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Botany Careers: Salary and Major Requirements

Botanists are scientists who study plants and fungi. There are a wide range of careers that can be pursued in botany. The education and training requirements for these different careers are outlined here along with salary expectations.

Botany Career Information at a Glance

Plants and fungi form key components of all the ecosystems we see around us. Given their importance to our planet and way of life, we need well educated and trained people to study, conserve and utilize them. There are numerous career options within botany which can incorporate lab-, office- and field-based activities, and the major requirements and salary expectations are initially addressed in the table below.

Degree Required BS (biology) - lab assistants and technicians, ecological consultants, field workers; MS (botany) - senior government agency and industry positions; PhD (botany) - postdoctoral researcher, college professor
Training Required Postdoctoral training required (three to five years) for independent research tenure track positions in academia
Key Skills Strong analytical and critical thinking skills, passion for science and nature, dedication and patience, good writing skills
Job Growth (2018-2028)* 5% (zoologists and wildlife biologists)
Median Salary (2018)* $63,420 (soil and plant scientists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Kinds of Botany Jobs Are Available?

Careers in botany are wide ranging in terms of role and work environment. Botanists can work in a lab where they will often carry out experiments which attempt to unlock the secrets of plant development, structure, physiology and evolution. In contrast, plant ecologists, taxonomists, conservationists and forestry professionals will spend much of their time outside surveying ecosystems, collecting specimens and helping to maintain habitats. Agriculture scientists tend to spend a significant amount of time in both indoor and outdoor environments and work on projects involving plant breeding, genetics, physiology and nutrition.

All of these careers can be pursued in various institutions within academia, industry or a government agency.

What Qualifications Do I Need to Be a Professional Botanist?

A minimum of a bachelor's degree in biology is required for entry-level botany positions. The degree takes four years to acquire and should include classes that specifically focus on plant science. A master's degree in botany, which will typically take 2 years to complete, will be required for senior roles, such as project management in industry and government. Aspiring independent research leaders in academia (typically professors) will need to obtain a PhD to be able to realistically apply for such positions. Doctoral programs in the US typically take 4-6 years for candidates to complete.

What Training Is Needed to Become a Botanist?

Obviously, the type and amount of training will depend on the botanical career path sought.

Research technicians and assistants can generally be recruited as soon as a biology bachelor's degree has been obtained. These roles will usually provide on-the-job training and as the employee accrues more skills and experience over a few years he can begin to be considered for more senior positions, such as lab or greenhouse manager.

Professor positions in academia and government research institutions typically require at least 3-5 years of postdoctoral training after the completion of a PhD. Postdoctoral positions allow botany PhDs to gain additional experience and the opportunity to work in an even more independent manner than they would have during their PhD programs. This is regarded as the ideal way to prepare young scientists to be independent research leaders.

What Type of People Make Good Botanists?

Botany is a great career area for people who have a passion for science and nature. Botanists are typically meticulous people with strong analytical and critical thinking skills. The hours required to refine large datasets also requires patience and dedication.

Botany can also provide those with adventurous spirits the opportunity to work outside in various habitats and landscapes. Strong writing skills are also required so that quality drafts can be put together for publication in relevant science journals, which is particularly important for career progression in academia.

What Salaries Do Botanists Earn?

Salaries understandably vary a lot depending upon the type of botany role. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that plant and soil scientists at the bottom end of the earnings ladder (field/lab technicians/assistants) earned $38,570 or less as of 2018. Senior botany professionals at the upper end of the ladder, such as research directors and senior professors, earned $115,400 or more. The median salary for these scientists was around $63,950.