How to Become a Plant Geneticist


How To Become a Plant Geneticist: Career Guide

To become a plant geneticist you need a combination of having an interest in plant biology, research experience, laboratory experience and training and an advanced education.


Below we've outlined what you'll need to succeed in a career as a plant geneticist.


We've also included helpful information for a plant geneticist career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Education Needed to Become a Plant Geneticist

To become a plant geneticist, you need to begin by earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology or a closely related field such as Botany or Biochemistry.


Completing coursework in biology, chemistry, mathematics and physics is a great way to build an educational foundation for your prospective career as a plant geneticist.


Depending on where your career ambitions and interests lie, you will likely need a graduate degree, such as a master's or a doctoral degree, in botany or biology to become a plant geneticist.


Depending on the requirements of the employer, a Master’s degree in Biology or Botany is typically sufficient for many applied research positions.


To become a plant geneticist who works in research and university teaching positions a Ph.D. in Plant Genetics, Botany or Biology is needed.


Plant geneticists must also complete continuing education throughout their careers in order to keep their skills current stay up to date with advancements in the field.




Plant Geneticist Job Description

Plant geneticists are responsible for conducting research to improve existing plants and crops, as well as create new varieties of plants and crops. Plant geneticists work to improve certain characteristics of plants and crops, such as appearance, nutritional value, size, drought resistance and increased levels of disease tolerance.



Plant Geneticist Job Duties

• Plan and develop research activities and objectives

• Plan the cost of research, as well as which methods will be used to conduct it

• Cross plants to produce new breeding material for field and glasshouse trials

• Analyze and scientifically assess plant breeding in laboratory and field trials

• Maintain current knowledge of scientific advancements and discoveries within the field

• Manage and support technical staff

• Maintain detailed records throughout the cycle of research

• Prepare and publish reports based on the progress and discoveries of research

• Submit reports to funding bodies and other scientists



Characteristics of Successful Plant Geneticists

Even with the right education and skill set, becoming a successful plant geneticist is not guaranteed. If you’re reading the list of personality and intellectual traits listed below, and you recognize many of the traits in yourself, you may be well suited for a career as a plant geneticist.


• An interest, curiosity and appreciation for different forms of life

• An interest in mathematics, statistics and science

• Excellent oral and written communication skills

• Willingness and interest to keep up with advancements in the field

• Able to use logic and reasoning to solve problems

• Enjoy conducting research and synthesizing information

• Must enjoy working with specialized equipment and instruments

• Attention to detail and excellent observation skills

• Strong organizational skills and ability to keep detailed records

• Ability to excel in a team environment and effectively deal with difference in opinion




Who Hires Plant Geneticists?

Plant geneticist 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 these specialized biologists. Below is an example of the types of employers that hire plant geneticists.


• Agribusiness companies

• Biotechnology companies

• Food production companies

• Government departments

• Pharmaceutical companies

• Private research firms

• Universities




Plant Geneticist Salary

It's difficult to determine how much plant geneticists make, as it is very difficult to acquire accurate information regarding the salary levels of these specialized biologists. The U.S Labor and Statistics reports that the median salary for Agricultural and Food Scientists, who typically perform duties very similar to those of plant geneticists, was $58,450 USD per year (2010 figures).


These salary figures for Canadian plant geneticists are equally difficult to come by. 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Biologists and Related Scientists occupational group earned on average from $26.73 to $62.00 an hour. The average wage for this occupational group was $39.83 an hour.


Please Note: Salary levels can vary greatly for plant geneticists, depending on the level of education, who the employer is, and their amount of experience.



Gain Career Experience In Plant Genetics

Gaining career experience via part-time jobs and internships while you’re a student is a great way to not only strengthen your skills, knowledge and competencies in biology and plant genetics, but also your resume and your network.


Ask your professors about part time jobs and internships that may be available. Biology and Botany departments in universities often hire student assistants to help with library, field, and laboratory research. A part time job in research has many benefits, including:


• Earn money to pay for school

• Work with someone who can write a letter of recommendation

• Get career advice

• Gain experience in research and related tasks

• Strengthen your resume


Summer internships are also a great way to learn about a career as a plant geneticist. Some internship positions may even allow you to conduct original research, which as you could imagine would be an incredible opportunity for many reasons.


Speak with the career services office, your professors and other Biology or Botany department faculty and staff about any available internship opportunities they are aware of. Chances are that they can at least point you in the right direction as to which organizations and companies hire biology and botany interns.



Work Conditions for Plant Geneticists

Plant geneticists usually work in a controlled laboratory environment. They may work with hazardous substances such as chemicals and radioactive materials. Plant geneticists typically work normal weekday working hours, although they may be required to carry their work into evenings and weekends from time to time.



Careers Similar to Plant Geneticist

Listed below are jobs that are similar in nature to that of a plant geneticist, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Agricultural Chemist


Cell Biologist

DNA Analyst




References: Plant Geneticist Career

Please use the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a plant geneticist.



Occupations in Alberta:Geneticist.” (March 16, 2016). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 8, 2020.

Occupations in Alberta:Biologist.” (March 31, 2019). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 8, 2020.

Occupational Employment and Wages:Soil and Plant Scientists.” (March 30, 2018). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved January 8, 2020.

Job Profile:Plant breeder/geneticist.” AGCAS editors (March, 2019). Prospects website. Retrieved January 8, 2020.



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Scholarships for Becoming a Plant Geneticist

Scholarships listed for majors that apply to becoming a Plant Geneticist can be found on our Biology Scholarships and Botany Scholarships pages.


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 Plant Geneticist: Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming a plant geneticist. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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