you are interested in attending to gather as much information as you can about each school's programs.

Find out answers to questions such as their school requirements, facilities, course options, financial aid options, and scholarships. Keep in mind that many schools have one department of biology as opposed to separate departments of plant biology and biology.

Careers in Horticulture and Botany (Careers in…Series)
Careers in Horticulture and Botany (Careers in…Series)

A good resource to use as a guide as you search for a career in botany.

 

Career Choice

Are you considering botany as a future career?

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What to Expect During College

Individual courses taken will not only depend upon the particular requirements of the school you attend, but also on your own personal interests. Taking a broad range of general education courses is important, as well as taking a course specializing in plant biology.

Before enrolling in any type of specialized botany course, many schools will first require taking a core program in biology. Participating in an undergraduate research project is also highly recommended. Consider pursuing a summer job or internship in the field of botany to provide valuable educational experience you cannot get in the classroom. These types of opportunities accept a limited number of participants and spots fill up quickly, generally in the spring. Places offering such jobs or internships might include college and university research laboratories, agricultural experiment stations, private companies, government agencies, and freshwater and marine biological stations.

Botanists Study the Biology of Plants

Cross-section of leaf during color change
Cross-section of leaf during color change | Source

Careers in the Field of Botany

There are many different careers available in the field of botany. For the person who enjoys working outdoors, consider careers such as plant explorer, conversationalist, forester, ecologist, and taxonomist.

  • For those who excel in mathematics, consider such career options as systems ecology, modeling, genetics, biophysics, or developmental botany.
  • Chemistry buffs might enjoy a career as a molecular biologist, plant biochemist, plant physiologist, or chemotaxonomist.
  • Many other areas of study in the field of botany exist, such as mycology, microbiology, phycology, ornamental horticulture and landscape design, plant breeding, and plant pathology.

In addition to these career options, there are many other areas of specialization in the field of botany. These include plant biology specialties, applied plant sciences, organismal specialties, and specialties in the areas of education, exploration, and history.

Botanist at Work

Becca Hale measuring a water sample.
Becca Hale measuring a water sample. | Source

Where to Find Career Opportunities

The Botanical Society of America provides a list of available job opportunities from all over the United States on their website. There are several posts available for post-doctoral, fellowship, and other career opportunities.

Employment Statistics

If you are wondering what you might make each year by pursuing a career in botany, here are some useful statistics from the United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics regarding employment and wages as of May of 2013.These apply to careers in biological science.

On the lower end of the spectrum, the 10 percent of those employed in this area make approximately $18.96 per hour, resulting in an annual wage of around $39,440. On the high end of the spectrum and in the 90th percentile, hourly wages in the same field can be as high as $53.29 per hour, with an annual wage of approximately $110,850 according to the BLS. These are national statistics. The states with the highest concentrations of jobs in this field include Maryland, Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho.

Occupational employment and wage statistics for those in the field of soil and plant science as of May, 2013 show the lower wages paying around $16.40 per hour in the 10th percentile, with annual wages of around $34,120. The highest paying jobs in this area of botany in the 90th percentile pay around $46.14 per hour, with an annual wage of around $95,970. The states with the highest number of people employed in this field include Iowa, California, Oregon, Illinois, and Texas.

The Outlook of Botany as a Career

Those interested in the career of botany may also have concerns about the future of this career path. The news here is actually good, as new positions in the field of botany are expected to continuing increase at a faster than average rate from present day until the turn of the century.

Modern-day concerns with the environment regarding such issues as air, soil, and water pollution opens up many jobs for ecologists in both industry and government. An increased need for botanical explorers will also result as we continue to seek new ways to improve crops and discover new drugs and medications.

With the ever increasing population comes the ever increasing need of producing better food supplies. All of these legitimate concerns will require many years to resolve or find solutions for, you can rest assured that demand for workers in the botanical fields will continue to be great.

Where Are Botanists Needed?

If you are wondering not only what career path within the field of botany you might want to explore, you may also be wondering where you might end up working. The main employers of people who have degrees in botany include educational institutions such as high school, community colleges, and universities. Jobs offered in these educational institutions might include those of researchers, teachers, and administrators.

Other main employers of people with botany degrees are Federal and State Agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Germplasm Resources Laboratory, National Arboretum, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Medical Plant Resources Laboratory, Public Health Service, National Aeronautic and Space administration, and many more.

Many industries also hire botanists, and in fact, are the third highest major employer in this field. You might find jobs in drug companies, the oil industry, fruit growers, food companies, seed and nursery companies, fermentation industries, lumber and paper companies, biotechnology firms, as well as several other options.

© 2014 Paula Atwell

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    • Lorelei Cohen profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 14 months ago from Canada

      When I went to school we were given Biology and Chemistry. I would have loved to have studied Botany or Geology

    • Paula Atwell profile image
      Author

      Paula Atwell 3 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      @Paul thanks, my daughter is looking into this. :)

    • pkmcruk profile image

      pkmcr 3 years ago from Cheshire UK

      Fantastic information someone looking at whether this is a career option for them. Will share on my Scoopit page for Job Seekers

    • Paula Atwell profile image
      Author

      Paula Atwell 3 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      @teaches Thanks. Ironically, my other daughter is studying environmental science. Maybe they will end up working together. Stranger things have happened. :)

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      With all the environmental concerns today, we need more people to enroll in Botany. A friend of mine was a botanist and he could grow about anything placed on God's green earth. Great post on this career and I hope we find more people who take an interest in it in college.

    • Paula Atwell profile image
      Author

      Paula Atwell 3 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      Well, she is just looking at colleges now, but if she stays in any science, that will be fine.

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile image

      William Leverne Smith 3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      If she loves the field, is good at it, I say go for it. It is fascinating, for sure! ;-)

    • Paula Atwell profile image
      Author

      Paula Atwell 3 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      My daughter thinks she wants to go into botany in college, so I am doing a lot of research on it. :)

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile image

      William Leverne Smith 3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Excellent presentation. I recall my college botany class fondly. I've also recently met several botanists at National Parks. Fine careers. ;-)