Overview of Plant Biology Majors
Plants are responsible for converting solar energy into primary resources for all of Earth's living organisms. Online degree programs in plant biology provide candidates with an understanding of the fundamental aspects of plant function and interaction between organisms. Programs are designed to provide aspiring biologists with skills in a number of scientific study areas, including physiology, cellular and molecular biology, and even genetics. There are a number of different career paths graduates can choose to pursue after earning their degrees in plant biology online. As candidates prepare to enter the program of their choice, they must be sure to stand out from the competition during the application process as biology programs can be quite competitive.
Admittance Requirements for Plant Biology Programs
Biology programs — whether offered online or on campus — tend to be more competitive in their admissions requirements than other programs. While candidates can submit an application after receiving a high school diploma or GED equivalent, applicants will have better luck in getting accepted if they are able to show a cumulative GPA of at least 2.75 on a scale of 4.0. Some universities will list their current freshman statistics, illustrating for interested candidates the scope of their competition and what the institution expects when selecting new program participants. In addition to a higher GPA, candidates who have participated in relevant extracurricular activities or who have completed advanced placement coursework in the sciences will also stand out from the crowd.
Common Courses for Plant Biology Majors
Plant biology coursework covers a number of scientific disciplines, preparing aspiring graduates for a wide variety of possible career paths. In general, candidates can expect the following coursework in their online plant biology programs:
Principles of Ecology & Evolution
In order to understand how plants function and relate to their surroundings, candidates must first understand the basics of plant ecology and evolution. Studies in this area examine the distribution and abundance of various forms of plant life from the individual level through to a holistic view of the entire ecosystem. Candidates will also learn about global patterns in plant life cycles, as well as how they interact with other plants and their environments.
The cellular and molecular biology of plants is one of the main focuses of the plant biology online degree program. During this course, candidates will learn how plants convert solar energy into valuable resources for all living organisms. They will also learn about how to interpret plants' cell biology, metabolism, physiology, genetics, and evolution, and use these skills to predict how humans can impact the environment.
Plants & People
Understanding how plants and people coexist is another fundamental principle learned through plant biology studies. Through this coursework, program participants will gain an understanding of plants' significance both in historical contexts and in modern society. Additionally, they will learn about the origins and uses of various plant life by evaluating their relationship with people and society as a whole.
Candidates studying plant biology will need to understand how geography and environmental elements impact their life cycles. Plant geography provides additional context about bioclimatic zonation, plant-geographic processes, and physical environmental factors that contribute to plants' individual roles within their respective ecosystems. Program participants will study both global plant geography and North American-specific plant geography.
To better understand how to identify and differentiate plant life, candidates will learn how to illustrate various plant structures and organisms. Not only a lesson in illustration, this course allows candidates to familiarize themselves with the specific terminology used and structures seen across different plant life. The coursework is also designed to sharpen candidates' observational skills when working in the field.
How to Choose an Online Plant Biology Program
Because so much of plant biology involves visual representations, candidates interested in earning their degrees online should be sure that the program to which they apply is able to provide sufficient visual stimulation and instruction. Candidates should also have ample opportunities to gain hands-on experience through lab work, internships, or other programs designed to further develop their skills in plant biology. Some institutions will have existing connections with local museums or laboratories for program participants to gain real-life experience prior to graduation, such as the University of Georgia internship program with the Museum of Natural History. Be sure to research the opportunities for continued learning beyond the classroom prior to submitting your application to ensure you get the most out of your educational experience.
Available Careers in Plant Biology
Many graduates from online programs in plant biology go on to become environmental scientists. These specialists observe their natural surroundings to help protect the environment and human health. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of environmental scientists is projected to grow by 8% between 2018 and 2028, with the median pay for these scientists being $71,130 annually as of 2018. Graduates can also pursue a number of different career paths with their plant biology degrees, including: