Should I Become a Botanist?
Botanists conduct scientific research on plant life. They study plant life as it relates to agriculture, environmental policy, nutrition, medicine and the environment.
Botanists can find work with private companies, government agencies, universities or nonprofits, such as museums and botanical gardens. Most of their work is done in labs or other facilities, and some travel may be necessary. Botanists with a bachelor's or master's degree can work assisting with research, but doctoral holders are more likely to take the lead on research studies.
|Degree Level||Bachelor's or master's degree for entry-level; doctoral degree generally needed for advanced research positions|
|Degree Field||Botany, plant science, biology, or another closely related field|
|Experience||Research experience preferred|
|Key Skills||Analytical, mathematical, and critical thinking skills|
|Salary||$64,700 (2016 median salary for all botanists)|
Most entry-level botanists need a bachelor's or master's degree in botany, plant science, biology or closely related field. Advanced research positions usually require a doctoral degree. Botanists should also have strong analytical, mathematical, and critical thinking skills. In December 2016, the median yearly salary for a botanist was $64,700, according to Salary.com.
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
Individuals interested in becoming botanists must have an undergraduate degree in science. Bachelor's degrees in botany or plant science are available. Coursework includes biology, chemistry and physics, as well as genetics, plant taxonomy and plant anatomy. Degrees in science such as biology or chemistry may be suitable for students seeking to pursue graduate studies in botany.
Focus on Research Skills
If possible, take advantage of occasions to work with faculty on research. Another way to improve research skills is to participate in an internship that includes research. Strong research skills will prepare students for entry-level positions in botany as well as graduate studies.
Step 2: Pursue a Master's Degree
Individuals with master's degrees can pursue a wider variety of opportunities. With a master's degree, students can focus on specific areas of botany, such as ecology, marine botany or conservation. Students may choose a thesis or non-thesis option, based on their career goals.
Practice Writing Skills
To effectively write theses, dissertations and publishable papers, scientists should have effective writing skills. Students can invest in writing style guides, take advantage of a school's writing center, and of course, practice to learn to write effectively.
Step 3: Consider a Ph.D.
A Ph.D. will provide career advancement opportunities in botany, and graduates can lead research for government organizations and private industry. They may also teach at the university level. Some schools allow students pursuing a doctoral degree in botany to choose a track or concentration. Students will also likely be required to complete a teaching program. Doctoral candidates often spend the first part of their studies studying research methodology and the second part conducting research that culminates into a dissertation.
Ph.D. candidates are often assigned an advisor to help devise a course of study. Take advantage of faculty members, as well as senior botanists you meet at networking events. You can get advice from them regarding research and navigating graduate school.
Many doctoral students seek to get published through their own research or by assisting faculty on research.
Remember, you'll need a bachelor's or master's degree in botany, plant science or biology to obtain an entry-level job as a botanist and a doctoral degree to qualify for an advanced research position. The median annual salary for a botanist in December 2016 was $64,700.