Botany Degree Program Information

Botany, a branch of biological science, is the study of plants, including how they survive and interact with other living and nonliving things in the environment. Degree programs in this field are available at the bachelor's, master's and Ph.D. levels, and they emphasize plant biology, chemistry and plant genetics.

Essential Information

At the undergraduate and graduate levels, the curriculum for a botany degree typically consists of lecture-based courses, labs and field research. Master's and doctoral programs tend to be more focused on research. In the master's botany program, students have the option for thesis or non-thesis programs. After beginning a Ph.D. in Botany program, some universities require that students declare a specialization, such as plant genetics or plant ecology. Students have the option to select a thesis or non-thesis track in master's botany program. While working on a Ph.D., students may also be required to satisfy a teaching requirement or submit a dissertation.

  • Program Levels in Botany: Bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees
  • Prerequisites: High school diploma or GED for bachelor's programs; bachelor's degree in botany or related field for master's and doctoral programs
  • Program Specializations: Plant genetics or plant ecology for doctoral programs
  • Other Requirements: Thesis may be required for master's programs; teaching and dissertation for doctoral programs

Bachelor's Degree in Botany

A four-year bachelor's degree program in botany provides the foundation for prospective botanists to pursue a graduate level education or find an entry-level career. After completing most university core requirements, botany students begin to focus heavily on biological sciences, mostly non-animal biology, and chemistry courses. Coursework specific to a bachelor's degree in botany is heavy in plant biology and basic chemistry. A lab often accompanies these courses and students are occasionally required to conduct field research, such as studying plants in their natural environments. Most undergraduate botany programs include course topics in:

  • Organic chemistry and cellular biology
  • Entomology
  • Plant taxonomy and anatomy
  • Plant physiology
  • Genetics
  • Plant ecology

Master of Science in Botany

Students entering Master of Science in Botany programs have the opportunity to further their education of plants by continuing a general botany program or selecting a more concentrated area of study. Graduate students deepen their understanding of the concepts introduced during an undergraduate botany degree program, including classification, environmental studies and various biological concepts. Program courses include:

  • Plant geography
  • Regional botany
  • Mycology
  • Molecular biology
  • Phycology

Doctor of Philosophy in Botany

By the time botany students reach the doctoral level, they begin to focus largely on their own research and dissertations. Admission to a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Botany program may include the completion of calculus, statistics, organic chemistry, physics and various biology courses while enrolled in a bachelor's or master's degree program.

Ph.D. coursework primarily allows students to conduct independent research. Doctoral students may also enroll in graduate level courses focused on the more advanced and developing concepts in botany. Course topics often cover:

  • Foundations of medicine
  • Biomedical research
  • Nomenclature
  • Biological conservation

Popular Career Options

Undergraduate programs prepare students for graduate school enrollment or entry-level research assistant positions. Graduates of master's or doctoral programs may have more advanced job opportunities as plant scientists or college professors. After completing a Ph.D. in botany, graduates have a wider range of career options and the opportunity for advancement. Scientists who hold a doctoral degree often opt to work in academia or head research teams. Job options include:

  • Botanist
  • Biological scientist
  • Government or independent researcher or research assistant
  • High school biology or botany teacher, university professor
  • Research technician for a governmental agency
  • Landscape designer, or greenhouse or nursery manager

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic (BLS) estimates that the employment of soil and plant scientists, including botanists, will increase by approximately 8% between 2012 and 2022 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported soil and plant scientists earned a median annual wage of $59,920 in 2014. According to Salary.com, botanists received a median annual income of $63,183 as of 2015.

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