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Careers in Botany: Job Options and Education Requirements

Botany careers require a significant amount of education. Learn about the degrees, job duties and requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

There are numerous careers in botany, including soil and plant scientist, biophysicist and biochemist, biological technician, environmental scientist and specialist, mycologist, plant breeder and horticulturist. While a bachelor's degree might get you started in this field, a master's degree or doctorate is generally needed to advance.

Essential Information

Botany careers largely deal with the biology of fossil and living plants along with their relationship to the environment. Education in botany includes many specializations in areas such as the taxonomy, physiology and anatomy of plants and their processes. A bachelor's degree is required for career entry, but advanced degree options are often required for teaching or research positions.

Botany Careers Biophysicists/Biochemists Agronomists/Soil Plant Scientists Environmental Scientists/Specialists Microbiologist Biological Technicians
Required Education Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D) Bachelor's Degree Bachelor's Degree Natural Science Bachelor's Degree in Microbiology or Ph.D Bachelor's Degree in Biology
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 8% 7% 11% 4% 5%
Median Annual Salary (2015)* $82,150 $60,050 $67,460 $67,550 $41,650

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

There are several common career options for botany graduates. Though these all fall under the larger botany umbrella, many of these scientific careers blend with one another in areas of study or emphasis. In addition to the following positions, research and teaching positions are common occupations for graduates of advanced botany degree programs.

Taxonomist

Taxonomists organize species of plants into categories, after studying individual plants and grouping their species together based on similarities. A lot the species that they identify are representative of the established evolutionary relationships of plant groups.

Agronomist

These are soil and plant scientists who work to improve the yield of field crops like grains and cotton. They develop processes that assist farmers in growing more crops and preventing disease in them.

Ecologist

These scientists study plants interactions with the environment and other organisms. They study the ecosystems of plants with the goal of protecting them and solving environmental issues.

Mycologist

Traditionally, mycologists study fungi and how these damaging organisms injure plant life. Mycologists may also be grouped as a type of microbiologist owing to their study of bacteria and algae as they relate to microorganisms.

Plant Breeder

Plant breeders use traditional hybridizing and crossbreeding techniques, rather than genetic engineering, to improve plants for human uses as well as the environment. Plant breeders are a type of plant geneticist, and other geneticists may work more directly with the plant genomes.

Horticulturist

These individuals cultivate, grow and care for plants, ranging from fruits to flowers. They can work in areas such as gardens, nurseries or tree orchards.

Biophysicist

Biophysicists study the physical and mechanical energy of cells and living organisms. Within plants, they can determine how applicable medicine cures plant disease.

Education Requirements for Botany Jobs

Careers in botany typically require a degree in plant sciences. Botany specialties may require advanced degrees. Among the many major tracks or options in botany programs are plant physiology, ecology, plant genetics, systematics and plant pathology.

Bachelor of Science in Botany

These 4-year degree programs feature a number of focused education tracks one can choose from. They prepare graduates to enter botany careers at the technician or assistant level in government, education, parks, gardens and more. Common courses in these programs include:

  • Plant genetics
  • Soil types
  • Field botany

Master of Science in Botany

These 2-year graduate degree programs generally require a thesis or research report, regardless of whether a student plans to advance to a Ph.D. degree program. Common courses include:

  • Plant systematics
  • Plant anatomy
  • Evolution

Doctor of Philosophy in Botany

A doctorate degree primarily prepares graduates for research careers in botany. Common courses in these degree programs include:

  • Research
  • Dissertation
  • Conservation biology

Career Info for Botany Jobs

Salary and career outlook varies according to many factors, including the specific job title and level of education. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides information for several careers in this field. Biophysicists and biochemists, with a doctoral or professional degree, earned a median salary of $82,150 in 2015. Agronomists, or soil and plant scientists, earned $60,050. Environmental scientists and specialists earned $67,460 at that time. Microbiologists earned $67,550, while biological technicians, who help out in laboratories, earned $41,650. Outlook was expected to be below average for microbiologists from 2014 to 2024, while biophysicists and biochemists, biological technicians and soil and plant scientists can expect average job growth during the same time period; environmental scientists and specialists were expected to enjoy an employment growth of 11%, per the BLS.

Botany professionals perform tasks that vary from growing plants to studying how to prevent plant diseases or improve crops. Many of the teaching and advanced research positions in the botany field require a graduate degree, though bachelor's degree program graduates can find positions assisting with research or working as technicians.

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