How to Become a Botanist: Career Guide
Becoming a botanist takes a combination of education, an interest in plants and a passion for science and nature, the proper skill set, and knowing where to look for a job. Below we've outlined what you'll need to succeed in a career as a botanist. We've also included helpful information for a botanist career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!
Education Needed to Become a Botanist
To become a botanist, you need to begin by earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Botany or a closely related field such as Biology or Environmental Science. While you are earning your undergraduate degree, you should be getting a good idea of where your interests and ambitions lie.
If you want to become a botanist who works as a consultant in the environmental, horticulture and agriculture sectors, you will need a master’s degree in botany.
To become a botanist who works in research and university teaching positions a PhD in Botany is needed. Many botanists also choose to continue their training as post-doctoral fellows after receiving their Ph.Ds.
Tip for Success: Most colleges and universities in Canada and the United States offer either a botany or biology program, and many of them allow you to customize your course load to some extent, based on your career goals and interests.
Botanist Job Description
Botanists are responsible for studying the properties and life processes of plants. They study how plants grow, reproduce, and manufacture food. Botanists may be employed by government agencies, private research organizations, colleges or universities, botanical gardens or private industry.
Botanist Job Duties
• May specialize in the study of one type or group of plants
• Examine aspects shared by different plant species Identify and classify plants
• Study the life process of plants
• Study the effects of temperature, humidity, light, and other environmental conditions on plant life processes
• May search for and develop plants that can be sold as food, drugs, fibers, or other useful goods
• Use specialized equipment
• Confer with other members of research team
• Supervise the work of biological technicians
• Determine objectives and methods of research
• Record detailed notes of work processes
• Prepare and publish reports on findings of research
Gain Career Experience as a Student
Landing an internship opportunity, working with professors and other faculty on research projects, or getting a summer job in botany career fields are all great ways to add beef to your resume and gain career experience. Speak to your school's career services office, as well as your Botany professors and other faculty, in order to learn about any available positions.
How to Get a Job as a Botanist
Now that you've acquired an education, a career focus, skills in botany and research experience, you're ready to become a botanist! The last thing you have to do is nail the interview...once you earn one.
Your last step to becoming a botanist is to make a list of possible employers and suitable positions, and start handing out resumes. Do your research and figure out which companies are hiring botanists and related positions; these employers will be in a variety of sectors.
Who Hires Botanists?
Botanist careers can take many different forms, as there are many employers, representing many different sectors of industry that are interested in the skills and knowledge of botanists. Below is an example of the types of employers that hire botanists.
• Agricultural research agencies/firms
• Biological photography companies
• Biological supply companies
• Biotechnology firms
• Botanical gardens and arboretums
• Colleges, universities, and plant research centers
• Ecological consulting companies
• Environmental and biotechnical regulatory agencies
• Environmental impact research and assessment organizations
• Federal biological/botanical agencies
• Federal department of agriculture
• Fruit Growers
• Landscape management and design companies
• Marine/freshwater biological organizations
• Museums and conservatories
• National, state/provincial parks
• Petrochemical, chemical, and lumber and paper companies
• Pharmaceutical firms
• Schools (teacher)
• Science journals
Find Botanist Job Opportunities
Employment Fields for Botanists
Botanists apply their specialized knowledge in various fields, including:
• Land Reclamation
• Plant Breeding
• Plant Biotechnology
It's difficult to determine how much Botanists make, as it is very difficult to acquire accurate information regarding the salary levels of botanists, the U.S Labor and Statistics reports that the median salary for Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists, who typically perform duties very similar to those of botanists, was $57,430 USD per year.
In Canada, the numbers are a little different. According to the 2003 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey (most recent figures available), those working the in Biologists occupational group (which includes botanists) in Alberta earned an average salary of $22,500 to $93,800 CAD per year. The average salary for employees in this group was $58,400 CAD per year.
Please note: Salary levels can vary greatly for botanists, depending on the level of education, who the employer is, and the amount of experience of the botanist.
Career Advancement for Botanists
Botanists typically receive greater responsibility and independence in their work as they become more experienced. Furthering their education can also lead to greater responsibility in their career. Botanists with a Ph.D. are usually responsible to directing research projects and overseeing the employees and students on the research team.
Working Conditions for Botanists
Some botanists conduct their work and research activities indoors in offices, classrooms and laboratories. These botanists tend to work regular working hours that may be extended to weekends and evenings.
Many botanists conduct their work and research activities primarily outdoors or in greenhouses. These botanists typically perform such tasks such as collecting and identifying terrestrial and aquatic plants, taking samples, as well as surveying and documenting plant communities. These botanists may work irregular or extended hours, and are often required to travel.
Careers Similar to Botanist
Listed below are jobs that are similar in nature to Botanist, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.
Professional Associations for Botanists
Professional associations for Botanists are collections of practitioners, organizations and agencies committed to the support, development and enhancement of botany and related careers. The field of Botany has a number of professional associations that support ethics in related professions, report current research findings within the field, and foster partnerships among its members.
Below are some of the numerous benefits to becoming a member of a professional Botanist association.
• Demonstrate professional commitments as a botanist or aspiring botanist
• Maintain current awareness of industry developments and trends
• May be able to take professional Botany courses
• May be able to participate in industry research projects and/or policy decisions
• Networking opportunities: Meet potential employers, partners and mentors
• Learn about employment and professional experience opportunities
• May be entitled to discounts from sponsors
• Nominate yourself or others for industry awards
• Set yourself apart from other qualified applicants
Those interested in becoming a botanist should visit these websites for more information:
Please use the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a Botanist.
Alberta Learning and Information Service website: www.alis.alberta.ca
Alberta Society of Professional Biologists website: www.aspb.ab.ca
Bureau of Labor Statistics website: www.bls.gov
Canadian Council for Human Resources in the Environment Industry website: www.cchrei.ca
Scholarships for Becoming a Botanist
Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!
Becoming a Botanist: Applicable Majors
Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming a Botanist. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!