Plant science is the exploration of the composition and ecology of plant life. Learn about degree programs, topics of study, career options, employment outlook and salary data for related careers.
Plant science is the study of the growth, reproduction, structure, evolution, classification and use of plants. You can find associate's, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs in plant science, plant biology, botany and horticulture. Though these fields vary somewhat, you can explore how plants directly affect everything from what you eat to what you wear.
If you're interested in plant science studies, you can choose from many academic and career paths. As a botanist, you could conduct studies of plant life in remote places, or you could educate people about ecological restoration. Other plant scientists study the genetics of plants and how plant DNA can be used in various applications. You could refine the taxonomic classification of plants, or you could study agriculture and run a farm. Additionally, landscape designers, independent organic farmers and golf course managers all use plant science in some way to select, grow and maintain plant materials for various uses.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2012, food and agricultural scientists held about 38,500 jobs, 16,300 of which went to soil and plant scientists. The BLS projected that the employment of soil and plant scientists would increase by 8% from 2012-2022, and for food scientists and technologists employment opportunities would increase by 11%. As of May 2012, the median annual salary for plant scientists was $58,990, and for food scientists and technologists it was $59,630 (www.bls.gov).
According to the BLS, most career opportunities in agriculture science require only a bachelor's degree. Associate's degree programs can prepare you for many careers in horticulture. For some positions, such as working as a soil scientist, you must earn a state license before you begin practicing. A bachelor's degree program in plant science also provides a foundation for graduate studies in the agricultural sciences, including plant science, soil science, crop production and other fields.
With a graduate degree in plant sciences or a related field, you can go into agricultural research. It can also lead to opportunities in genetics and breeding. You could also complete a graduate degree program in botany, biology or biological science. Master's degree holders are eligible to teach at a community college, but you must earn a doctorate to teach at a 4-year college or university. Additionally, master's degree programs in the plant sciences typically require you to complete a thesis, and doctoral degree programs require you to undertake an original research project and present a dissertation.