Botany is a branch of biological science that focuses on the study of plants and how they survive and interact with other living and nonliving things in the environment. 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.
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.
In the master's botany program, students have the option for thesis or non-thesis programs. Students have the opportunity to further their education of plants by continuing a general botany program or selecting a more concentrated area of study. A bachelor's degree in botany or related field is necessary for admission.
After beginning a Ph.D. in Botany program, some universities require that students declare a specialization, such as plant genetics or plant ecology. While working on a Ph.D., students may also be required to satisfy a teaching requirement or submit a dissertation. A master's degree is mandated for entrance. Admission requirements 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.
Bachelor's Degree in Botany
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
- Plant taxonomy and anatomy
- Plant physiology
- Plant ecology
Master of Science in Botany
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
- Molecular biology
Doctor of Philosophy in Botany
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
- 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:
- 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 7% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported soil and plant scientists earned a median annual wage of $60,050 in 2015. According to Salary.com, botanists received a median annual income of $64,417 as of 2016.
Undergraduate programs in botany prepare students for careers as research assistants, while graduate programs may lead to work as plant scientists and professors. Most programs, regardless of level, include hands-on learning components, like laboratory sessions.